By Wayne Gorrett
On sale now, from £19,855 (hatch), £22,455 (estate).
The all-new, fourth-generation Leon hatch and estate are available in three initial launch trims, with petrol, diesel, MHEV and PHEV powertrains. First deliveries and additional trims are expected towards the end of the year.
Spanish carmaker SEAT has opened its order books and released the UK launch line-up and pricing of its 2020 Leon hatchback and estate. Following just a day after Skoda revealed its prices for the new Octavia, the Leon undercuts its Czech cousin in range-entry SE trim.
All-new styling, updated engines, hybrid technology and a new, minimalist interior with connected technology have all been added to help the popular Leon compete in a hugely competitive sector of the market that includes sector big-hitters such as the Vauxhall Astra, Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf.
Exterior styling changes are subtle enough that the car is still instantly recognisable as a Leon but are significantly more comprehensive than a mere facelift.
The new MQB Evo platform (which also underpins its German and Czech cousins, as well as the new Audi A3) has been stretched to accommodate an extra 50mm between the front and rear wheels giving the new Leon a more athletic stance.
At the rear, the light clusters are connected by a full-width LED strip, body-coloured bumpers have a smooth shape and FR versions feature integrated chrome tailpipes. The hatchback is longer too: 86mm more than before but 17mm narrower and 3mm lower. The SEAT Leon ST estate gets a further 10mm increase in length, helping boot space grow from 587 to an impressive 617 litres. The hatchback’s boot remains the same size as before at 380 litres.
From launch, three initial trim grades are available. The range-entry ‘SE’ includes 16-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, LED headlights, an eight-inch touchscreen and a leather steering wheel. All models also get metallic paint as standard, which translates into a saving of around £600.
According to SEAT UK, the mid-range ‘SE Dynamic’ is expected to be popular as it’s only £1,100 more expensive than the ‘SE’, but adds a set of larger alloys, parking sensors all-round, a larger 10-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster.
The sporty FR (which stands for Formula Racing, if you didn’t know) model starts at £23,185 and has a body kit, lower suspension and twin-exit exhaust pipes. Standard kit includes LED tail-lights with scrolling indicators, sports seats, three-zone air conditioning, wireless phone charging and rear USB ports.
Later this year, SEAT will introduce range-topping Xcellence and Xcellence Lux models, plus an FR Sport with bigger wheels, ambient lighting and the company’s Winter Pack (heated front seats, washer jets and steering wheel) – which should prove a seasonal hit.
SEAT’s interior designers have raised the central infotainment display from the dashboard to become a top-perched tablet, allowing for a much slimmer fascia, housing just a set of angular air vents, USB-C ports and lighting controls.
When an automatic gearbox is fitted, a small rocker-switch replaces a traditional gear lever, freeing up space for cup holders, a smartphone tray and generous storage cubby. Instead of buttons, everything is focused on the infotainment and digital cockpit instrument displays that can be controlled using a combination of steering wheel controls, gesture recognition and voice commands.
The latest Leon has an almost entirely digital user interface and relies heavily on connected services. This includes new ‘Car-to-X’ cloud-based technology that can warn drivers of hyper-local information such as the colour of the next set of traffic lights and whether there’s an accident up ahead.
Driver assistance also takes a step forward, thanks to features like predictive adaptive cruise control that uses GPS data, the front-facing camera and traffic sign recognition to actively change the car’s speed for the upcoming road layout and conditions. The driver must keep at least one hand on the steering wheel or the system can jolt the brakes or stop the car altogether.
Engines and transmissions
The fourth-generation Leon features a refreshed range of engines, some of which now get emissions-reducing electrified technology.
Stick with petrol and there’s a 109hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder; a 1.5-litre four-cylinder offering 128 or 148hp.
There’s no 1.6-litre diesel engine planned this time, but a 2.0-litre TDI will be offered with 113hp. Later on, you’ll also be able to choose a 148hp diesel and a 187hp 2.0-litre petrol. Engines come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard but VAG-Group DSG automatic transmissions are also expected to be popular. Choosing the latter also means 48-volt mild-hybrid tech is added, boosting efficiency by recuperating energy under braking and using it to power the car’s electrics and provide a boost to acceleration.
For another jump in fuel-efficiency and significant reduction in CO2 emissions, a plug-in hybrid version will also be available, based around a 1.4-litre petrol engine and with an electric range of 38 miles. This will qualify for a lower BiK (benefit-in-kind) tax band and no-fee entry into low emissions zones.
However, don’t expect a fully electric Leon any time soon because SEAT is poised to launch its all-electric el-Born hatchback, which I photographed last year in Liverpool (below).