Xcellence 2.0 TDI

SEAT Leon ST, front
SEAT Leon ST, front
SEAT Leon ST, front
SEAT Leon ST, front
SEAT Leon ST, rear
SEAT Leon ST, rear
SEAT Leon ST, boot
SEAT Leon ST, interior
SEAT Leon ST, interior

DON'T be fooled by the rakish profile and muscular body creases of the SEAT Leon ST - this is really a practical estate car that can soak up the family clutter as easily as a Golf.

In fact in many ways it is a Golf, but cheaper. Made by the same mother company, with many shared parts including the platform and engine options.

SEAT has steadily gained ground in UK and is now on a serious roll as new model after new model are churned out. But right at the hub of the business is the mid-sized Leon which has established itself as a credible alternative to the Focus, Astra and, of course the Golf.

In typical VW Group fashion there's a huge array of engines to choose from. Among the most popular is the 2.0-litre turbo diesel, a sturdy workhorse of a power unit that pumps out ample power yet sips fuel at a miserly rate.

With 148bhp to call on, it's not surprising the Leon ST estate is sprightly. 62mph comes up in under nine seconds and the light six-speed gearbox is swift and precise.

Most of the time, the 2.0-litre diesel is refined and subdued after a typically grumbly start-up. Motorway cruising is silent and relaxed while high gear pull is impressive thanks to abundant torque.

SEAT sets out to appeal to a younger audience than VW and Skoda and this is reflected in the Leon's sharp handling and a more sporty attitude.

Cornering roll is well resisted and the steering weights up pleasantly through bends. Ride isn't quite as well resolved as some rivals and could prove on the firm side for some passengers - payback for the crisp handling.

Despite being slightly shorter than the previous Leon, the latest version has a longer wheelbase and great cabin and luggage space.

From a driving point of view, the new platform which is shared with the Audi A3 and current Golf is lighter and stiffer making handling more responsive and assured.

In Xcellence trim, as tested, you get part-leather seating, eight-inch touchscreen infortainment centre with sat nav, parking sensors front and rear, climate control and Bluetooth.

The cabin is smart and businesslike if somewhat drab thanks to an overload of dark plastics. It doesn't quite manage to pull off the rugged, classy look achieved by the Golf.

No problem with interior room. The seats are comfortable and supportive with reasonable legroom front and back, although those in the rear have to put up with a central transmission hump.

Rear platform space via the large tailgate is a generous 587 litres which compares well with most rivals. Sling down the rear seats and this expands to 1,470 litres.

With a CO2 level of just 112g/km, the Leon is among the most frugal cars in its class. My average over the 400-mile test was 48mpg with 55mpg-plus being common over longer runs.


SEAT Leon ST Xcellence 2.0 TDI

Price: £26,130

Mechanical:148bhp, 1,968cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 134mph

0-62mph: 8.6 seconds

Combined MPG: 67.3

Insurance Group: 21

C02 emissions: 112g/km

Bik rating: 27%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles


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