December 2012

Seat Leon SE 1.2 TSI 5dr

Sharp new look is pleasing to the eye

December 2012

picture of car from the frontpicture of car from the rearpicture of car interiorpicture of car in detail

Overall rating

4.0 out of 5 stars


  • Crisp and bold exterior styling
  • Promise of wallet-friendly economy
  • High quality cabin ambience
  • Polished driving dynamics


  • Thick rear pillars can hamper visibility
  • Legroom in the back could be better
  • Still some low rent cabin plastics in eye view
  • Diesel engines could be quieter

A mainstay of the Seat's range, the Leon is a medium-size family hatch competing against the likes of Ford's Focus, Vauxhall's Astra, Volkswagen's Golf and the rapidly improving cars from Hyundai and Kia. This latest iteration boasts a sharper exterior look plus an overall uplift in quality.

Despite coming from the same large auto group and VW's Golf, this latest Leon couldn't look and behave more differently than its conservatively styled stablemate. Crisp exterior lines, a sporty profile and a high quality cabin all help lift the Leon's profile.

As with the rest of Seat's products the all-new Leon is targeted at a youthful audience. As such, its rakish looks and the promises of an engaging drive should appeal more to those who find the likes of VW's Golf a little too conservative. That said, the wrapper might be new but look inside and the Leon contains many familiar technologies from the VW Group parts bin.

This component sharing works very much to the Leon's advantage, however. Economical engines combine with a long list of impressive creature comforts - decent infotainment systems, value-added safety systems - to create a car that should appeal to both the head and the heart.

A little longer in the wheelbase, this Leon also offers more cabin space than before. Factor in a spacious boot plus the added bonus of a split-fold rear seat and the Leon is also a practical as well as sporty proposition.

Our verdict on the Seat Leon SE 1.2 TSI 5dr

After some time in Volkswagen and Skoda's shadow, Seat has finally emerged to prove that it can make a visually and dynamically engaging family hatchback. Previous efforts were good, but the intense competition ensured they failed to ignite any serious passion. That's no longer the case with this tech-laden and keenly priced Leon.


With Seat keen to price the Leon competitively - and undercut in-house competition such as the VW Golf - you do get a lot of car for your money. Factor in the claimed economy performance from selected petrol and diesel engines and it's clear that meaningful savings can be made with little effort.

Space and practicality

Seat's engineers have done a good job squeezing as much space as possible out of the Leon's cabin. Adults seated fore and aft shouldn't have reason to complain, while oddment storage is good and, along with split folding rear seats, the car's boot is a good size for something in this class.

Controls and display

Seat has done a good job of combining conventional analogue instruments with a clear digital trip computer. This combination and the centrally located main touchscreen both prove intuitive at first glance, while the latter affords access to audio, navigation, telephone and more detailed trip information with only a few button presses.


Despite Seat's focus on a sporty driving experience, ride comfort in the Leon is a decent balance of comfort and firmness to counter unwanted pitch and roll. The petrol engines predictably prove more refined that the diesel units by some margin, while the cabin is spacious enough to accommodate four adults in relative comfort.

Car security

All Leon models have remote central deadlocking as well as automatic door locking on driving away. An interior alarm system is also fitted, and versions with alloy wheels have locking wheel bolts. At the rear the sturdy-looking load shelf should prove an effective deterrent against prying eyes.

Car safety

The Leon comes with a good collection of active and passive safety systems as well as the reassurance of a strong crash test performance. Front, side and curtain airbags are joined by a suite of electronic stability aids, plus the option of high power LED headlights with an adaptive high beam function for added convenience

Driver appeal

Keen to promote itself as a youth-orientated brand, Seat pitches the Leon as a sporty, engaging hatchback. The reality is a mildly firm-riding car with a good level of driver engagement through the seat and steering wheel. Factor in a rounded engine line-up and it's clear that Seat is on the right track with the Leon.

Family car appeal

The Leon can perform family duties with very little effort, with Isofix mounting points in the back and a useable boot. Taller teenagers in the rear may be a little short on headroom but the Leon is competitive with most rivals in this segment if you prefer a hatch to a people carrier.

First car appeal

Frugal, reasonably priced and easy to drive and live with, the Leon could easily make a smart buy for a novice driver seeking more space and practicality than a city car.

Quality and image

Thanks to its Volkswagen Group parentage this Leon offers a higher standard of quality than previously. In terms of image, the Leon certainly trades on its sporty looks and carries a strong degree of kerb appeal even in the more basic specifications.


Access to front and rear seats is straightforward, with decent sized doors that open to a wide angle. Access to the boot is also good, although the boot aperture is a modest width if you plan on loading large items.

Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)

The standard audio package is a good one, and covers all the main frequency, audio inputs and ease of use bases. Located high up inn the Leon's fascia, it can be reached by both driver and front seat passenger. The touchscreen element works well and, where fitted, the navigation function proves quick and easy to operate.

Colours and trim

The sharp-looking Leon is best optioned in a bright, bold exterior hue to highlight its crisp detailing. The wow factor isn't quite the same inside though, as dark materials dominate the cabin. However, this means everything is to a much higher standard than before.


The Leon has very light power steering at low speeds and a decent turning circle, although rear vision could be better. With the aid of rear parking sensors the car proves straightforward to park, although the mirrors could offer a better field of view.

Spare wheel

Space saver spare wheel fitted as standard.

Range information

Petrol engine options - 1.2-litre (105bhp); 1.4-litre (140bhp); 1.8-litre (180bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.6-litre (105bhp, 110bhp); 2.0-litre (150bhp, 184bhp). Transmission options: five and six-speed manual depending on engine, plus six and seven-speed DSG semi auto gearbox. Trim levels: S, SE, FR.

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