SEAT Leon 1.9 TDI Ecomotive
Looks like any normal Leon but the Ecomotive model boasts lower running costs
- Spacious cabin is durable and family-friendly
- Promise of real world savings
- Ecomotive changes don't impact negatively on the driving experience
- Stylish and attractive to look at
- Diesel engine could be more refined when driven at low speeds
- Large A-pillars can restrict forward view at junctions
- Dark cabin ambience contrasts with outgoing exterior styling
- Interior trades a quality feel for durability
An economy model is now viewed as an essential addition to a car line-up. Low CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are the tow main prerequisites for entry to this expanding club, along with a modest general specification so as to attract mainstream buyers. On paper Seat's Leon Ecomotive appears to fit the bill.
For active families on a budget or the hard-pressed company car driver who travels tens of thousands of miles a year, the family hatch remains a competent all-rounder. You can pack the family off for a weekend, and be confident that clients won't view your choice of car in a negative light during the week.
There's no doubt over Seat's Leon to deliver the good as a family and business car. Its cabin is spacious and durable - making it ideal for an active family. That cabin will also accommodate four adults in reasonable comfort, ensuring important clients aren't made to feel uncomfortable.
But what's likely to be important to the driver is the thorny subject of running costs. In Ecomotive form the Leon offers above average fuel economy for something in this class, while also managing to keep down CO2 emissions. These two issues alone should save the company car driver a significant sum over the course of a year.
And the Leon does it all without any fuss or, in the main, any inconvenience to its occupants. Only one engine-car combination is branded as Ecomotive, and the 1.9-litre diesel should be familiar to VW Group fans. It's not the quietest unit but it is frugal and, along with longer gearing, promotes a relaxed driving attitude on long journeys.
Our verdict on the SEAT Leon 1.9 TDI Ecomotive
With only a modest level of modification, Seat's regular Leon can be made to deliver real-world cost savings without any major compromises. For business drivers on a budget but also funding a family, something like Seat's all-rounder would be a sensible choice.
With its competitive purchase price and the promise of lower than average running costs, the Leon Ecomotive is an attractive alternative to a regular family hatch. Low fuel consumption and CO2 emissions should prove deal breakers if you're on a tight budget.
Space and practicality
A growing family would have little trouble living with the Leon. It migh fall short compared to something like the Altea XL for outright space, but it's an acceptable compromise. Good levels of cabin and boots space are complemented by plenty of oddment storage option. Fold the rear seats and you can increase the car versatility by a considerable margin.
Controls and display
There's nothing major at fault with the Leon's cabin - the main dials are smartly finished and attractive, while the chunky steering wheel adjusts for both rake and reach while the height adjustable driver's seat is useful. Only the position of some minor function, such as the ventilation controls, can be a let down. And the audio unit's display can be hard to read in direct sunlight.
Boasting good levels of cabin space head and legroom fore and aft ensures even adults sitting in the back shouldn't have cause to complain. Supportive seats complete the good news. A slightly firm ride plus the vocal diesel engine are the only small issues.
There's no shortfall in equipment here, with the Leon Ecomotive boasting an alarm, central locking and an immobiliser as standard equipment. For added peace of mind you might want to fit a low cost but highly visible steering lock.
Like with so many Volkswagen family vehicles, there's a noticeable and welcome sturdy feel to the Leon's construction. This is supported by a full compliment of twin front and side airbags plus anti-lock brakes. Unlike some higher-spec models you will have to pay extra for ESP, though.
In real terms the Leon Ecomotive delivers a safe, sensible and entirely predictable driving experience. This is what you would expect from a conventional family hatch. In eco-mode the car is quick enough to keep up with traffic, yet frugal enough to make the choice a smart one. Engine and tyre noise is a little higher than normal, but the longer gearing makes for relaxed long journeys.
Family car appeal
If, for work or other reasons, you must have a five-door hatchback, there's little reason to believe the Leon won't be able to cope with the demands of family life. Flexible seating, good levels of space and storage options plus a durable cabin all add up to something perfectly adept at coping with a growing, busy family.
First car appeal
This Leon - or any regular variant for that matter - should pose no problems for a novice driver. It's an affordable option that's easy to drive and park, comes with good levels of equipment and shouldn't cost much to run - especially in Ecomotive trim.
Quality and image
With the Spanish firm regularly positioning it as the sporty, affordable brand within the Volkswagen Group, car's like the Ecomotive model straddle an increasingly blurred line. The regular cars are indeed good to drive, but this model's focus aligns itself more with Seat's value for money image - something it's keen on capitalising further. Value can also mean modest quality - something that was true of past cars. Things are better now but the Leon range still lags behind some better-selling rivals.
Being a conventional five-door hatchback, front seat occupants will have no trouble accessing and exiting the cabin and it's largely the same for those in the back. There are no problems at the back, either - the car's boot shouldn't cause any major issues.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
As is the case across the Leon range, the Ecomotive variant comes with a good sounding radio/CD unit as standard. Remote control audio buttons on the steering wheel are a welcome addition. The main controls could be better, though. The buttons are quite small and hard to use on the move, and the LCD display is easily obstructed when light shines directly on it.
Colours and trim
As a sensible family hatch, the regular Leon - not including the quick ones - works well in a variety of exterior colours. Bright hues works best, as they help highlight the car's various curves. Inside, the car's sombre cabin lacks the chrome accents in some of its rivals.
It's unlikely that any regular driver will struggle with the Leon. The car's steering is light and accurate at low speeds and its main mirrors are of a good size. If nit-picking, the thick rear pillars can block your view when exercising a particularly tricky manoeuvre, and parking sensors are recommended for added peace of mind.
A space saver spare wheel is fitted as standard.
Petrol engines - 1.4-litre TSI (125bhp); 1.6-litre (102bhp); 2.0 TSI (200bhp, 240bhp). Diesel engines - 1.9-litre (105bhp); 2.0-litre (140bhp, 170bhp). Transmission - five and six-speed manual depending on engine, plus six-speed DSG semi auto gearbox. Trim levels: Reference, Emocion, Stylance, Sport, FR, Ecomotive (1.9, 105bhp diesel only).
Ford Focus Econetic model offers tangible savings
Vauxhall Astra Ecoflex model offers to reduce your outgoings without a compromise
Volkswagen Golf In diesel form, the Golf is capable and economical all-rounder
Skoda Octavia Bigger but similar in terms of driving and ownership experience