The first impression: With its many folds and edges in the sheet metal, the Leon looks like an origami finger exercise.
The manufacturer says: “We’re finally bringing a breath of fresh air to the compact class,” says Seat sales director Wayne Griffiths. For him, the new Leon is a combination of passionate design and technological progress. What Griffiths does not say so loudly: The progress of the Leon is based above all on the modular transverse modular system (MQB) of the parent company VW. From that, the VW Golf is also created in Wolfsburg, which would therefore be just as progressive as the Leon.
But at least the shape of the Leon is independent, has its roots in Barcelona and actually makes a difference: Because it makes the Leon subjectively one of the most beautiful cars in the compact class. In total, Seat has invested more than 1.1 billion euros in the development of the new model. The personal contribution therefore goes beyond sketches and clay models for a new model. Griffiths cannot tell where exactly the money went in development.
We noticed this: As soon as the Leon door opens, the start button in the center console begins to pulsate red – as if the car had a heart. In a way, the Leon theme: Although the interior looks suspiciously like golf with digital instruments, a large touchscreen, sensor fields instead of switches and the tiny stub for gear selection, you don’t feel sedated like in a VW, but rather vital.
If you set the adaptive suspension to sport, you will cut through the bends much more clearly with the Leon than with your group siblings. The steering requires a little more power and acknowledges this use with better feedback. The Leon thus becomes the driver’s car and the liveliest model in the MQB family. You don’t even have to drive the Cupra models with some more than 300 PS, this feeling is already offered by the 150 PS petrol engine.
Now it is the same with sportiness: Although it may still be good for the image, it ignores the real needs of most customers. That is why Seat is also banking on other trump cards that may stand out even better: For example, the high level of digitization that is made possible by the new infotainment generation of the group. The Leon is constantly online, searches for special destinations on the Internet, now integrates smartphones wirelessly, converses with Amazon’s Alexa on request, can be kept up to date via the mobile phone connection or supplemented by additional services and can be operated with almost natural voice dialogs.
The new format is also accommodating. While the dimensions of the VW Golf changed only marginally during the generation change, the Leon gains in wheelbase (plus five centimeters) and length (plus nine centimeters). Passengers have a noticeable advantage from the new edition, because the knees of the backbenchers are no longer chafing on the front seat back. And if you choose the station wagon instead of the five-door version, you also get more space in the trunk. While the hatchback still holds 380 liters, behind the large flap of the ST station wagon are now 617 instead of 587 liters.
The Leon also adds to the assistance systems. The new generation of the so-called Travel Assist offers almost autonomous driving at up to 210 km / h and warns both pedestrians and cyclists – in front of and next to the vehicle.
You have to know: The launch of the Leon was scheduled for late April, but there are fears that the corona pandemic will undo these plans. Even the price calculation is currently stalling, so there is only one benchmark for the entry-level model. It is expected to cost just under 20,000 euros, Seat announces and estimates the surcharge for the station wagon at around 1,000 euros.
Under the hood, Seat has more choices than ever in the medium term. In addition to conventional petrol and diesel engines from 90 hp and a natural gas engine, Seat has a mild hybrid drive with 48-volt technology and an electric starter generator for the first time, as well as a plug-in hybrid drive as a premiere. The combination of a 1.4-liter petrol engine and an electric machine is currently the most powerful engine variant with a system output of 204 hp and runs purely electrically for up to 60 kilometers with a 13 kWh battery. It is shifted by hand or with automatic double clutch, Seat again offers all-wheel drive for the more powerful engine variants.
We will not forget that: The ambient lighting that extends from the cockpit to the doors. Because as soon as sensors detect a cyclist or pedestrian next to the car when stopping, the light bar begins to flicker before the doors are opened, thus warning of dangerous collisions. This is really a sensible gimmick.