New 2013 Seat Leon unveiled
The new Seat Leon goes on sale in February 2013 and, for the first time, it will be available in a choice of body styles.
This is the all-new Leon 5dr, which arrives first. Later in the year it'll be joined by sportier three-door and more practical 'lifestyle' estate versions.
The five-door Leon's character has evolved subtly. The exterior has strong echoes of the current model, but there's a more sharp-edged look, with hints of the IBE concept car. As with the Ibiza, two 'character lines' run along the side of the car from the top of the front and rear lights, but they're much flatter and straighter on the Leon.
For the new Leon there are 'proper' rear door handles, too, rather than ones hidden in the door frame. Seat suggests the new model's more overtly practical look allows it to compete more squarely with its rivals.
It also creates more space in the range for the three-door version, which will have a much sportier appearance. It'll take more styling cues from the IBE, with a lower roofline, wider front wings and a side window line not too dissimilar to that of the new Audi A3. It's expected to get a different name which, in line with the Ibiza range, could be SC.
Similarly, the estate version is likely to be called ST. It'll have an emphasis on style rather than outright space, but will have more load space than the five-door model.
Interior quality has taken a big step forward. The dashboard top, in particular, has a satisfyingly dense, soft-touch feel similar to that in some Audis, and the overall ambience is no longer inferior to the Leon’s VW Group counterparts.
The cabin is easy on the eye, too, with a mix of sweeping curves and sharp creases and a centre console angled towards the driver. Many of the controls are familiar from other VW Group models, but the uniquely shaped air vents and door pulls have an impressively bespoke look.
There's plenty of space in the front seats and, partly thanks to a 5cm longer wheelbase, rear legroom is generous. Headroom is good, too, and the boot is well shaped, with a much larger entrance than the current car's.
Underneath, the Leon uses the new VW Group 'MQB' platform, which is the basis for the new Audi A3 and next year’s all-new Skoda Octavia and VW Golf.
The Leon will use a similar range of engines to those cars, too. Seat has confirmed there’ll be 1.2 TSI petrol units, with either 85bhp or 104. There'll be two 1.4 TSI units – a 121bhp version and a 138bhp unit with active cylinder management, which shuts down two of the cylinders when cruising to save fuel. A 178bhp 1.8 TSI model will top the petrol range from launch.
The diesel options will be 89bhp or 104bhp 1.6 TDI units, or 2.0 TDI models with 148- or 181bhp. Fuel economy and CO2 emissions are yet to be confirmed, but Seat will continue to offer Ecomotive versions with a range of efficiency-boosting measures; the cleanest should emit around 95g/km of CO2 and average more than 75mpg. Six-speed manual and six- or seven-speed DSG semi-auto gearboxes will be available, depending on engine.
A range of high-tech options will be available on the Leon for the first time, including sophisticated infotainment systems and advanced safety systems including drowsiness-alert and active headlight beam systems.
Trim levels are yet to be confirmed, but there are likely to be S and SE models and sportier FR versions. Seat sources suggest that high-powered Cupra hot hatch versions of all three of the Leon's body styles will eventually be available.
Prices are expected to rise slightly over the current car, so are likely to start at around £15,500. There'll be some crossover with the recently announced Toledo hatchback, which arrives at roughly the same time as the Leon. Seat says the two cars will appeal to very different types of buyer, however, and the Toledo will be offered only with lower-powered engines.