Stylish, well packaged, competitively-priced and boasting great driving dynamics, the third generation SEAT Leon has always been a great family hatchback choice.
Five years after its launch and the Leon has received a mid-life mini-makeover, equipment upgrades and more engine choices to keep it up there with the best.
Always an attractive car, the Leon now looks even sharper thanks to a lower, wider bonnet, revised front bumper, wider grille and new LED lights front and rear.
The interior looks much the same (ie well put together and driver-focused). However, there’s a new electric handbrake, which frees up space in the centre console) ambient lighting in the doors, plus new trim and upholstery.
There’s roughly a 50/50 split among Leon customers between private buyers and fleet purchasers and six trim levels are available.
Priced from £17,455, there are six specs in all and obviously the higher you go, the more you get for your money. The list of gadgets and driver safety aids is enormous.
Even the entry level S spec comes with a 5-inch infotainment screen, but we’d recommend going for the SE Dynamic Technology trim level and above for an 8-inch touchscreen, DAB and sat nav.
Safety features include automatic emergency braking, which automatically applies the brakes if it looks like you’re going to run into the car in front in stop-start traffic, plus Tired Recognition, which recognises diminishing driver concentration and sounds a warning.
Available as a three-door (SC), five-door or estate (SC), the Leon range is now available with eight engines, including an economical 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine for the first time.
There’s also the 1.4EcoTSI petrol unit which is expected to be the most popular choice – and it has a trick up its sleeve.
Meanwhile, the 1.6 TDI gets a power boost to 115PS while still offering a potential 70.6mpg fuel economy and low emissions of 105g/km.
Finally the flagship SEAT Leon Cupra 290 gets an additional 10PS, making it the Cupra 300.
The new 115PS 1.0-litre is worth a special mention. It’s remarkable to think these high-revving three-pots are the equivalent of a 1.6 or even 1.8 of yesteryear, but this punchy little engine works a treat in the Leon and is remarkably refined.
It also offers low CO2 emissions of 102g/km, a top speed of 123mph and a potential 64.2mpg.
The 150PS 1.4EcoTSI is just as smooth and also has plenty of power on tap (0-62mph in 8.0 seconds) – and thanks to its clever ability to seamlessly shut down two cylinders when they are not needed, it’s capable of 57.6mpg.
I can’t say I noticed the extra horses in the awesome Cupra, such is its phenomenal turn of speed and handling. I had a spin in a manual and DSG auto versions and I’d choose the latter, if only because it allows you to keep both hands on the wheel while that awesome power is being fed to all four wheels.
Needless to say, it’s blisteringly fast (0-62mph in 5.6 seconds), agile and enormous fun. Priced at £30,155, it’s a good few grand cheaper than its cousin, the Golf R.
Sporty handling has always been a Leon trademark, and it doesn’t disappoint elsewhere in the range with the smaller engined cars, and the all-wheel drive X-PERIENCE estate.
Some may find the ride a little on the firm side, but if that’s the price to pay for such an engaging drive, then it’s well worth it.
If you’re in the market for a family hatchback, the Leon is definitely worth considering – just tread carefully through the trim levels and optional extras.
I’d particularly recommend test-driving the five-door 1.0 TSI Ecomotive. Its impressive petrol turbo is well suited to the Leon and the SE Technology comes in at under £20,000.
Verdict: The 2017 SEAT Leon is better than ever throughout the range. Well-built, fun to drive and with a generous choice of engines, equipment and safety aids, the Leon is still a great alternative to the likes of the Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus.
Review: Gareth Herincx