SEAT Leon


Debut: 2012
Maker: SEAT
Predecessor: Leon (2005)


 Published on 15 Nov 2012
All rights reserved. 


People usually see Seat Leon as a cheaper alternative to Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3. While its underpinning platform and powertrains are practically the same as the latter two's, its less elegant packaging and the lack of a premium brand image mean you can buy a Leon at 10-15 percent lower price than the equivalent VW or Audi. That sounds great value for money! Besides, the Leon usually looks more stylish and drives sportier than its siblings, so it could be the best buy to keen drivers.

We said the same things to the Mk1 (2000) and Mk2 (2005) Leon. Somehow, their sales did not really take off, usually resting on the level of 100,000 units a year. The reasons could be complicated, but I suppose one of which is that the Leon usually gave us an impression that it deliberately downgraded the build quality (especially interior) to avoid internal competition with Golf and A3. That decision might be sensible for the interest of the whole group, but unfortunately Skoda Octavia was not given the same downgrade. As a result, the Skoda prospered at the expense of Seat. Yes, Leon has an edge in driver appeal, but sandwiching between the VW/Audi and Skoda its survival space is rather narrow, and this reflected in its sales results.



However, I think the new Leon Mk3 will have an easier life. This car no longer tries to avoid direct competition with its siblings by going to the extremes. It looks much more middle-of-the-road. Outside, the boxier, edgier design is more conservative than the Mk2's organic shape. In fact, it has some traces of the last generation Kia Cee'd, no wonder Ferdinand Piech recently said his biggest regret was letting Peter Schreyer left for Kia. Never mind, the fact that the new Leon doesn't look adventurous is unlikely to have any negative impacts to its sales. On the contrary, it might attract more average family buyers, especially when the exterior build quality and detailing are as good as Volkswagen's. It even offers a classy feature not available to Golf as well as any other class rivals: LED headlamps. Seat said this very expensive option has benefits like energy saving, sleek design and a color temperature more comfortable to eyes. However, the most important is probably the message brought these LED headlamps: Leon is no longer afraid of competing with Golf!

The interior design sees the same confidence. As usual, it is simpler and more driver-oriented than Golf. Ergonomics is even better thanks to a high-mounted infotainment screen and slim A-pillars. Materials and build quality are vastly improved to the extent that now it can face any rivals other than the Golf and A3 – which have elevated to another level again. Soft plastics cover the majority of surfaces that you are most likely to touch. Adequate metallic and lacquered accents keep it free of a dull impression. Most switch gears operate with satisfying feel. Moreover, the 5.8-inch touchscreen is standard across the range. Compare with its pricier siblings, it does give away an engine start button, electronic parking brake and some classy materials. As a result, it feels well-made rather than luxury.



The Mk3 is shorter than Mk2, but its wheelbase has been stretched from 2578 to 2636 mm like Golf. This frees up its interior space and benefit especially rear passengers. The boxier profile also eases headroom at the rear. Meanwhile, the boot is enlarged by 40 liters to 380 liters, a remarkable figure for its class. Despite of this, the new Volkswagen MQB platform guarantees lighter weight thanks to the use of more high strength, ultra-high strength and hot-formed steel. The monocoque gains 15 percent stiffness yet weighs 25 kg less than before. In addition to other weight saving parts, such as lighter rear seat, airbags, engines, running gears and rear suspension, the new Leon is an average 90 kg lighter than the car it replaces. Take the 140 hp 1.4TSI model for example, it tips the scale at only 1156 kilograms, 209 and 177 kg lighter than the comparable Alfa Giulietta and Ford Focus respectively! It also undercuts the equivalent Golf by 57 kg. The MQB improves weight distribution by tilting its engine 12 degrees to the rear and shifting the front axle forward by 40 mm.

Like Golf, the new Leon has multi-link rear suspension reserved for only the most powerful models, while cooking models has turned to torsion-beam setup to save costs. The borderline is different though: on the Golf engines with more than 120 hp are served with the sophisticated rear suspension, whereas the Leon needs more than 150 hp. This mean both the big selling 140 hp 1.4TSI and 150 hp 2.0TDI employ the cheaper suspension. In the real world, however, these cars still drive better than the old one. You will find good body control and grip contributed by the wider tracks, lighter weight and better chassis balance, while the stiffer chassis and improved NVH result in a more polished ride. Only on really poor surfaces you will realize the rear suspension is non-independent, and the noise insulation is thinner than the most refined cars in the class. The new electric power steering is direct and nicely weighted.
The 140 hp 1.4TSI engine offers plenty of smooth power and flexibility, whereas the 6-speed manual gearbox has a slick gearchange. Overall, the car feels agile and fun to drive, if not the most comfortable.



If the cooking models are good, the FR models – Seat's warm hatches – are even better. You can choose between a 1.8 TSI EA888 engine with 180 horsepower and a high-output version of 2.0 TDI which produces 184 hp and 280 lbft of torque. Both top at least 140 mph and sprint from 0 to 60 mph in 7.1 seconds. The diesel is especially impressive as it offers very strong mid-range punch. It is also more eager to rev than the usual diesel engines, with a power band not lasting until 4000 rpm, although you need at least 1750 rpm to keep it on boost. The FR models not only features multi-link suspension but also stiffer and 15 mm lower suspension setup to deliver a firm yet well-damped ride. Their standard-fitted "Seat Drive Profile" control system gives you the choice of Eco, Normal and Sport mode to alter the characteristics of throttle, steering and exhaust noise – the latter is artificially produced by the speakers. The FR 2.0TDI is probably the best driving diesel warm hatch to date, better than the outgoing Golf GTD.

More impressive, the good performance and driving fun does not compromise its green credential. For example, the 1.4 TSI returns 54 mpg and emits only 119 grams of CO2 per km, which is superb for a gasoline model with such a brisk performance. The FR diesel is even more incredible with 66 mpg and 112 g/km. These figures must thanks to the MQB's lightweight construction, auto stop-start and brake energy regeneration.

Overall, the new Leon is a strong contender in the C-segment. It is not as classy or refined as the Golf VII, but it is a bit more fun to drive and
considerably cheaper to buy. From enthusiast's point of view, I just hope it looks more adventurous and technically more distinguished from its siblings. Besides, equipping more models with multi-link suspension would be a good idea if it wants to beat the dynamically accomplished Alfa Romeo Giulietta and Ford Focus.
Verdict:
 Published on 18 Mar 2013 All rights reserved. 
Leon SC


The Leon SC (Sports Coupe) tries to play the same tricks as Volkswagen Scirocco, i.e. to be perceived as a hatchback coupe rather than the 3-door version of Leon. However, the surgery it took was far milder. It is marginally shorter, wider and lower than the 5-door. Its wheelbase is shortened by 35 mm. Its rear screen is set 19 degrees faster. But these differences are too subtle to be noticed. SEAT should have differed it with more radical styling features, but it decided to stay understated, even more so than Volkswagen! I am puzzling whether the Latin brand has been Germanized.

As expected, the dashboard is 100 percent identical to the 5-door's, even up to trims. The rear seats lose a little bit legroom but it can still accommodate a couple of adults at ease. It does sacrifice the convenience of accessing rear seats. This would have been easily acceptable if the SC offered sportier handling and higher performance. Unfortunately, the suspension setting and engine range are unchanged at all. You can opt for the FR models (with either 184hp 2.0TDI or 180 hp 1.8TSI engine) to get firmer suspension, but so is the case of the 5-door. The loss of rear doors saves only 20 kilograms, so performance is practically the same.

Objectively speaking, the Leon SC is remarkably well rounded. It offers a good bland of performance, handling, ride, refinement and economy, while undercutting the equivalent Golf and A3 by considering margin. However, the same can be said to the more practical 5-door Leon. The SC just lacks some Latin emotions to distinguish itself from its sibling. Now it's time to call back Giugiaro.

Verdict:
 Published on 16 Feb 2014
All rights reserved. 
Leon Cupra


Among the four hot hatches of Volkswagen group, i.e. Golf GTI, Audi S3, Seat Leon Cupra and Skoda Octavia RS, the Spanish car is the most sensible to purchase. All share the same underpinnings and up-to-date mechanicals, but the Leon Cupra returns the highest performance per euro. It costs 10 percent less than an equivalent Golf GTI yet offers 50 more horsepower and cuts half a second from 0-60 mph sprint. Yes, it does lose the Volkswagen or Audi's high-quality cabin and higher level of refinement, but in return you get a less boring exterior design and a very stylish set of 18 or 19-inch alloy wheels.

The new Cupra is available in both 5-door hatchback body and short-wheelbase, 3-door SC body. Its power comes from the familiar EA888 2.0 TFSI engine with dual-injection (direct and port injection), dual-variable cam phasing and variable exhaust valve lift. It has 2 states of tune: the standard Cupra produces 265 hp and 258 lbft like the last generation car, while Cupra 280 produces 280 hp and the same torque. This strategy is very much like Golf GTI and GTI Performance, just being even more powerful. Equipped with DSG gearbox, the high-power version is capable to top a regulated 155 mph and hit 60 mph from standstill in 5.4 seconds. Manual gearbox adds a tenth, and the slightly heavier 5-door adds another tenth. While it is nowhere as fast as Mercedes A45 AMG or BMW M135i, among the affordable front-wheel-drive hot hatches it is unbeatable.


Benefited by the lightweight MQB platform, the new Cupra is 55 kg lighter than the old car. It also gets a lot more sophisticated weapons to improve driving dynamics, such as DCC adaptive damping, variable ratio electrical power steering, an integrated dynamic control system ("Cupra Drive Profile") and, most important, the very same Haldex electronic-controlled multi-plate clutch active LSD as on Golf GTI Performance – and this is fitted as standard on both 265 hp and 280 hp models! The 280 hp additionally gets 19-inch wheels, wider rubbers and larger Brembo brakes to enhance sporting appeal.

On the road, the EA888 engine has a smooth and linear power delivery. Turbo lag is more subtle than, say, Opel Astra OPC, which is to say Volkswagen group makes a better engine than most rivals. In normal driving it doesn't feel much different from the Golf GTI engine, but when you rev it beyond 4500 rpm its extra punch is obvious. No, it is never as frantic as an AMG M133 (i.e. A45 engine) on full song, nor its exhaust note is as delicious to listen as Renaultsport Megane. It just delivers its power efficiently to the front wheels without making you notice. An unsung hero.

The 6-speed manual gearbox is a joy to use, thanks to its light and accurate gearshifts. The DSG is faultless, but it doesn't bring the same driving satisfaction as a good manual.



Even though 280 horsepower sounds a lot for a front-wheel-drive car, the active LSD puts down the power cleanly. It generates bags of front-end grip so that the nose obeys strictly your command, at least on dry surfaces. Furthermore, there is little torque steer to speak of. The steering wheel occasionally tugs a little bit under power in tight corner, but it is very subtle and never threatens your control. This friendly manner is also found on the superb ride quality. The suspension setup is not too hardcore. Comfort and Sport modes bring a compliant ride that is suitable on all kinds of road. Even the stiffest "Cupra" mode is useable on smooth roads, not just racing tracks.

On the flip side, some keen drivers might regard it lacking a sporting edge. Take the steering for example, while it is accurate, adequately geared and weighted, it doesn't offer a strong sense of connection to the road as Renaultsport Megane. The handling is not as responsive, too. Unlike a mechanical limited slip differential, the active LSD takes a short but noticeable moment to react. This mean when you push it out of corner, the Cupra understeers first before it realizes the problem and assigns more power to the outer front wheel. If you trust it and keep pushing, it will ultimately tighten its line and storm through the corner, though this delay is unpleasant to keen drivers. Another weakness is the lack of throttle adjustability (like all Volkswagen group hot hatches). Back off mid-corner will not push the tail outward like Megane RS or Focus ST. As a result, it is not as entertaining to drive as those cars.

Overall, the Leon Cupra is a practical yet highly capable hot hatch, if not the most exciting to drive. A bit more wildness will be welcomed. Will that be accomplished by the forthcoming Cupra R? We shall see.
Verdict:
 Published on 29 Nov 2017
All rights reserved. 
Leon Cupra R


3 percent more power for a price jump of 75 percent. Not even a hot badge and limited availability could justify that.


What badge sits above Cupra as the hottest performance label of Seat? Cupra R, of course. To that end, the first generation Leon Cupra R of 15 years ago introduced an engine entirely different from its lesser sibling, i.e. a 1.8-liter turbo instead of VR6. The second generation turned to a common 2-liter turbocharged engine, but the Cupra R was tuned to produce 10 percent more power and 17 percent more torque than the Cupra. What about the latest Cupra R? Disappointingly, only 3 percent more power and, worse still, zero percent more torque from the same EA888 2-liter turbo motor. The latter comes straight from VW Golf GTi Clubsport S and the latest Golf R, offering 310 horsepower and 280 pound-foot of torque. Meanwhile, the car gains 58 kilograms over its lesser sibling, no wonder its official 0-60 mph time stays the same at 5.5 seconds. FYR, the Golf R takes 4.9 seconds thanks to its 4-wheel-drive system. Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R are both faster yet cheaper.

Yes, the new Leon Cupra R is too expensive. At £35K in the UK or €45K in its home market, it is up to a whopping 75 percent dearer than the Cupra! So what does this extra cash bring? Outside, there are some cosmetic enhancements such as bronze finish on wheels, mirrors and front intake blades, a few carbon-fiber aero kits (rear spoiler, front splitter and diffuser) and reshaped exhausts. You may also notice the wheel arch extensions that widen its front and rear track by 20mm. The front suspension is retuned with increased negative camber. The adaptive dampers are recalibrated as well. Power still goes through the electronic-controlled LSD as in the case of the 300hp Cupra, but there are now retuned steering and larger front brakes (370mm discs) with 4-pot Brembo calipers. Most important, you can now opt for Michelin Cup 2 tires as in the case of the Nurburgring-record-breaking Golf GTi Clubsport S. Inside, there are bronze accents to match the exterior, sportier bucket seats and Alcantara trims on steering wheel and gearstick. If these sound not enough to justify the price jump, Seat will tell you that it is limiting its production to only 799 cars. Obviously, it knows the limited appeal of the car.

How does it feel on the road? Despite the numbers, the engine does feel more energetic at the top end without losing the flexibility at lower rpm. Meanwhile, its new exhaust produces a sportier noise, with crackles on the overrun to give it more character. However, the most significant difference lies on the chassis. It is not exactly transformed, but it is clearly superior to the standard car. The optional Cup 2 tires generate strong grip. The Brembo brakes are powerful, although the pedal is too touchy at the top of travel. The combination of stickier tires, more negative camber and a slightly faster steering means the turn-in is sharper. The retuned dampers deliver a stiffer ride but body roll and pitch are tightened. That said, ultimately the Cupra R still lacks the overall competency of Golf R. Neither can it match Focus RS or Civic Type R for driver engagement and thrills. The fact that its rivals offer more for less is the most worrying. Sometimes exclusivity helps to sell, but would you consider a Seat as niche?
Verdict:
Specifications





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Leon 1.4TSI
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4263 / 1784 / 1459
2636 mm
Inline-4
1395 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
140 hp
184 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: torsion-beam
-
205/55VR16
1156 kg
131 mph (c)
7.7 (c)
-
Leon FR 1.8TSI
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4271 / 1784 / 1444
2631 mm
Inline-4
1798 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT
Turbo
DI
180 hp
184 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
225/45WR17
1222 kg
140 mph (c)
7.1 (c)
-
Leon FR 2.0TDI
2012
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4271 / 1784 / 1444
2631 mm
Inline-4, diesel
1968 cc
DOHC 16 valves, VVT
VTG turbo
CDI
184 hp
280 lbft
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
-
225/45WR17
1270 kg
142 mph (c)
7.1 (c)
-




Performance tested by: -





Year
Layout
Chassis
Body
Length / width / height
Wheelbase
Engine
Capacity
Valve gears
Induction
Other engine features
Max power
Max torque
Transmission
Suspension layout

Suspension features
Tires
Kerb weight
Top speed
0-60 mph (sec)
0-100 mph (sec)
Leon SC Cupra 280
2014
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4236 / 1810 / 1423
2596 mm
Inline-4
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
280 hp / 5700-6200 rpm
258 lbft / 1750-5600 rpm
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
235/35WR19
1300 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.5 (c) / 5.8* / 5.9** / 5.7***
12.7* / 12.9** / 12.4***
Leon Cupra
2017
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4281 / 1816 / 1435
2631 mm
Inline-4
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
300 hp / 5600-6200 rpm
280 lbft / 1800-5500 rpm
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
235/35WR19
1320 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.5 (c)
-
Leon Cupra R
2017
Front-engined, FWD
Steel monocoque
Mainly steel
4324 / 1816 / 1435
2631 mm
Inline-4
1984 cc
DOHC 16 valves, DVVT, VVL
Turbo
DI
310 hp / 5800-6500 rpm
280 lbft / 1800-5700 rpm
6-speed manual
F: strut
R: multi-link
Adaptive damping
235/35WR19
1378 kg
155 mph (limited)
5.5 (c)
-




Performance tested by: *Auto Bild, **Sport Auto, ***Auto Zeitung




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