Seat Leon ST 2.0 TDI FR
The key Leon design features have been successfully incorporated onto the ST
- Solid build quality makes the car feel substantial
- Sharp and modern exterior design
- Economical engines help lower running costs
- Excellent load carrying capacity
- Options and spec can quickly rack up the price
- Better rear suspension only available on higher-spec models
- Cabin is good quality but a little plain
- Smallest engine may struggle with a full load
The third act of Seat's Leon story has arrived in the shape of the ST, an estate version of the already-popular hatchback in five-door and three-door SC forms. This represents an expansion of the Leon range not seen before, as until now only the smaller Ibiza was available in ST form.
The last generation Leon hatchback was such a success that the new model has something of a challenge to outshine it. The outgoing model had a distinctive exterior, a good quality and practical cabin and impressive mechanicals. The sporty models in the range also proved particularly popular, but on first impressions it seems Seat is keen to follow this template with the new car.
An all-new chassis is the key factor with a longer wheelbase for more interior space, and by introducing improvements in terms of refinement Seat hopes to ensure the Leon not only continues to appeal to traditional C-Segment car buyers, but can also attract customers who traditionally drive larger vehicles and are keen to downsize to reduce running costs.
The most significant change for the Leon ST is obviously the addition of the estate car rear. The ST has the same wheelbase as the hatchback versions so space in the rear seats is unchanged, but an increase in overall length of 27cm creates the extra space in the rear. The estate tailgate is also incorporated without sacrificing the Leon's modern and attractive design.
On the inside the Leon ST offers a substantial increase in boot space with the seats up or down, and all models gain an adjustable boot floor, a 12v power socket and a through-loading facility for longer loads. SE models add a boot-mounted release for the rear seats for added convenience.
Our verdict on the Seat Leon ST 2.0 TDI FR
What is already a fine hatchback has been turned into an excellent estate car. All the Leon's strengths - the all-round excellent driving experience, the quality cabin and good value - and added extra space and practicality. It is an excellent all-rounder that could provide transport for a wide range of buyers.
New engines have made the Leon even more efficient, and impressive economy from the entire initial range of engines means small bills. Insurance groupings are low thanks to good security and safety measures.
Space and practicality
As you might expect the Leon makes the most of its footprint when it comes to cabin space. Passengers front and rear can relax with plenty of space as well as useful storage areas, while the boot itself is generous and sensibly divided up. The glove box is also chilled, a useful function for long road trips.
Controls and display
The Leon's instruments are clear and easy to read at a glance, and crisply illuminated. The touch-screen display is more than good enough for general use and offers clear options, responding well to modest pressure. The central controls for air movement and the stereo are neatly packaged, with a minimalist approach that works well.
A more steeply-raked windscreen creates less wind noise, and better aerodynamics mean less buffeting around the car. Even the pedals have been acoustically damped to limit vibration inside the cabin. Supportive, if firm, seats and climate control add to the comfort levels.
An immobiliser is standard equipment, as is an automatic speed-sensitive door locking system that can be deactivated if required. Naturally, all models feature remote central locking and the lockable glove box is an additional benefit. The hatchback body means items in the boot are concealed from view by the parcel shelf.
Seat will not settle for less than the maximum score for any of its cars, and a five-star safety rating comes as no surprise. A raft of airbags including one for the driver's knee, a whiplash restraint system and seatbelt fastening detection for the rear seats are all included. ABS with brake assist, an advanced ESP system with a differential lock and traction control and automatic hazard light activation ought to prevent many of the systems being tested, however.
Anyone expecting to notice the difference between the Leon ST and the standard hatchback model will be sorely disappointed. The weight increase is marginal and does not affect the overall handling balance or ride quality, and performance from the whole engine range is impressive although the smaller engines may struggle a little with a fully-loaded car.
Family car appeal
The Leon is built as a family car and so is a prefect fit for the role. Rear legroom is excellent, most materials are resistant to knocks and there is a full array of child-friendly features including Isofix child seat mounts, a switchable passenger-side front airbag and a capacious boot that can hold lots of luggage or a pushchair.
First car appeal
While younger first-time car buyers are likely to choose something smaller and more manageable than the Leon, more people are waiting until later in life to pass their tests, especially those that live in big cities, in which case the Leon is an ideal all-rounder.
Quality and image
Quality has improved still further on this latest Leon, particularly in road manners, helped by the brand-new architecture. Image-wise the Leon still has that sporty flavour and is all the better for it, even on the more humble models.
If anything the Leon ST is better in terms of access than the five-door hatchback model. The large boot is accessed through a wide aperture and the loading lip is usefully low. It's also just as easy for passengers to climb aboard, with sensibly shaped doors front and rear.
Stereo and ICE (In car entertainment)
Standard equipment on all trim levels is a single slot MP3 compatible CD player. An upgraded system can be optionally specified. All cars have a standard colour touch-screen interface to allow easy control of music and other in-car functions. There are ports to allow the use of MP3 players as standard too.
Colours and trim
Thanks to the sharp styling and well-integrated tailgate the Leon ST is just as handsome as its hatchback counterpart. Bright shades show off the strong body creases at their best with more discreet shades available. On the inside the trim is good quality but the overall colour scheme is quite dark.
Everyday usability is one area that the Leon has always excelled in, and parking it is extremely easy thanks to speed-sensitive steering, good visibility and restrained, easy-to-judge shape. A parking assistance system is available as an option on higher models, measuring the size of spaces and operating the steering to reverse the car into them, which might appeal to city drivers.
Emergency tyre repair kit fitted as standard.
Petrol engine options - 1.2-litre (104bhp); 1.4-litre(138bhp); 1.8-litre (178bhp). Diesel engine options - 1.6-litre (104bhp); 2.0-litre (148bhp, 180bhp). Transmission options: six-speed manual gearbox, seven-speed DSG twin clutch automatic gearbox with switchable sequential manual mode. Trim levels: S, SE, FR.
Volkswagen Golf Estate In-house rival is better quality but more expensive
Ford Focus Estate Sets the class standard in many aspects
Vauxhall Astra Sport Tourer A good drive and economical but anonymous exterior and confusing dashboard
Renault Megane Sport Tourer Comfortable and spacious but lacking driving pleasure