IT will take you just a short few miles to realise the tiny engine tucked away beneath the SEAT Leon's snub new bonnet has a very big heart.
With just a 999cc motor to propel it, the five-door Leon is deceptively lively. And unlike some small engine cars, you don't have to rev the life out of it to get a decent response.
True, the three-cylinder unit emits a rather unusual sound - a sort of muted thrum, if that makes sense. But it's never harsh and as other mechanical intrusions plus a bit of road noise come into play, the sound fades into the far distance.
Immediately recognisable as a Leon, SEAT's big selling family hatch, its looks have been freshened and made ‘of-the-moment' with more bold body creases, a slightly larger grille and a reflective strip that ties in the two tail light clusters. So more than just a simple facelift, then.
Driven here in SE Dynamic form costing just over £20,000, it lays down a tough challenge to its brother, the Golf. Star of the wide range which includes diesel, petrol and plug-in hybrid, is this turbo 1.0litre which goes well enough for most and is easy on the fuel.
Latest cabin design is minimalist and uncluttered with a noticeable reduction in knobs and switches, which follows the example of the new Golf. It's somewhat stark and uninteresting but works perfectly well. A large screen takes pride of place on the dash and controls most functions. Further switches can be found on the steering wheel which is adjustable for height and rake and to its right..
One quibble are the heating controls which are via a sliding bar on the touchscreen - not easy to adjust on the move.
Space front and rear is improved with a surprising amount of head and knee room in the rear, thanks mainly to an extra 86mm length, most of which has gone into the wheelbase. Boot space isn't increased though at 380litre, the same as the Golf but smaller than some of the opposition.
With a standard six speed gearbox that's quick to shift, a light clutch and really positive steering, the Leon will appeal to keen drivers. A further bonus is the supple suspension which copes well with our ragged roads yet doesn't inhibit enthusiastic cornering with marshmallow body roll.
With an under 11 second sprint time to 62mph, the little Leon compares well with other small cars and remains unflustered at cruising speeds. The turbo 1.0 litre is an engine that encourages you to put your foot down. Even so most owners will get good fuel consumption with the low 50s being well within reach.
It's reasonably quiet mechanically, apart from under full acceleration, but there is some tyre noise over certain surfaces. Top speed of 122mph is a reflection of its clean aerodynamics.