For the first time ever the SEAT Leon C-segment range has an ST estate version joining the five door hatchback launched last March and the SC three door which followed.
Although the Ibiza supermini B-segment models remain SEAT’s most popular range the new Leon is catching up fast with 15,336 UK sales in 2013. Of those sales 70% were diesel powered models, over 90% were the five door hatchback and 73% went to fleet and business user-chooser customers.
The predicted 2014 sales split for the three model Leon line-up will now see the five door version take 67% of sales, the SC three door 18% and the new ST five door estate 15%.
Neil Williamson SEAT UK’s Managing Director told Journalists attending the press launch of the Leon ST that there has been a significant increase of 30% in the number of UK retail customers buying SEAT cars in the last year accounting for 20,000 units. 2013 turned out to be the brand’s fifth consecutive record year for UK sales reaching a total of 45,312 registrations. This was a 16.8% increase over the previous year and significantly higher than the industry’s overall 10.8% increase in the UK’s new car sales.
He added, “The new Leon ST five door estate is ideal for down-sizers from larger D-segment family cars and it is becoming an important ‘halo’ range for us. I am confident 2014 will be a good year for SEAT. We have the high performance Cupra and Cupra 280 models joining the Leon range shortly and in the second half of this year we will see the arrival of a four-wheel drive Leon as we utilize the all-wheel drive technology from our parent VW Group.”
The most popular version, boosted by fleet and business user sales, will be the 1.6 TDI 105PS turbodiesel SE manual priced at £19,495. The most popular retail model will be the 1.2 TSI 105PS turbo petrol SE manual costing £17,795. Of the three specification levels available it its expected, on past sales, the base S trim will appeal to 6% of customers, the mid range SE 61% and FR 31%.
The current engine line-up offers 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8 TSI turbocharged petrol engines and 1.6, 1.6 Ecomotive and 2.0 TDI 150/184PS TDI turbodiesels. The 1.6 TDI Ecomotive unit has CO2 emissions of 87g/km and will officially return 85.6mpg in the Combined Cycle. The best selling 1.6 TDI 105PS has CO2 emissions of 99g/km and can achieve 74.3mpg. For the retail customer the 1.2 TSI petrol unit, which undercuts the 1.6 TDI by £1,700, has CO2 emissions of 114g/km and a Combined Cycle figure of 57.6mpg.
The Leon ST estate uses VW Group’s highly praised MQB platform shared by Audi, VW, SEAT and Skoda. The Leon ST will compete for C-segment estate car sales against the Ford Focus Estate, Renault Megane Sport Tourer, Vauxhall Astra Sports Tourer, VW Golf Estate, Skoda Octavia Estate, Hyundai i30 Tourer, Kia Cee’d Sportswagon and the shortly to arrive Honda Civic Tourer.
When it comes to boot space with the rear seats in use the Leon ST so far has the largest capacity of 587-litres although the Honda Civic Tourer figures are yet to be officially confirmed but are reported to be cavernous. When it comes to full cargo capacity with the rear seats folded the ST offers only 1,470-litres of space, significantly less than its main competitors. With its rear overhang 272mm more than the Leon five door hatchback, the ST styling wise looks more of an extended hatchback than a full blown estate. But it has good rear seat legroom, loads of storage compartments, a double height boot floor, a folding front passenger seat option and easy release folding rear seat catches positioned in the sides of the load area. Beneath the load floor is a spare wheel well, but this only accommodates an inflation kit. For an extra £95 customers can order a space-saver spare wheel and tyre.
As for other items of equipment and specification the ST estate, like all other Leon models, is competitive and of course loaded with safety features. The SE specification has 16-inch alloy wheels as standard but do not be tempted to upgrade to larger ones. I sampled 16 and 17-inch ones at the ST press launch and the bigger the wheel the worse they are for dealing with our potholed and crumbling road surfaces. The ride is too unsettled so size matters and smaller is good.
Some of the other SE additions for the ST are chrome roof rails, easy release for the rear folding seats, XDS electronic limited-slip differential, hill-hold control, cruise control, front fog lights with cornering function and electric rear windows to go with the electrically operated front windows and door mirrors found on the base S version. Air conditioning is also standard on all models.
There is also a wide range of extras and option packs for the ST with the front and rear optical parking system display being well worth the extra £430. The adaptive radar distance cruise control is also a consideration for high mileage motorway users and costs £500. Free of charge is a technology pack consisting of LED headlights, sat-nav and DAB digital radio so snap that offer up soon.
Although the 1.6 TDI 105PS turbodiesel engine will be by far the most popular unit, because of the high proportion of fleet and business user customers, I would recommend, as I did with the Leon 5-door hatchback, that retail customers save themselves purchase-cost money and go for the 1.2 TSI 105PS turbocharged petrol unit. It’s free revving, responsive with a top speed of 119mpg and zero to 62mph takes just 10.3 seconds. Fuel economy is officially 57.6mpg in the Combined Cycle and my test drive around the country roads of Warwickshire returned 44.1mpg. With CO2 emissions of 114g/km VED road tax is £0 cost for the First Year rate going up to £30 for year two onwards. Unless you cover high mileages or usually carry heavy loads which will dull the performance this is my recommended model and its £1,700 cheaper to buy that the 1.6 TDI turbodiesel which also has 105PS of power.
However if diesel is your choice then the 1.6-litre 105PS unit is perfectly fine. We know it well from other VW Group models. It’s responsive, durable, and relatively quiet with the potential for good fuel economy. On more or less the same country road test route used for the 1.2 TSI petrol model, the real-life figure was a disappointing 50.1mpg, sounds good but way-off the official 74.3mpg figure. Whereas the petrol engine has a 6-speed manual gearbox for a relaxed high cruising speed, the 1.6 TDI diesel only has a 5-speed unit so the fifth gear ratio is quite ‘tall’. This meant on country lanes there was constant gearchanging between fourth and fifth gears when acceleration response was needed. Top speed is 119mph, zero to 62mph takes 11.1 seconds. With low 99g/km CO2 emissions currently VED road tax is £0 cost for every year and company car drivers will pay 15% Benefit-in-Kind tax from 1 April this year when the new rates start. The 1.2-litre petrol unit will only incur 14% BIK from April.
With a growing number of UK buyers being attracted to the SEAT brand, and in particular the stylish, sporty looking Leon range, the new ST estate is a timely addition to an expanding market sector. Customers have a wide range of engines to choose from, they just need to select the right one that suits them best in terms of purchase price and running costs.
MILESTONES. SEAT Leon ST 5-door estate, 1.6 TDI 105PS SE manual. (Best selling model). Price: £19,495. Engine/transmission: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, turbodiesel, 103bhp, 184lb ft of torque from1,500rpm, 5-speed manual. Performance: 119mph, 0-62mph 11.1 seconds, 74.3mpg (50.1mpg on test), CO2 99g/km, VED road tax £0, Benefit-in-Kind tax from April 15%. Insurance group: 13. Dimensions/capacities: L 4,535, W 1,816mm, H 1,454mm, boot/load space 587 to 1,470-litres, braked towing weight 1,500kg. For: Smart sporty styling, well equipped, sharp handling, well priced, wide range of engine and transmission options, low running costs and taxes, useful load carrying space. Against: Larger wheels unsettle to handling and give a firm ride, carefully choose the engine to suit your real needs, test car didn’t get close to the official fuel economy figure, some hard interior plastic finishings, no spare wheel as standard. Miles Better News Agency