THE recently revamped third-generation of the evolutionary SEAT Leon is now in showrooms.
With about 70 versions available in three-door coupe, five-door hatch and estate styles it is one of the pillars of the Spanish car maker's range alongside the Ibiza and the Ateca SUV.
The latest line up comes with a new 1.0 litre three-cylinder engine to widen its appeal alongside four other petrol engines and three diesels in six core trim levels and a new top XCellence grade.
Six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG transmissions are offered and there's also a soft-road all-wheel-drive estate.
Leon prices begin at £17,455 for the five-door, £19,340 for the three-door Sports Coupe and £18,450 for the Sports Tourer.
Some equipment which was previously on the options list is now standard and overall the newcomers are about £400 cheaper than the models they replace, said Leon product manager Steve Mirfin.
He said SEAT UK expected to see a reduction in demand for diesel engines due to recent social and financial pressures - a trend already being felt in other SEAT models. Last year there was a shift of 10 per cent towards petrol engines ordered by Leon buyers.
"Leon is going to become our best seller," he said, adding: "The five-door and 1.0 litre engine are expected to be the most popular overall but the 150ps 1.4 Eco is likely to be more popular with private buyers while the fleet market says it wants the 115ps 1.6 TDI."
Private buyers are likely to choose the medium range FR Technology specification with upgraded bumpers, lights and driver aids and companies will be looking at slightly lower specced SE Dynamic trim which still come with an eight-inch colour touchscreen and a comprehensive infotainment/navigation system for those who spend a lot of time on the road.
About 52 per cent of Leon registrations will be down to fleets and and the marque continues to attract younger buyers than the sector norm, typically in their mid-50s.
We were keen to try out the new three cylinder, 115ps, six-speed 1.0-litre TSI engine making its debut in the Leon Ecomotive and were impressed.
It is a surprisingly smooth and quiet powertrain with a whopping 200Nm of torque from 2,000-3,500 rpm so it pulls away strongly and there is plenty of punch for overtaking in third or fourth gear.
Over a short 40 miles route we achieved 42.8mpg without trying to be economical. The official figures are 64.2mpg with emissions of 102g/km.
The roads we used were generally well surfaced but where it was broken the Leon coped fairly well, if firmly, with what was underneath.
The centrally mounted touchscreen is not the quickest or easiest to use on the move but the display is clear and backed up by another on-board computer display ahead of the driver.
Room was adequate infront for a six-footer but rear seat space was tight when the seat was fully pushed back.
Generally, the car handled well, safely and visibility was good.
A brief run in a seven-speed automatic Leon with the 150 Eco 1.4 petrol engine and its Active Cylinder Shutdown also saw a fuel return 42.8mpg, the same as the smaller engine but this version was noticeably more lively at higher engine speed.
The DSG box can be used in automatic or sequential manual mode with a sporting setting as well.
It's a smooth changing set up that's easy to use and possibly due to its heavier front end, the 1.4 Leon felt harder riding than its sibling.