SEAT is riding high on the back of a record sales year and now the marque that is renowned for its German engineering and Spanish flair has added to its all-round appeal with the launch of the Leon ST.
It joins the already-established Leon five-door hatch and sporty Leon SC models and offers estate-car flexibility to families who enjoy an active lifestyle and load-lugging fleet buyers.
But unlike some rivals, this isn't a case of adding a bigger boot to the five-door model. In fact, the Leon ST has been redesigned from the A pillars back and despite a 270mm longer tail end, SEAT designers have maintained its athletic and streamlined appearance.
It boasts sharp styling with creases above the rear wheel arches, roof rails, smart alloys, sloping rear windows and sweeping light clusters.
And as SEAT is part of the Volkswagen Group, it utilises the MQB platform to maximise innovation but keep costs down. This architecture covers every part of the car from the chassis, powertrain, infotainment, electrics and engines and was pioneered with input from each of the brands within the group.
There are three trim levels to choose from - S, SE and FR - and buyers can select from an array of engines. Diesel options range from the 1.6 TDI 102PS to the 2.0 TDI 184PS and the petrol engines range from a 1.2 TSI 105 PS to the 1.8 TSI 180PS. Some cars are also available with a DSG automatic transmission.
And for anyone looking to squeeze the most out of the fuel tank there are models featuring Ecomotive Technology that can achieve up to 85.6mpg on a combined cycle (according to SEAT figures).
The car's interior is clutter-free with plenty of trapezoidal shapes throughout - a hallmark of the SEAT brand and all trim levels are richly equipped as standard.
With a comprehensive array of safety features, the SEAT Leon ST has been awarded the maximum five stars in the Euro NCAP safety ratings.
Prices start from £16,675 and rise to £24,630 and SEAT predicts that up to 80 per cent of sales will be diesel with a very high percentage coming from the fleet market.Performance
We tested the 1.6 TDI model in mid-range SE trim with five-speed manual transmission costing £19,495 (£22,825 with options).
This frugal model is likely to prove exceptionally popular with the fleet market. The 1.6-litre diesel engine develops 105PS and 250Nm of torque. According to SEAT figures it can achieve 74.3mpg on a combined run with carbon emissions of 99g/km.
We didn't quite match that figure on a mixed test route incorporating dual carriageways, winding country lanes and busy town centres, but did see an average of 62 mpg.
Despite its impressive economy, the car is no slouch and can sprint to 62mph from a standing start in 11.1 seconds - with a top speed of 119 mph.
The car has a dynamic feel about it with limited body, which means tight bends can be attacked with confidence.
Acceleration through the manual gearbox was nice and smooth and there was plenty of power on tap as and when required.
However there was quite a lot of road surface noise which was a little disappointing.
The range-topping FR models also feature Drive Profile which allows the driver to select from Sport, Comfort, Eco or Individual driving modes.
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