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SEAT Leon Review

8 / 10
13 November 2023
SEAT Leon driving

Before you choose the VW Golf, check out the SEAT Leon – it’s sportier and cheaper

What we like:
  • Great value
  • Spacious rear seats
  • Fun to drive
What we don't like:
  • Busy infotainment system
  • Small boot in hybrid cars
  • Relatively short warranty

Should I buy a SEAT Leon?

Golf isn’t the sportiest sport on television and, likewise, the Volkswagen Golf isn’t the sportiest car on the road. Want something a little more athletic? That’s where the SEAT Leon comes in.

With the same parts underneath, the Leon doesn’t stray far from the Golf’s recipe. Its suspension is slightly firmer, its bodywork is slightly sharper and its turn-in is slightly quicker. The result being that the Leon drives better than the Golf, without losing the VW’s solid and sophisticated feel.

You’ll find the current and previous-generation Leon for sale at Motorpoint, available as either a hatchback or a big-booted estate. While the pictures above show the current car, with its more shark-like front end, this review covers both generations as they’re similar in many areas.

Interior and technology

That bit we just said about them being similar… well you’ll notice major changes inside the new Leon compared to the old one – and not all of them are for the better. The dashboard design is the most obvious change, with a new, larger touchscreen sat on top of the centre console rather than in it. The new screen looks fantastic, with swish graphics and rapid responses, but it’s tricky to use – especially when you first get in it.

The older Leon might have a more conservative dashboard style, but its screen is easier to navigate around – partly thanks to shortcut buttons, partly due to just having less information thrust at you. Physical climate controls also make for easy air con adjustment on the fly.

Whichever Leon you pick, you’ll get the must-have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto phone connectivity. And plenty of equipment with heated seats, digital dials, LED headlights and parking sensors all widely available.


SUVs are the go-to body style for buyers who want lots of space, but the Leon hatchback does very well for interior room. Headroom is impressive – it’s genuinely surprising how much air’s above your head in the front seats – and there’s a good amount of legroom for rear-seat passengers.

The newer Leon has grown 50mm between the front and rear wheels, and all that growth has come in the rear seats. So the newer model is the one to pick if you’re taking tall adults or fighting with bulky child seats, but both cars offer enough space for four adults to get comfortable.

Most SUVs offer more cargo space than the Leon hatch. You get a 380-litre boot, which is pretty average for a family hatchback and enough for a pushchair or the weekly shop. Of course, if you need more luggage space, the Leon estate delivers with up to 620 litres (which is more than most family SUVs).

Engines and performance

Two petrol engines make up the most popular choices in the Leon lineup. Things kick off with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol engine, which – despite its small size – is powerful enough to get up to speed without straining. If its 110hp output isn’t quite enough, there’s a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol with either 130 or 150hp. The latter is particularly impressive, offering quick acceleration and the potential for around 50mpg.

Long-legged diesel engines are available, offering the best fuel economy for high-mileage drivers and the best towing capacity. The latest Leon is now offered with a plug-in hybrid engine for the first time, giving you the best of both petrol and electric options.

SEAT has also pinched some of the VW Group’s hottest engines for its handy hatchback. In the older car, you’re looking out for the SEAT Leon Cupra with its 2.0-litre petrol engine, but Cupra has since become its own brand so it’s now called the Cupra Leon – and has a wider range of engines available.

Diesel Leons have ‘TDI’ engines, whereas petrol ones have TSI denominations – and eTSI if it has mild-hybrid tech to reduce fuel.

Driving and comfort

It’s impressive how the Leon manages to balance sportiness with comfort and refinement. Examples with the biggest wheels can feel firm and unforgiving over rough roads – but never uncomfortable – while smaller-wheeled trim levels have a little extra squidge and softness.

The two most common petrol engines were carried over from the old car to the new car, so much of the driving experience feels similar. Its performance is strong and willing, and the manual gearshift is delightful. Add in eager handling and you’ve got an alert-feeling car that can put a smile on your face on twisty backroads.

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