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First drive: Seat Leon



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The Leon is the Spanish brand’s second biggest seller and getting the third-generation model right is essential to maintaining its growth in the UK.

The Leon has accounted for 31% of all Seat UK sales since its introduction in 2000, with the first generation taking 50,000 and the second generation taking 80,000.

The new Leon will overtake the Ibiza as the most popular model in Seat’s range and will help them crack a 3% market share before 2015, which at this point looks easily achievable.

Dealers will be getting a bit more variety with the new line-up as the five-door model AM tested will be joined by a three-door SC in June and ST estate next December.

A Cupra version is scheduled for sometime in the future.

All are built on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform which has stretched out the wheelbase in a bid to improve handling.

Styling is a real strong point for the Leon, naturally taking the cues first established with the Ibiza and taking it through to create one of the best looking hatches on the market.

The optional LED lights give the Leon an instantly recognisable presence.

The only problem is they’re a £995 option – a costly addition for something quite essential in com-pleting the car’s look. Seat is trying to put together an LED light and navigation package for the same price in a bid to soften the financial blow.
Die hard Leon fans have reacted on social media to the fact there are now handles on show on the rear doors, whereas the previous generation had them hidden in the top corner.

Seat has made this move intentionally to highlight it as a five-door.

Young families 35-45 are the target market, continuing the brand’s low average age customer base.

There’s a generous amount of space in the cabin and more headroom than in the previous model. Even on base level S trim the interior quality is quite impressive.

Move up to the top selling SE and the level of kit and build quality is up there with the class best with supportive seats, cruise control, leather steering wheel and hill hold control as standard.

The top trim FR takes on some of the sportier cues you would expect. Front and rear parking sensors are standard on the top trim and the FR also gets Seat’s Drive Profile system which adjusts the steering feel and throttle four ways.

It’s a bit of a shame parking sensors don’t come as standard on the SE.

The boot space is increased to 380 litres which gives it more space than a Vauxhall Astra and Ford Focus.

The Leon gets the dependable line-up of VW engines with 1.2-litre, 1.4-litre and 1.6-litre TSI petrols and 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre TDI diesels.

There are three trim levels to choose from: S, SE and FR. The 1.6 TDI SE will take more than half of all sales, followed by the 2.0 TDI and then 1.2 TSI.

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