SEAT Leon 130TDi - SEAT LEON Car Review

Review

Added: 12 Jan 2004
Last update:

A COUPLE of weeks ago my wife asked which car I thought we should buy next.

It's a difficult question to ask a motoring journalist considering I drive at least 80 new models a year ranging from luxury Jaguars and Mercs to basic town runarounds.

But I think I've come up with the answer - a SEAT Leon TDi 130 SE.

This motor has all we need . . . comfort, stunning performance, excellent fuel consumption, good looks and, most important of all, the boot can take my golf clubs.

The SEAT badge up front doesn't worry me. In the past it used to put people off, but those days are long gone. The build quality of the Spanish arm of Volkswagen is every bit as good as its German equivalent. And it's cheaper by around £1,750 than its Golf equivalent.

The Leon is also built on the Golf platform, but to my mind, once it has got its skin on it looks much better.

I also think it handles just as well, offers more equipment for a lower outlay, and even feels roomier inside.

The 130 bhp turbo-diesel engine gives the Leon oil-burner a fair amount of get-up-and-go. And it's quiet and smooth as well. Performance is good - top speed claimed at 127 mph with a 9.8 seconds 0-62 sprint time. I thought it seemed much nippier off the mark than that.

It has a sixth gear which means that on long motorway journeys you can make the most of every gallon of diesel. SEAT claims a combined fuel consumption of around 52 mpg, which is well worth considering if you are looking for economy combined with great performance.

Honestly, when you plant your right foot on the gas the Leon TDi takes off like a petrol-powered hot hatch. You'd never realise it was diesel powered.

Seating is comfortable with hugging sports seats in the front which are supportive, a nice driving position and all instrumentation and switches within easy reach. Room in the back isn't quite as generous as up front but is adequate unless you are a bit over 6ft.

SEAT is renowned for providing huge storage space in its cars and the Leon measures up well. It has a flat, easily accessible bay.

As well as testing the Leon on motorways and on the daily commute, I gave it a good thrash around some twisty country lanes. It handled like a dream, gripping wet and dry tarmac alike with surefootedness.

The suspension on the 130 SE is slightly lowered which gives better composure on bends and without being too harsh over potholes and bumps. Steering is balanced and precise with lots of information coming through the wheel to the driver. Brakes are positive and the SE model comes with 16in alloys.

I said earlier that the Leon is well equipped. Here's just some of the features you get: air conditioning, remote central locking, electric windows all round, fog lamps, CD player, anti-lock brakes, split-folding rears seats, switchable traction control, front sports seats, leather-trimmed steering wheel, front and side airbags, trip computer.

I could go on, but you'll know by now I was impressed with its kit.

The Leon went on sale in the UK three years ago and has already sold over 30,000. The Spanish manufacturer predicted that 10,000 Leons would be sold each year. But its latest figure shows this was an underestimate. SEAT UK sold 11,000 last year  - 1,156 up on 2002.

The Leon TDi 130 SE is definitely on my list as a possible new car buy.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Leon 130TDi

Price:  £15,260

Mechanical: 130bhp, 1,896cc 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-spd manual transmission

Max speed: 127mph

0-62mph:  9.8 secs

Combined mpg:  52.3

Insurance group: 10

CO2 emissions: 146g/km

BiK rating: 18%

Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles;  12yrs anti-rust;  3yrs paint

Words: Stewart Smith

Keywords: SEAT, LEON