Designed, developed and built in Martorell outside Barcelona but using the same MQB building blocks that underpin a wide range of global Volkswagen Group models, the new Leon comes as either a five-door hatch or estate and, as before, aims right at the heart of the Golf/Focus market. It’s available to order now.
Common underpinnings mean it has everything the techno-fest new Golf Mk8 has – primarily a well-connected and all-digital cabin, but also a longer wheelbase and more room – but adds attributes of its own in keeping with its “created in Barcelona” ethos.
The new Leon is arguably better looking than the Golf: sportier and more characterful, with a smart new lights and grille treatment up front and crisp rear end with full width light strip.
More significant, though, it moves the MQB game forward by being the first in this new family of vehicles to come from the get-go with electrified powertrains. They are likely to become available with the Golf, but Seat got there first.
As well as conventional petrol and diesel powertrains, you can have your new Leon in either mild hybrid (called eTSI) or plug-in hybrid (eHybrid) forms. The difference between them? The eTSI uses a 48-volt starter-generator to enhance efficiency, not actually drive the car.
The plug-in eHybrid in contrast comes with more lithium battery power and a direct-drive electric motor to enable an emissions-free electric range of up to 38 miles. Seat says a zero to full charge takes three and a half hours. The electric side is mated to a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with 201bhp driving through a six-speed DSG transmission, so you get a normal petrol car’s range as well.
There are also diesel and petrol options. Two 2.0-litre four-cylinder diesels are available but more interesting is the new three-cylinder 1.0-litre petrol unit with 110bhp, the first time a Leon has been powered by a three-pot motor. Hooked up to a six-speed manual ’box this is likely to be the entry model, but pay a bit more and this engine is also available in eTSI form.
There are also four-cylinder TSI petrol units with outputs ranging from 128bhp to 187bhp. The mid-range 150PS (148bhp) model is also available in electrified eTSI form.
The new engine tech is matched by a cabin reinvention that, like its Golf cousin, sees an all-digital dash and touch screen controls with connectivity that’s on all the time, allowing access to cloud-based functions including car-to-connectivity as well as Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. There are also new safety systems including a predictive Adaptive Cruise Control.
Not everything is standard on all, of course, and there are lots of trim levels to choose from, some with a sporty emphasis. For a truly sporting Leon though it appears we will have to wait a while. A high performance Cupra version of this new model, in keeping with the fine tradition of sporting Leons that goes back 20 years and which includes the front-drive Nürburgring record-holder from 2014, is tipped to be a star of the Geneva Motor Show in a few weeks time.