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Spotlight: SEAT Leon

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Fleets should take note of the new Leon, which brings plug-in power and a more grown up attitude to the table, says Jonathan Musk.

Spanish flair

The Leon has been a solid seller for SEAT, which has seen the Golf-sized hatch become its best-seller with 2.2 million sales globally, including more than 250 thousand in the UK since it first appeared in 1999. Following the third generation model was always going to be a tough act though, thanks to its sharp styling and alluring ‘cheap Golf’ appeal.

The new car manages to build on that success, although with a more mild-mannered approach to its overall appearance. That’s no bad thing, however, as its more mainstream appeal should see it win favour with fleets – especially now that it is based on the same MQB Evo platform as the latest Mk8 Volkswagen Golf. Understandably, the new Leon shares its technical attributes with its German brethren including the engine line-up, which consists of petrol, diesel, and for the first time mild- and plug-in hybrid.

Fleet-focused power

Drivetrains should appeal to fleets for their fuel-sipping and low CO2. Petrol TSI options include a new 1.0-litre 110hp three-cylinder for the first time, while the expected best-selling 1.5-litre TSI is available with 130hp or 150hp, with a six-speed manual. Efficiency enhancing mild hybrids are newly available on the 1.0 TSI 110hp and the 1.5 litre TSI 150hp petrol units.

A 190hp 2.0-litre TSI unit linked to a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG transmission is also available. SEAT says diesel remains important for Leon, and is offering 2.0-litre TDI with either 115hp or 150hp, each with a six-speed manual.

The plug-in hybrid will be available on both the five-door hatch and estate, and combines a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with an electric motor and a 13kWh battery pack. It delivers 204hp, 38-miles electric range and “no comprmise” on interior space.

Digitally elegant

Revealed at the same time, the hatchback appeared alongside the estate variant (Sportstourer), with each offering plentiful interior capacity and impressive rear-legroom. Trims include SE, fleet-focused SE Dynamic, FR, FR Sport, Xcellence or Xcellence Lux.

Lighting has been updated to LED, including a Porsche-911-esque single strip that adorns the rear, and subtle interior mood illumination with another around-dash strip of customisable colour.

SEAT has declared war on push buttons, which are conspicuous by their absence; replaced by an all-new user interface with touch-sensitive non-push buttons. Named SEAT Digital Cockpit, the result is a simplified Bauhaus interior, but it remains to be seen whether the new system is any good on the road where touch buttons are trickier to prod. The car is also SEAT’s first “fully connected” car, with app-controlled features offering remote locking, parking, petrol stations and traffic updates.

In summary

The Leon is a smart update on the previous version, that arguably doesn’t look quite as sharp. However, lurking beneath its still sleek lines is new Golf technology and engines meaning the Leon might prove to be something of a bargain compared to its siblings. With an array of mild hybrid, plug-in hybrid and petrol and diesel options, there’s plenty here for fleets to choose from.

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Jonathan Musk

Jonathan turned to motoring journalism in 2013 having founded, edited and produced Autovolt - one of the UK's leading electric car publications. He has also written and produced books on both Ferrari and Hispano-Suiza, while working as an international graphic designer for the past 15 years. As the automotive industry moves towards electrification, Jonathan brings a near-unrivalled knowledge of EVs and hybrids to Fleet World Group.