Road Test: SEAT Leon ST 1.6 TDI SE Business
SEAT has packaged popular fleet options into a well-targeted Leon. Alex Grant tries it.Sector: Lower Medium Price: £20,650 Fuel: 68.9mpg CO2: 105g/km
Although SEAT’s first SUV isn’t far from showrooms, the Leon ST is shows that a practical compact estate car needn’t be a boring choice, even if it’s leading on whole-life costs rather than its emotional qualities.
Offered on the hatchback and the ST, the SE Business trim is a new addition for 2016, and formalises what was already a commonly-chosen spec for the Leon into its own version. There had been a high fleet take-up for the SE trim and Technology Pack, this makes both standard and adds motorway-friendly adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors and the Convenience Pack with automatic lights, wipers and a rear-view dimmer. All for £255 over the basic SE.
Curiously, what you don’t get is an Ecomotive option. SEAT is offering 108bhp and 148bhp 1.6 and 2.0-litre diesel engines with this trim level, the former lacking the lower suspension, low rolling resistance tyres and aerodynamic body treatment of the most efficient Leon ST. It means CO2 emissions of 105g/km instead of 94g/km, and fuel economy at 68.9mpg – 9.5mpg lower than the Ecomotive can muster, on paper at least.
The big issue for motorway use is that this doesn’t come with six gears. It’s a brilliant small diesel engine; quiet, lively and with the tiniest thirst for heavy oil when it’s driven sensibly. But that extra gear probably accounts for as much of the fuel savings as the rest of the Ecomotive kit, especially for long-distance drivers. However, doing without these add-ons also strips almost £1,000 from the P11d price, which means it’s a whole-life consideration that varies on mileage.
Otherwise, though, SEAT’s first foray into the lower-medium estate segment is a convincing one and the Leon feels rather upmarket for less than £21,000 on the road. It’s neatly designed with a hint of Audi on the outside, and that unmistakeable VW Group build quality – albeit stripped of a little of its plusher features – on the inside. Unsurprisingly, it feels like a Golf to drive; precise, well-weighted and comfortable, if quite firmly sprung, and the engine only feels laboured when the boot is full. Drivers regularly hauling heavy loads or four adult passengers may find the 2.0-litre TDI better suited.
Beneath a sporty silhouette, also manages to be incredibly practical. There’s a lengthy, completely flat load area with under-floor storage once the seats are folded down, and the passenger seat optionally folds too. SEAT also appears to have fixed the dim-witted infotainment system, which no longer lags as the navigation whittles down its list of postcodes, and this can be equipped with the excellent Android Auto and Apple CarPlay systems as a £150 option. It’s well worth having.
The Tiguan-based Alteca is likely to steal some of the Leon’s user-chooser presence when it launches later this year – it could even get an equivalent trim level. But for those who can live without the raised driving position and rugged design, the ST won’t leave them wanting.
All the space, comfort and style a long-distance driver could need, and a great alternative to the segment’s default options for user-choosers and job-need applications alike. Enough to make six gears feel like an odd omission.