A BAD man came and took the Leon away. In truth he was a really nice chap; apologetic, almost, given the circumstances. Now there’s a Leon-shaped space outside the house, which prompts me to reflect on six months living with Seat’s family hatchback.
First things first; this Leon is not a brand new car in the same vein as, say, Ford’s Focus. You’d understandably expect to see a few crack in its veneer. I had plenty of time to look but I can honestly say that I saw none. Granted, there’s not the same level of whizz-bang active safety kit such as pedestrian detection and auto braking functions that you’ll find in the Ford, but the usual suspects – airbags aplenty, ABS, traction control – are present.
Does that make the Leon a lesser car? Of course not. It proved to be a competent, refined and safe mode of transport over the course of 9,000-odd miles and all weathers. Driven within its limits – and mine – in the foul winter months it showed itself to be more than capable.
Okay, so you could say the same about a whole host of cars in this class. What helped the Leon stand out was its generous level of standard equipment, practical cabin layout, and that it was bright blue.
I lost count the number of times the, admittedly optional extra, colour choice saved me from looking like an idiot. The boring truth is I sometimes forgot where I parked the Leon, but in a sea of metallic silver mediocrity the Seat stood out a mile. A quick press of the remote fob and the, optional, xenon headlights confirmed I was indeed getting warmer.
Those aforementioned items were the only cost options applied to the car, as this Leon – the SE Copa – was one of Seat’s value-added models boasting more kit than your average branch of Currys. Deep breath: powered and heated mirrors, auto dipping rear view mirror, four electric windows, alloy wheels, rear privacy glass, iPod integration, Bluetooth phone connection, DAB radio, full colour touch-screen sat-nav, voice control.
To say life hasn’t been the same since its departure is an understatement. The sat-nav was good but the inclusion of digital radio is what spoilt me rotten. It’s starting to appear on more cars now, but you’ll pay handsomely for the privilege in some cases. Ouch.
With downsizing all the rage, the chance to run a 1.2-litre petrol variant was too good to miss. Would it flounder on long motorway journeys? Would it prove breathless on spirited country road jaunts and leave me stranded when overtaking slower traffic?
Granted, it was wise to know your limits when overtaking but the small matter of 105 horsepower wasn’t really that small. The turbocharged 1.2-litre motor was willing beyond its size and besides, its rorty exhaust note made up for its relative lack of oomph. Doddery locals on cross country runs were fair game, though.
Far from being a party pooper, the 1.2 motor proved relaxed and capable on motorway journeys where it spent a fair chunk of its life with me. A high 40s mpg figure was the reward for being a good boy and staying legal, while the aforementioned cross country runs got me closer to the magic 50mpg due in part to less revs and a lower average speed.
Along with the rural environment, urban running allowed the Leon to shine. The fuel-saving stop-start feature was predictable and unobtrusive, while the engine’s turbo thrust made light work of the traffic light grand prix when commuting. The Leon’s variable power assisted steering allowed for near-fingertip control when parking, yet weighted up nicely at speed for added precision and driver confidence. All-round visibility was good, and the slick, accurate manual gearshift was good enough to rival anything from Honda or Porsche. No, really.
So what didn’t I like? Two small niggles became apparent during the ‘ownership’ experience: the Leon’s tailgate needed a firm push if it was to shut and lock first time otherwise it wouldn’t latch properly, and having the 12v power socket located near the handbrake allowed charger cables to tangle with said lever and seat belt anchors. And that was it.
It’s true that the lashings of extra standard equipment on the SE Copa variant does much to enhance the Leon’s appeal in a market full of newer metal. However, the underlying car remains a capable and engaging machine – even in 1.2 TSI guise - and is a testament to Seat getting it right first time. The ownership experience was hard to fault and in value for money terms it’s hard to beat. Seriously, what’s not to like?
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.
CO2 Rating: 124g/km.
- Power3 (average performance)
- 0-60 mph
- Economy3 (average fuel economy)
- Insurance groups3 (average costs)
Motors.co.uk value verdict: