“Those wanting to combine the practicalities of a small family runaround with the sporty, rakish design cues of a hot hatch should look no further than the SEAT Leon. This car has refused to let go of its racy reputation, and that’s earned it the top spot as this year’s best used compact family hatch.
And with this third-generation Leon, launched in 2013, SEAT gave buyers even more flexibility to get that balance between fun and functionality right. It also managed to create more room inside the remodeled car’s cabin – as well as a 380-litre boot – while considerably reducing the Leon’s overall weight.
The cabin isn’t just roomy, either; it feels classy and uncluttered and it’s packed with high-quality, soft-touch materials. It’s also incredibly well specced. Even the basic Leon S comes with a five-inch colour touchscreen to access the SEAT Media System, plus Bluetooth, voice control and steering wheel controls.
In addition, SE and FR models get a six-speaker sound system. Make sure you seek out cars that were specified with the Technology Pack, which added full LED headlights, sat-nav and a DAB radio.
But the Leon’s best attribute is that it’s a real thrill to drive, with bags of handling flair. That’s largely thanks to its share in the VW Group’s technology. The current car features a host of new safety equipment, too, including a driver’s knee airbag, and offers a multi-collision braking system to automatically brake the car after an accident in order to avoid a second collision. Add in a lane-keeping assistant and driver fatigue detection, and it’s no wonder Euro NCAP gave it a five-star crash test rating.
The car boasts a good range of refined turbocharged engines, too, each of which is impressively fuel efficient, considering their performance. The base level 1.2-litre TSI is our pick of the bunch, and promises to deliver 57.6mpg, despite packing a surprising amount of punch.
SEAT Leon: key details
• Driving: Golf-based platform means the Leon is a lot of fun to drive, even in its most basic trim levels.
• Interior: Cabin is well built, while choosing the Technology Pack adds sat-nav and a DAB radio to the kit list.
SEAT Leon: expert view
Austin Collins, Buyacar.co.uk: “The Leon is popular onBuyaCar.co.uk because people know they’re getting a cheaper and more stylish version of the VW Golf. It’s more likely to be trouble-free, too. In this year’s Driver Power survey, the Leon was ranked 63rd out of 150 for reliability; the Golf was 105th. There’s an updated version of the Leon due next year, so if you wait until then you may benefit from lower prices in the coming months.”