Spanish Stunner: Seat Leon eTSI review
Is it finally on par with the Golf?
Would you just look at it? The Leon was already a good looking car, but this latest generation with its angrier front, creased bodywork and that wonderful rear light bar really take it one step above the rest of its class, especially in this Desire Red metallic color. The car's gotten longer and gained a few centimeters of leg room in the back, but kept its 380 liter boot capacity. If you need more, the ST estate version increases that number up to 587.
Moving upfront is where the biggest changes have taken place. Gone are most physical buttons and touch sensitive surfaces now serve as your main interface with the car. Want to turn on the fog lights? Touch sensitive. Want to turn up the AC? Touch. Even the optional panoramic glass roof is opened and closed via a swipe. With that being said, after getting used to the new layout, using it becomes a breeze. As a result of this touch mania, the cabin feels clean and much more premium than the Seats of yore.
The new 10'' infotainment screen is mounted higher than before and is a massive step forward in responsiveness, resolution and most importantly ease of use. The home screen is nicely divided into three customizable sections that are all bright and clear enough to read at a glance. The digital dash has also been updated and is now easier to customize, but unfortunately even this sporty FR model didn't feature a central rev counter view, which means you'll have to step up to the 306hp Cupra model for that. In general the quality is a step below the Golf, but the lack of shiny piano plastic will keep the Leon looking clean for much longer.
So how does this new Leon drive you may ask? Well, the steering is responsive, albeit too artificially heavy in the Sport setting and the suspension has a nice balance of comfort and roll-resistance. Don't bother wasting 700+€ on Seat's adaptive dampers, as the difference between Normal and Comfort is imperceptible and Sport just makes the car too uncomfortable. All this is actually a good thing as you then won't have to worry about finding the non-existent drive select button. (you have to change the drive mode through the infotainment screen). In town the suspension soaks the potholes and sleeping policemen up without issue, while the 7-speed DSG automatic, now controlled via a central button, is responsive when needed and stays out of your way when not.
The engines in the new Leon can run on either petrol or diesel, with mild and plug-in hybrid technology being available for the former. The car featured here is the 150bhp 1.5 turbo petrol with the mild hybrid system, which helps this car to a real life consumption of around 5L/100km. This together with its sufficient pep is enough to make this engine the go to. The only small gripe I have with it, is the noise it makes at higher RPM.
The curvy new body is jam packed with Seat's assist systems that have all been upgraded. The adaptive cruise control now reacts to speed limits and knows when you're approaching a sharp bend or intersection and slows you down accordingly, the lane keeping assist can now use the edge of a road as a line and still keep you centered, the blind spot monitor has more range and front collision assist will now stop you from turning into oncoming traffic. The car is even equipped with Car2X, which can communicate with other cars and infrastructure to let you know of traffic jams or roadworks ahead of you. This system is just beginning to roll out, but could prove very useful in a few years. The one feature missing from the new Leon are matrix LED headlights, but the projector LEDs fitted do the job just fine.
For years now Seat and VW have been getting closer and closer in terms of quality and the latest Seat Leon really solidifies its place right next to the Golf. Choosing between the two comes down to personal preference and for me, the Leon with its cleaner interior and more attractive exterior styling wins that comparison all day.