Driven: 2017 SEAT Leon FR Titanium Technology 1.8 TSI
The new SEAT Leon looks promising, and with the keys to one, I was excited to discover whether it proves me right.
What is the 2017 SEAT Leon FR Titanium Technology 1.8 TSI All About?
SEAT may be an unfamiliar marque, especially to anyone outside of Europe, but in reality, it’s the Spanish outpost of a very recognisable motoring giant, Volkswagen. Despite that, some cars they put out still don’t receive much credibility in the UK.
That said, they actually have a racing pedigree and offer a lineup of solid cars. In fact, one of their most popular models, the Leon, enjoyed success in multiple touring car championships and brought about the Leon Cupra.
For a long time now, the Leon has been a solid, albeit left-field choice for hatchbacks, since there’s a multitude of offerings from other manufacturers on the market. With multiple refinements and improvements, does the new Leon stack up to its stiff competition?
Volkswagen may have halted productions on the Scirocco, but its genes certainly run in the new Leon SC. Sporting a sloping roofline and three-door look, the Leon looks great. It’s tastefully contemporary – in fact, I think it’s one of the better looking hatchbacks of this era. The sporty dress it wears is paid for though, in the Titanium trim.
The colour ‘Nevada White’ certainly pairs well with the soft, unoffensive shape of the Leon too. Riding on 18″ alloys courtesy to the Titanium trim, the Leon delivers an unassuming but pleasing aesthetic.
Powering this particular Leon is the 1.8-litre turbocharged TSi engine that’s found in many cars from the large Volkswagen family. It puts out 177 bhp and 250 Nm of torque – the hottest you can find without stepping into Cupra territory.
Mated to the engine is a 6-speed manual transmission that drives the front wheels, propelling the Leon from 0-62 mph in 7.4 seconds onto a top speed of 140 mph. Not blitzing, but nothing to scoff at. A faster, 7-speed, dual-clutch automatic variant is available too, but that wouldn’t be as entertaining to drive. The Leon manages 47.1 mpg combined and puts out 138 g/km of CO2. The automatic variant is also more efficient in this regard.
How Does it Drive?
For a hatchback with sporting credentials, how it drives is crucial, and the Leon doesn’t disappoint here.
Yes, for a turbocharged hatchback, the Leon is not as exciting as the title suggests, but it’s no slouch. The 1.8 TSI makes bundles of torque throughout its rev range, which is handy when you need to overtake. It’s not like you’ll be falling behind on the motorway either.
The engine is also smooth and refined, and can actually be quite thrilling to shift. It may be worth stating at this point that the new Leon rides on Volkswagen’s MQB platform. This is a pioneering platform shared between smaller cars of the Volkswagen family, notably the Audi TT, the Skoda Octavia, and of course, the Volkswagen Golf Mk7.
Boasting more aggressive styling than the Golf, the Leon has always been there for the folks who want something more engaging to drive. Evident by SEAT’s subtle performance enhancements in the MQB platform, the Leon is a valiant hatchback, especially in the FR trim.
The Leon is an easy car to get into. There’s not much to it, and the car doesn’t hide any nasty surprises from the driver. Everything is light but precise, making the Leon a breeze to drive. The chassis is dynamic and stout, and encourages the driver to toss the Leon around corners.
Kick it into sports mode, and the car sharpens up further. Throttle response is excellent, the shifter is still light, but makes a satisfying mechanical click going into gears. While the steering may not be exceptionally communicative, it’s appropriately weighted, pleasantly fast and accurate.
The grip is very dependable, and SEAT’s torque vectoring over the front axle, although very aggressive, keeps you in check even during spirited drives. Body roll is a non-issue, and the Leon presents itself to be an entertaining drive. There’s nothing to complain about regarding the brakes too.
That said, SEAT isn’t blinded during the pursuit of sportiness. The Leon manages to be suitably supple, absorbing bumps well. With a sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, the Leon proves tricky to upset, and settles fast after undulating.
How is it Inside?
The SEAT Leon has always been a cheaper option than the Golf, but that was due to apparent cost-cutting measures in the interior.
Open the doors to the new Leon though, and it seems to tell a different tale this time around. The Golf may still be a threatening adversary interior-wise, but the Leon is nipping at its heels this time around.
Part of that might just be down to SEAT drawing inspiration from the Golf. The seats in our model may still be cloth, but leather is available for a grand more, but, more interestingly, you can opt for Alcantara seats for half that. That’s the one that I’d go for if you’re after the sporty touch. The buttons are laid out sensibly, and everything you need is where you’d expect.
If you go for the entry-level S trim, the Leon may be miserably equipped. So I’d suggest you to go for the SE at least, which features modern amenities such as alloys, cruise control and electronic locking diff. You’d also want the Technology pack, like ours have – that provides the much needed 6.5″ touchscreen to bring the Leon up to date.
The SC, with its two doors, is undeniably good looking, but not necessarily worth the trade-off in practicality. That said, because the proportions don’t change a whole lot, adults can still fit back there.
The Leon offers 380 litres of boot space, perfectly serviceable for grocery getting. You can always fold the rear seats down for more room though.
Driving the Leon is just a nice experience. There are no glaring faults I can pick, and it does everything a normal hatchback needs to. Sure, it’s not the most enthralling drive, neither does it offer otherworldly comfort, but it’s a good compromise between the two.
The cabin is a step in the right direction for SEAT too. Pair that with a lot of engine options to choose from, and good looks, it’s a car that I will happily drive every day. It’s incredibly versatile – as it needs to be if it wishes to be competitive.
So, should you pick the Leon? In terms of value, the Leon is ahead of the pack. For your money, the Leon is an incredible package that does everything well, and it’s always refreshing to see a hatchback other than a Golf or a Focus.
For the money, the new SEAT Leon is a very appealing choice, and deservingly so. If you want something more affordable, or something different, the Leon is the one.
2017 SEAT Leon SC FR Titanium Technology 1.8 TSI
- Price: £23,400
- Engine: 1.8-litre TSi turbocharged inline-4
- Power: 177 bhp
- Torque: 250 Nm
- Transmission: 6-speed manual
- 0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
- Top speed: 140 mph
- Weight: 1,290 kg
- Economy combined: 47.1 mpg
- CO2: 138 g/km