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Fully Loaded Leon (Seat Leon SE Copa 1.2 TSI long term test month one) car review


SPECIAL edition models are a staple of the car industry. More often than not, such a strategy involves little more than an ‘exclusive’ paint colour or some fancy alloy wheels.

Seat’s current approach is more generous. Far from being a superficial effort, the Spanish car maker has opted to throw the kitchen sink at its Leon in the form of ‘Copa’ and ‘SE Copa’ variants.

As a value proposition, it’s hard to ignore: take one Leon, empty the toy box and what you’ve got is a car that’s easily head and shoulders above similarly priced rivals. And I should know as I’m running the higher specification SE Copa for a few months.

Frankly it would be easier to list what you don’t get, so here you go: directional xenon headlights, leather seats. For good measure - and to make winter driving that bit safer - the former cost option was aded to ‘my’ Leon along with the bright blue paint option, but that was it.

For the record, here’s the full lowdown: front fogs with cornering function, steering wheel audio controls, dual zone climate control, cruise control, height adjustable front seats, bluetooth for phone and audio streaming, alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, auto lights and wipers, auto dimming rear view mirror, touchscreen sat-nav, SD card, MP3 and iPod inputs and DAB radio.

And being based on the regular SE trim level you already get the likes of powered and folding mirrors, rear privacy glass, driver seat lumbar adjustment and a leather trimmed steering wheel. In short, for the asking price it’s an absolute steal.

One thing worth highlighting is the ‘infotainment’ kit on the SE Copa model. It’s true that a TomTom sat-nav unit can be had for £100 these days, but there’s no contest when you can have navigation plus phone integration in one neat package minus the inevitable spaghetti of wires. Factor in multiple inputs for your music plus digital radio and elsewhere it’s not uncommon for the price of such a package to begin with a two and end in three zeros. And that assumes DAB radio is even an option.

My point? This feature alone should swing it for anyone seeking a value-added family hatch. What’s not to like about listing to the BBC World Service or any other not-for-FM station when on the move?

Seriously though, it’s a lot of kit for the asking price, which is what special editions should be all about. And Seat’s generosity sure puts some more expensive car brands to shame.

The other potential giant slaying aspect of this Leon is its engine line-up. Copa buyers can choose between the a 1.6-litre diesel and a 1.2-litre petrol unit. Both are turbocharged and both output 105 horsepower, while the diesel can also be had with a cost option DSG semi auto gearbox.

I’ve opted for petrol power, not just to be different but to see if a relatively small capacity motor can genuinely cut it on busy motorways as they’ll be the car’s second home. It’ll be quieter than a diesel unit around town and, in turbo guise, should deliver the all-important extra kick you need for the traffic light grand prix.

On a practical front the Leon’s cabin is a spacious one, the rear seats fold to liberate extra room in the already capacious boot and the ride strikes a pleasing balance between a VW Golf and something from Audi’s stable - not too soft and not too firm yet resistant to the usual pitch and roll antics of an average family hatch. In other words, a little bit sporty but without the harsh ride.

And the engine? It’s loosened up nicely after a few thousand miles and while quiet at motorway speeds there’s plenty in reserve to maintain a brisk pace. Sixth gear is a borderline overdrive ratio so you do need to be vigilant on steep sections of road, but there’s no shortage of thrust around town thanks to the responsive turbo which is barely audible.

It feels faster than it is on paper, as the official zero to 62mph sprint time is a modest 11.0 seconds, although the real reason for offering a turbo 1.2-litre petrol motor is one of economy. The Leon’s 52.3mpg combined figure looks impressive, although the most I’ve seen to date is 45mpg on a gentle motorway and A-road cruise. It’s early days and there’s plenty of miles to cover yet. A light throttle appears to be the key to extracting the most miles per gallon.

And it’s bright blue, which should provide a welcome lift during the gloomy winter months. All in all, it’s a promising start.

FACTS AT A GLANCE Model: Seat Leon SE Copa 1.2 TSI, from £17,225 on the road. Cost options fitted: directional xenon headlights, custom paint.

Engine: 1.2-litre petrol unit developing 105bhp.

Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the front wheels.

Performance: Maximum speed 115mph, 0-62mph 11.0 seconds.

Economy: 52.3mpg.

CO2 Rating: 124g/km.

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power3 (average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5 value verdict:    stars

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