REVIEW DATE: 04 Nov 2009
The Leon Sport combines German engineering with Spanish spark to underline SEAT's sporty intentions. Matt Low reports
Striking looks and Iberian attitude aim to set the SEAT Leon Sport apart from your mainstream family hatchback. With the car benefiting from the best engineering that the Volkswagen Group can offer, you can think of it as the Golf's trendy younger brother. Whilst it doesn't feature the same level of spec or as powerful a range of engines as the hot-hatch models further up the Leon range, the Sport has been warmed up enough to set the pulse racing.
Cynics may call it essentially a MkV Volkswagen Golf in a sharper suit, but stop and think about just what a good thing that is. SEAT's Leon Sport brings German build quality together with Spanish flair to offer a regularly overlooked and rather refreshing option in the over-crowded family hatchback sector.
In Sport guise, you get yet another 'sporty' Leon option to join the existing models in the standard range, namely the 'hot' FR versions and the distinctly Vindaloo Cupra variant. In the 123bhp 1.4-litre petrol TSI and the 138bhp 2.0 TDI diesel, you get a couple of engines that aren't quite as powerful of course, but they've enough about them to justify the 'Sport' tag, particularly with sports seats, sports suspension and 17-inch alloy wheels. All for a useful saving over the FR models of around £1,000, for petrol or diesel.
So to the engines on offer. The 1.4TSI powerplant produces 123bhp at 5,600rpm and its maximum torque of 148lb at 1,750rpm. It gets from standstill to 62mph in 9.8 seconds and reaches a maximum speed of 122mph. The diesel unit produces 138bhp at 4,000rpm and 236lbs of torque between 1,750 and 2,500rpm. It also clocks the 0-62mph in 9.3s.
As you might expect given this car's heritage, it's pretty much like a Volkswagen Golf to drive, with a compliant suspension set-up that offers a decent ride and handling compromise. There's good feedback too, through the electric power steering. The six-speed gearboxes that come with both variants are a real joy to use, with mechanical precision and a lovely slick feel to the action. The 2.0TDI's transmission features the option of Volkswagen Group's DSG automatic gearbox - one of the smoothest and fastest-reacting gearboxes we've ever tried - though it suits petrol engines better than the diesel it's available in here.
"To choose the Leon Sport, you've got to like its swoopy lines and sporty persona.."
The Leon is a good deal bigger than you might expect for this class of car and this extra space is particularly noticeable in the rear where there's plenty of knee-room, even if you're transporting six-footers. Although there's no armrest in the back and the bench is a little flat, you wouldn't feel hard done by undertaking a longer journey here. The rear tailgate opens wide to reveal a load bay that's a little awkwardly shaped for bulky items but is otherwise perfectly adequate for this class of car. The latest models feature small adjustments to the grille, light clusters and bumpers as will as upgraded materials inside.
Both the front seat and the steering wheel are multi-adjustable and there's plenty of headroom up front even for taller drivers. The nose curves rapidly out of view and shorter drivers may want to specify parking sensors. The windscreen pillars are annoyingly chunky which means that you'll probably be doing a fair bit of see-sawing in your seat as you negotiate roundabouts. One can almost excuse this feature due to the fact that the windscreen wipers park vertically into the pillars - a rather neat trick that helps with the vital showroom wow factor. All-round visibility isn't a Leon strong point, the three-quarter view being hampered by thick pillars and the rearward view consisting of a number of headrests but the latest cars have a larger rear window that helps a little.
The 1.4TSI pricing is very little different to that of the identically-engined 'SE' model and substantially less than you'd pay for an (admittedly much faster) 209bhp FR variant. With less of a performance gap, the 'Sport' TDI 140 Leon and the FR TDI 170 models are priced slightly closer - within around £1,000 - but the FR uses a more advanced common-rail diesel engine. There's another £1,000 to find on the diesel variant if you want the clever DSG semi-automatic transmission.
This is a well-equipped car, too. Leon Sport buyers will get air-con, bi-xenon headlights, a Bluetooth communications pack, electric windows and an electric sunroof, front passenger airbag disconnection, heated and electrically foldable wing mirrors, a navigation system with Bluetooth compatibility and rear parking sensors. A leather steering wheel and gearknob also comes as standard alongside 17-inch Aquila alloy wheels, remote central locking and a large choice of ten colours. The Sports model also gets its own special interior upholstery and trim.
As you'd expect, there are no nasty surprises when it comes to cost of ownership. The Insurance groups are 8 for the 1.4TSI engine and 9 for the 2.0TDI. Residuals won't be quite as good as those of a Golf but they're not too far off. And running costs? Well, you can expect a combined cycle of 44.1mpg with the petrol engine and an increase to 50.4mpg if you opt for the oil burner. CO2 emissions are 147g/km for the 2.0TDI and 155g/km for the 1.4TSI, meaning neither engine should break the bank when it comes to giving your hard earned Pounds to the chancellor.
Overall, there's a lot to like about the SEAT Leon Sport. It's good looking, spacious and very good value. If you are a fan of hot-hatches but can't stretch to the FR or range-topping Cupra Leon models, then the Sport could be just the car for you. It combines a surprising amount of space with good economy and as the name would suggest, a high performing duo of engines. Compared to the SE trim level that sits beneath it in the Leon range, the Sport has an impressive array of extra features for the money.
To choose the Leon Sport, you've got to like its swoopy lines and sporty persona. Those prioritising practicality will find the family hatch sector is crammed with alternative models that are less extrovert in appearance. But if you fall in love with the car's vibrant good looks, as many people will, there's little to criticise. The build quality is first rate and the drive is certainly enjoyable. It's definitely one of the best SEATs in the house.
The results below show the top LEON deals on buyacar
|Seat Leon 1.4 TSI SE 5dr hatchback|
|Price £15,094||Save £2,746|
|Seat Leon 2.0 TDI 184 FR 5dr diesel hatchback|
|Price £18,621||Save £3,754|
|Seat Leon 2.0 TDI FR 5dr DSG diesel hatchback|
|Price £18,823||Save £3,812|
|Seat Leon 1.4 TSI FR 5dr hatchback|
|Price £16,296||Save £3,089|
|Seat Leon 1.8 TSI FR 5dr hatchback|
|Price £17,256||Save £3,329|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT LEON DEALS|
|For LEON SPORT|
|OVERALL||7.5 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||8|
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