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Long-term test: Seat Leon SE 1.6-litre TDI

SEAT

Factsheet

Price
£20,680
Engine
1.6-litre diesel 103bhp
Performance
0-62mph 10.7 secs; 119mph top speed
Transmission
5-sp man
Efficiency
99g/km CO2; 74.3mpg
RV 3yr/30k
41.3%
Start mileage
1,076
Current mileage
2,762
Key rivals
Ford Focus, Kia Cee’d, Mazda3

Review

2

I have a soft spot for the Leon, having owned one in its first incarnation more than 10 years ago. Then, it was the alternative, economical choice to the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3. It had  many of the same underpinnings, but without what, as a consumer, I saw as the price premium that came with German brands.

Time has moved on and the car is in its third incarnation. Some things, however, don’t change. I attended a Ferrari day at Goodwood with my first Leon and while at the dinner table with the owners of a variety of the ‘prancing horse’s’ cars was asked what I drove. No one at the table knew what I was talking about.

The new Leon is the same. “A what?” is the most common response from the uninitiated, which gives the car – and the brand – an attractive coolness. But the tide is slowly changing. Leon sales in 2012, at 13,313 units, were the second-best year ever (behind 2007) and this year from March, when the latest model came out, the total is 11,602. The latter figure doesn’t include Leon ST sales, as it’s out in January.

But the new Leon accounts for 29% of total brand sales this year so far – not bad for a lower medium car facing stiff, and stiffening, competition from competitors in the VW Group as well as the likes of the evergreen Ford Focus and new(ish) kid on the block, the Kia Cee’d.

Looking at figures provided by Seat, in something called the marketing performance monitor, brand awareness increased “significantly” in Q1 2013 following the launch of the new Leon, compared with the same period in 2012.

Survey respondents familiar with Seat rated it higher on qualities such as ‘fun to drive’, ‘offers sporty cars’ and ‘makes well-styled cars’ at the start of the year than in early 2012.  Seat said its perception score on styling this year was above Vauxhall, Citroën, Kia, Peugeot and Volvo.

Feeding this perception – and the network – is a media campaign that will see Seat spend more than 50% of its total budget across television, print and radio on the Leon next year, up from 46% this year. Its TV advertising spend will increase by more than 40% year-on-year.

“From the Mii to the Alhambra, we have an extremely strong model range at Seat. But the new Leon truly encapsulates all our brand values, such as dynamic, young-spirited and design-driven. For this reason, the Leon will be the focus of our media campaigns in 2014, taking more than half our media spend,” said Chris Stevens, Seat’s head of marketing.

“Our latest research clearly shows the impact that the Leon has had in raising brand awareness, which is great news for us and has no doubt boosted our sales. We’re already proving that, passing our record 2012 sales total during November this year, which guarantees that 2013 will be out best year ever.”

What growing numbers of drivers will come to realise is the latest Leon could very well be the best mainstream car on the market today.

 

What’s been said about the Seat Leon SE

AUTOCAR
It’s a creditable effort from Seat and a notable improvement in form, with plenty of niche appeal for those who like a dose of style and spirit about their everyday driver, but who don’t want to pay a premium.

 

The Daily Telegraph
Anyone familiar with the previous Leon will find the most dramatic improvement over the old car is in the cabin. In place of materials that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a fast-food joint, there’s lots of Germanic soft-touch plastic and a much more sophisticated ambience.

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