Spanish car maker SEAT has a new third generation Leon, revitalising its mid-range family model. It has also shed its familiar catchy ‘Auto Emocion’ slogan in favour of a new one: ‘Enjoyneering’. It is meant to convey what fun the cars are to drive, and that’s a fair point, but it does sound a bit clunky and contrived.
That is a pity because the new Leon deserves better. This is the latest model based on the Volkswagen Group’s clever new modular MQB chassis, joining the Audi A3, latest Golf and new-generation Skoda Octavia. With this well-regarded under-structure, the Leon has moved up-market and into a new league dynamically.
The car is substantially new from the ground up. Not only does it have a new chassis, it also features a revised engine line-up, fresh cosmetics and an updated cabin. But most of all it drives better than the old Leon and has moved closer to the best-handling cars in its size category. The styling is a little sharper than before, with triangular headlights, sculpting along the sides, and a distinctive-looking back end. It is the first car of its size to have all-LED lights.
The Leon has been upgraded for efficiency, to help reduce running costs. The car is an average of eight per cent lighter weight than the second generation model, but it also has a 15 per cent stiffer body structure. Aerodynamic drag has been cut by 10 per cent and CO2 emission levels are down by 15 per cent. The 1.6 litre diesel model has auto stop-start and its CO2 level is below 100 g/km.
Engines are 1.2 litre (104 bhp), 1.4 (138 bhp) and 1.8 litre (177 bhp) TSI petrol units and 1.6 litre (103 bhp) or 2.0 litre (148 or 181 bhp) turbodiesels. Gearbox choices are six-speed manual or seven-speed auto. Trim levels are S, SE and FR. Prices start from £15,670 and go up to £21,835 for the petrol models and from £17,370 to £22,635 for the diesels. The Leon arrives on the UK market in March 2013.Performance
SEAT’s engineers have done a good job with the Leon. It drives really well, quite noticeably better than the previous model, and has strong levels of performance across the range. Even the lowest-powered version, with a 1.2 litre petrol engine, has a claimed top speed of 119 mph and 0-62 acceleration in ten seconds.
We tested the new third generation Leon in popular mid-range SE spec with a 1,968 cc, four-cylinder, 16-valve diesel engine, and a six-speed manual gearbox. The power output is 148 bhp at 3,500 rpm, and the peak torque is 236 lb ft at 1,750 to 3,000 rpm. It is a brisk performer with acceleration to 62 mph in around eight and a half seconds, a top speed of 134 mph and average fuel consumption nudging up towards 70 mpg, with a CO2 output of 106 g/km.
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