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Seat’s new Leon has impressed since being launched early last year – providing a youthful and stylish alternative to the distinctly more upright and sensible Volkswagen Golf on which it is based. For the first time in the model’s history, it is to be offered in three different body styles. Following on from the Leon SC three-door coupe is this, the ST estate.

What is it?

Identical in every way to the five-door Leon hatchback, aside from an extra 27cm of bodywork protruding out over the rear wheels. Despite the slight increase in overall length, the ST offers a considerably larger boot than the hatchback, with passenger room – and the Leon’s crisp styling – completely unaffected. It’s available with the same wide range of engines as the hatchback, too. Petrol power is provided courtesy of a fuel sipping (and road tax-dodging) 104bhp 1.2-litre, as well as a 138bhp 1.4-litre and a muscular 178bhp 1.8. Diesel offerings are closely matched, with a similarly clean (99g/km CO2 emissions) 104bhp 1.6-litre and a 2.0-litre offered with either 148bhp or 181bhp.

Prices start from £16,675 on the road for the entry level 1.2-litre, rising to £24,630 for the top-of-the-range diesel

What is it like to drive?

That minimal rear overhang pays dividends to the ST’s driving experience, as it has the same feeling of compactness and eagerness to change direction as the normal hatchback. Even over rough, undulating roads, the Leon never feels anything less than surefooted, giving the driver confidence, even in slippery conditions. The diesel models make for the most relaxed drive – their extra torque requiring less gear-swapping over the course of a journey. The petrol models shouldn’t be discounted, however, particularly if you do most of your driving around town. Even the entry level 1.2-litre provides surprising urge, and is in no way the liability you may expect from such a small engine in what is a relatively large car. Those who value tranquility behind the wheel will do well to avoid the larger alloy wheel options, which noticeably firm up the Leon’s ride.

What is it like inside?

Seat’s designers have gone to some length to distance the Leon’s interior from that of its more plain-Jane Golf sibling. There are some interesting sharp-edge (though soft-to-the-touch) surface treatments on door cards and dashboards, which echo the brand’s current trapezoidal styling theme. Entry-level models suffer from an abundance of cheap looking plastics, namely on the gearknob and steering wheel. Go for models higher up the range, particularly FR trim, and the ambience is more welcoming, with red stitched sporty seats and aluminium detailing. You won’t need to venture too high up the model range to get some nice toys, though, as even the cheapest versions are equipped with MP3 and Bluetooth compatibility, air conditioning and a five-inch colour touchscreen. Some trick options are available, too, including radar assisted cruise control and LED headlights, which are not only brighter than conventional units, but should also last the lifetime of the car.

181bhp

Top end models offer ample power for any situation

Is it practical?

While the additional 107 litres of load space the ST offers over the regular hatchback isn’t going impress Volvo owners, the Spanish brand reckons it will suit the needs of most owners. Certainly, there’s more than enough space with the seats folded down to get in a couple of buggies or bicycles. What’s more, the ST has some clever details, like a twin-level boot floor and one-touch folding seats on SE models and above. The car’s compact dimensions and respectable all-round visibility means it’s a doddle to flick around tight car parks and congested streets. However, both front and rear parking sensors are available as standard on FR models, should you want that extra security.

Should I buy one?

When we first saw the new Seat Leon and its handsome styling, we were concerned it would be a case of ‘all show and no go’. It has proved not to be the case, and this new ST is a very credible contender for your cash. Easy to drive, easy on the wallet, comfortable on long journeys and as commodious as most people will require on a daily basis, it’ll make a fantastic family car.

Don't want to buy new? You can browse for a used Seat Leon in our classifieds here.

The facts

Seat Leon ST 1.6 TDI SE

List price: £19,495 on the road
Engine: 1.6-litre, four cylinder, turbodiesel
Power: 104bhp
Top speed: 119mph
0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
Fuel economy: 61.4mpg (urban), 85.6mpg (extra-urban) 74.3mpg (combined)
Emissions: 99g/km CO2
Euro NCAP rating: 5 stars (hatchback model)

Daljinder Nagra

By

January 31, 2014

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