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2021 SEAT Leon Review

BODY TYPE: Hatchback
In the final years of the 1990s decade, Spanish carmaker SEAT struck gold with the launch of a hatchback that would completely turn its fortunes around. Related to other cars of the Volkswagen Group, like the Audi A3 or Volkswagen Golf, the Leon impressed from the get-go with a styling that its siblings lacked. 
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Of all the hatchbacks on the market during Leon’s first and second generations, the Spanish car was perhaps the most appealing, the most different in terms of looks, especially at the front end, and a shining newcomer that quickly rose to the status of best-selling SEAT model ever.

Although starting with the third generation the design has drastically changed and it is now in line with anything else VAG has to offer, the car still is at the top of the sales charts in Europe.

In January 2020, SEAT introduced the fourth-gen, after an investment of about €1.1 billion in both the car itself and its production lines. The new car is described as the safest yet, the first fully connected product from SEAT, and a stepping stone to other great things to come from Martorell.

1Exterior design & features

When the first version of the Leon launched in 1998, it came with a very narrow front grille, split in half by the carmaker’s logo and continued to the sides by the car’s headlights, while the design of the rear made it appear massive. Then the second incarnation appeared in 2005, and it couldn’t have been more different: the front end was completely new, with a large, egg-shaped grille smack down the middle, and a rear end that no longer resembled a bottom, but a face with very pointy eyes.

One would have expected SEAT to come up with crazier designs still for what followed in the family, but that wasn’t the case. The Spanish went for a conventional, boring hatchback-style, for both the third generation and the recently launched fourth. They did so to such a degree that there’s virtually little differences between these last two.

Build on VW’s MQB Evo platform, the new Leon is however longer - it measures an extra 86 mm (4,368 mm) – but also less wide and tall – minus 16 and 3 mm, respectively (1,800 mm wide, 1,456 mm high).

As said, the new car looks more like a facelift of the model it will replace. There are just a number of elements differentiating between them, like the deeper shape of the entire front end, the slightly longer hood, and the repositioning of the A-pillars further to the back, where the car ends in coast-to-coast LED lights.

2Interior design, features
and passenger space

As most of the cars sold by VAG in this segment, the Leon is more of a car for the masses, so don’t expect it ever to offer the level of luxury you would find elsewhere. In the new car, that translates into an interior with a minimalist design, a lot of soft plastics and textiles, and just a limited number of leather options for the seats. 

The 4th Leon’s interior design has been kept simple: there’s a slim-looking dashboard that extends far toward the windscreen, and adorned by decorative molding and the screen of the infotainment system, a steering wheel, shifter, and that’s about it.

Worth mentioning is the interior lighting system that in this case comes with a wraparound dashboard light.

Leon does not cut corners though when it comes to storage capabilities. For the new hatchback, the boot capacity is the same as in the previous version, despite the slight increase in size, namely 380 liters. For the wagon called Sportstourer, the volume is slightly higher than before, namely 617 liters (+30 liters).

3Gadgets

This new Leon is advertised as being the most technologically advanced ever made by SEAT and, for all intents and purposes, the first truly connected car of the brand. 

From an infotainment standpoint, there are three different screens to choose from: the standard 8.25-inch screen with smartphone audio compatibility, the 10-inch Navi screen with 3D navigation and retina display, and the large 10.25-inch one of the digital cockpit system. 

The car’s infotainment system allows Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, connectivity via WLAN, Bluetooth, and USB, and inductive smartphone charging. To keep up to date with what’s new from SEAT, an embedded SIM is also featured. 

The new Leon also ships with the Connect app that allows remote control over some of the car’s features.

4Performance

The engine range for the new Leon is as diverse as expected from a Volkswagen brand, and includes everything from conventional ICE units, to mild and even plug-in hybrids. All engines can be mated to either a manual or a DSG automatic transmission. 

On the ICE front, gasoline engines (TSI) come with power outputs of between 90 and 190 ps, while diesel (TDI) is represented by units churing out 115 to 150 hp. 

The mild-hybrid Leon (eTSI) pairs two engines (1.0-liter and 1.5-liter) with a 48V system. The plug-in hybrid (eHybrid) on the other hand comes as a combination between a 1.4-liter TSI, an electric motor, and a 13 kWh lithium-ion battery pack.

5Safety

Just as it is considered the most connected Leon ever, the new car is also seen as the safest there ever was. Aside for the usual and mandatory safety systems like seatbelts and airbags, the car is packed with ADAS tool meant to provide an extra layer of protection against harm.

ADAS includes things like Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC), predictive Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC), emergency assist, travel assist and side and exit assist. Each of them is either completely new to the range or a significant improvement of technologies that already are deployed elsewhere on cars manufactured under the VAG umbrella.

6Conclusion

2020 should, for all intents and purposes, be the hatchback year for Volkswagen brands. So soon after the unveiling of the new Golf, the Leon comes to further satisfy the increasing appetite Europeans have for this type of car.

The new generation has very big shoes to fill. Since its introduction, the nameplate sold 2.2 million units, which for a brand the size of SEAT in outstanding. 

Despite not being as revolutionary in design as the first and second generations, the new one should have no problem succeeding, since it addresses a more present need of the customer: connected, digital, and electrified.