Seat may not be the hippest car brand in the world, but the Leon SC provides a welcome injection of street cred
BACK in 1990, When VW Group bought Spanish automaker Seat, it wanted to position it in its stable the same way Alfa Romeo sits within the Fiat Group.
It has, however, struggled to market Seat as a sporty brand. It never had the cachet of Alfa Romeo, with its racing and sports car heritage. Try as it might, VW hasn’t been able to make Seat cool. Until now.
From its stats, I expected this Leon SC to be little more than a three-door version of the five-door hatchback. Not so. This sport coupé may share most of its components with the five-door model but from the windscreen to the tail-lights, the design is totally different.
For a start, it’s 35mm shorter than its sibling. It’s meaner, stockier, more compact. Trapezoid LED headlamps, a lower roof, rear three-quarter windows and a distinctive sharp-edge crease over the rear wheels make it a cracking-looking car.
Inside is less impressive. Though functional, the cabin lacks the flamboyance of the exterior design. I was more wowed by the in-car infotainment touch screen: it’s the nearest thing I’ve seen to a fully functioning iPad in a car. The Leon SC prompts you when you need fuel (and directs you to it via the navigation system) and reminds you not to leave your mobile behind.
I drove two models: the sportiest was the FR 2.0 TDI 184PS. I also drove the more modest 1.6 diesel SE model, which is likely to sell well in the UK. A lower powered 2.0-litre diesel model and 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8-litre petrol versions are also offered in S, SE or FR trim.
The FR was by far the best. It was like driving a different car altogether. The ride and handling, which I found busy and a little tiring in the more basic 1.6 diesel model, is massively improved by the FR’s more advanced suspension system. You can also alter the car’s driving characteristics using the Drive Profile controller (essentially the same system you get in Audi A3 and VW Golfs).
It’s fast, too. The official 0-62mph is 7.5 seconds but it feels quicker. Steering feedback is pretty good and the car handles well through the bends. There’s plenty of power for overtaking, too, which was useful on tractor-blocked Cotswold roads. Thanks to the unusual placing of the wing mirrors – they’re on the doors – there is little wind noise. The Leon SC is easily the most refined and sporty Seat I’ve driven. It’s approaching the level of the VW Golf and it’s still a good deal cheaper. Add to that some tidy economy and emissions figures and it becomes clear Seat Leon SC’s beauty is more than skin deep.
SEAT LEON SC
0-62MPH: 7.5 secs
TOP SPEED: 142mph
CO2 G/KM: 109g/km
MPG COMBINED: 67.3mpg
DESIGN Four Stars
PERFORMANCE Four Stars
PRACTICALITY Three Stars
VALUE FOR MONEY Three Stars