THE all-new SEAT Leon has a sharp-suited style about it. A crisp, well-turned-out look. The hatchback boasts delightfully clean lines, which are architectural and dynamic.
And under that striking appearance beats a heart of true motoring appeal, as I discovered during a week with an SE 1.6 TDI CR model. With an overall length 52mm shorter than its predecessor but a wheelbase up by 58mm, the new Leon has especially short overhangs, resulting in a desirable ‘wheels pushed out to the corners’ look, with added benefit of more interior space for passengers and luggage.
The angular lines of the headlamps are a typical feature of the new SEAT design language. The new, full-LED headlights give an unmistakable look to the front end of the Leon, although even without these (they’re a cost option on all models) the distinctive design of the headlamp clusters give the car a real front-end presence.
Slip behind the wheel and the style continues, with a clear, light and uncluttered look. The dashboard is elegant, and the interior surfaces are pleasantly tactile, including soft-touch plastics. Fine chrome detailing works well and the whole cabin has a premium feel about it.
The car is well equipped. Features include electrically adjustable, heated door mirrors with integrated LED indicators, front and rear reading lights, air conditioning, cruise control, ambient spot lighting and footwell illumination, driver’s seat lumbar adjustment, leather trim for steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake – the wheel has controls for audio and telephone – coming home headlight function, front fog lights with cornering function, and an Info-tainment System with a five-inch colour touchscreen that includes an MP3-compatible CD player, radio, Bluetooth, USB port, SD card slot, AUX-in port and six speakers.
On the practicality front, you’ll find handy features including a front armrest with storage box, front seat-back storage pockets and a cargo net in the boot. The rear seat splits 60 /40 and luggage capacity is 380 litres – 39 more than its predecessor – increasing to 1,210 litres with the rear seats folded down.
The road test car also had a number of options with features including, dual zone climate control, the LED headlights, sat nav, rain-sensing wipers, front and rear parking sensors with optical parking system display, lane assist and tiredness recognition system.
The last two, I think, are remarkable hi-tech items of kit. Above 40mph, lane assist helps the driver to stay in lane. A camera mounted behind the rear view mirror detects the lane markings ahead of the car and, using the power steering system, applies a small amount of steering correction intended to prompt the driver into taking corrective action if he or she begins to drift out of lane.
Tiredness recognition does exactly that – recognises when the driver is tired and sounds an alert, instructing him or her to take a break for safety’s sake. It does so using a technology that ‘learns’ the driver’s style over the course of a journey through the steering movements, then detects when there’s a particular deviation from that style, conducive to tiredness. At that stage it sounds a warning and an alert appears on the dashboard colour display.
There’s a wealth of other safety features, too, such as anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and hill hold control, which automatically applies the brakes when the car is stood still on an incline to prevent it rolling backwards.
Clever stuff, eh? And SEAT have been busy on the engine front, too. Our car’s 1.6TDI engine boasts figures of 99g/km and 74.3 mpg, and the 105bhp unit felt smoothly powerful and well-mated to a five-speed manual gearbox.
The driving experience was wholly satisfying, with ride and handling out of the top drawer.
A blend of great looks, engineering, fit and finish, plus high tech features makes for a winning combination.
Make/ model: SEAT Leon SE 1.6 TDI CR
Technical: 105bhp, 1598cc, four-cylinder turbocharged diesel engine with five-speed manual gearbox
Performance: 0-62mph, 10.7 seconds; top speed, 119mph
Price: £21,150 OTR inc £2,660 options
For more info visit www.seat.co.uk