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FIRST DRIVES

Pace and refinement are decent in the 1.0-litre turbo petrol entry-level model

Smart-looking wheels, next-gen infotainment and new dashboard trim are all intended to raise its perceived quality the electric handbrake switch. Aesthetically, Seat has introduced some more trim surrounds in the dashboard to lift its slightly dour, downmarket look. Minor alterations all – and plainly not meant to propel the Leon’s perceived quality beyond the point where a new mid-range VW Golf will start, but astute enough to mildly enhance the car in the eyes of a repeat customer. To drive, with either new engine aboard, the Leon remains a first-rate modern hatchback: business-like, polished, meticulously comfortable and hugely undemanding, yet precise and prompt enough not to be thought boring. Like the Ateca, it’s possible to have your Leon with adaptive dampers now, but the cars we drove

on smaller wheels and passive suspension hardly needed any help burnishing the Spanish road surface. The 1.6 TDI remains so familiar as to defy any palpable difference in its gravelly, generally quite giving attitude. A gentle rise in horsepower hardly eradicates the need to work the four-cylinder unit quite hard, but previous experience confirms its advantages if left to plough a furrow up and down a motorway. The 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol motor is more interesting – in part for its throaty twang, but also by being obviously punchier. Mated to a sixspeed manual gearbox, it feels long in the gears, yet its keen performance ought to satisfy most buyers and it is almost silent at 70mph.

The triple’s performance ought to satisfy most owners and it’s almost silent at 70mph

The triple’s main limitation, in fact, proves not of its own making. Rather, it’s because you can’t have it in a trim level any higher than SE Technology, which means it’ll stand a good chance of being overlooked by UK buyers preoccupied with the bigger wheels and better spec list of the FR models. That’s a shame, because with 148lb ft of torque, 64.2mpg combined and 102g/km CO2 emissions, the three-pot unit is quicker and more efficient than the 1.2 TSI that currently sits above it in the new range pecking order. Seat certainly expects most UK customers to ignore its smallest engines and opt for either the unchanged 148bhp 1.4 EcoTSI or the 1.6 TDI. Both are fine choices, although this facelift isn’t progressive enough to make a trade-in pressing business. On the other hand, as a sub-£20k cheap-to-run, nice-to-drive family hatch, the new five-door 1.0 TSI is probably one of the industry’s most rounded solutions. And certainly its best looker.

SEAT LEON 1.0 TSI SE TECHNOLOGY New petrol engine reinforces the idea that the facelifted Seat Leon is the affordable family hatch to buy

AAAAB Price Engine  Power  Torque Gearbox Kerb weight Top speed  0-62mph  Economy CO2/tax band RIVALS

£18,995 3 cyls, 999cc, turbo, petrol 113bhp at 5000-5500rpm 148lb ft at 2000-3500rpm 6-spd manual 1236kg 126mph 9.6sec 64.2mpg (combined) 102g/km, 17% Ford Focus 1.0T 125 Zetec, Vauxhall Astra 1.0T 105 SRi

NIC CACKETT

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