How many times has this been the scene of Seat’s downfall? The previous Leon was also a congenial car that shared its stablemates’ underpinnings, combining them with interesting looks and a lower price. But inside, it was an upturned bucket of cost-cutting plastic, reminding you every day that you’d opted for steerage on a facsimiled cruise ship.

This time around, Seat has slashed at the notional distance between its model and the mighty Golf. Its functionality and appearance are light years ahead of the previous Leon's. It now feels like a cabin held at arm’s length from the Volkswagen rather than one kept at bay by a barge pole.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
Front visibility is actually pretty good, despite an average result in the laboratory tests

Undoubtedly it shares the Golf’s ergonomic clarity. Everything that ought to be in reach and instantly decipherable is, and you’ll find that your ideal driving position will have been catered for. 

In places, there’s evidence that Seat’s materials budget is more meagre than that of bigger brother VW. Close inspection reveals a lower grade of matt cabin plastic than in a Golf, used in places where it’s less noticeable, and some of the switchgear and trim highlights aren’t in the same league.

Still, this time you’ll have to check to be sure, rather than begrudgingly accept a more obvious qualitative shortfall. On the equipment front there are nine to choose from - S, SE, SE Technology, SE Dynamic Technology, FR, FR Technology, FR Titanium, Cupra 290 and Cupra 290 Black Edition. In short the tech packs include a 6.5in touchscreen infotainment system complete with DAB radio and sat nav, while also including adaptive LED headlights. 

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Those opting for the entry-level S trim will find a sparsely trimmed car with steel wheels, front electric windows, Bluetooth and USB connectivity and air conditioning included in the package. Personally we would move on to the SE trim as a minimum with alloy wheels, hill start assist, cruise control, height adjustable passenger seat and an electronic locking differential system included in the package.

FR models gain tinted rear windows, twin-exhausts, LED rear lights and dual-zone climate control as standard, while opting for the FR Titanium includes 18in alloy wheels and a sporty bodykit, plus numerous FR decals throughout the Leon. The standard Cupra gains dynamic chassis control, red brake calipers, an aggressive bodykit, auto wipers and lights, and a mechanical limited slip diff, while the Black Edition adds numerous extra black exterior details and bucket seats.

Proportionally there is no difference at all between the cars. The Leon SC, like the three-door Audi A3 and Golf, sits on a shorter wheelbase than the five-door variant, so pickings are slimmer for rear passengers.

Adults, having vaulted the front seats, will fit, but unless you’ve fallen unexpectedly in love with the shorter model’s appearance, we’d recommend the bigger five-door FR.

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