Seat Leon ST review (07/06/14)

ALTHOUGH still regarded by many as pretty much the poor relation in terms of the VW Group, Seat has been one of the slow burning improvers across Europe in numbers of cars sold and the brand is slowly building the sort of popularity which can only bode well for its future.

Seat Leon ST review (07/06/14)

Across the range — which is underscored by the best-selling Ibiza and Leon ranges — Seat also produces the brilliant (if stupidly named) Mii, the excellent Alhambra, and the Toledo and Altea models — Seat now has a series of car competing successfully in a number of segments.

And, if the company has yet to see the sorts of volumes that are achieved by VW as well as fellow siblings Audi and Skoda, Seat is not doing badly at all.

In Ireland it is slowly but surely building up a core of supporters — mainly of the younger generation — who not only find the brand to be different and fun, but are also attracted by a growing number of sporty variants on offer.

Ibiza and Leon are the main standard-bearers and recently we got to give the new Leon ST (that’s Sports Tourer to you and me) a go. This Leon ‘wagon’ is every bit as sharp looking as its hatchback sibling and the tasteful crease-lines which typified that car are replicated here to good effect.

Throw in aluminium roof rails, the panoramic roof that comes as standard on the FR version we tested and various other styling cues, such as the 18” alloys which are also standard, and you have a very appealing visual package indeed.

The ST is based on the same platform as the hatch, which is not a bad thing as this is the same VW MQB platform which also floats the boat of the VW Golf and the Skoda Octavia, but the design incorporates more metal behind the rear seats to give it the space and practicality necessary to allow Seat call it something other than a hatchback.

The car’s overall eye-catching exterior is matched by a very fetching and modern interior which is beautifully put together and fully ramped technologically without losing any of the intuitiveness which has characterised so many of the recent models from the Martorell outfit.

Power comes from another familiar source from the VW parts bin, a two litre turbodiesel with some 110 kW (150 bhp) on tap and a valuable 320 Nm of torque available from just 1,750 rpm.

This is a very workmanlike engine with very decent driving characteristics and few vices. Top speed is 215 kph and the 0-100 kph dash is achieved in just 8.6 seconds, both figures being very respectable, but the performance does not slash economy or emission statistics.

The former shows us the Leon ST will return 4.5 l/100 km (62 mpg) while the latter tells us it only outputs 119 g/km, putting it in tax band A4 with an annual road tax fee of just €200.

A six-speed DSG gearbox was fitted to the FR version we tested and this gives you the option of either ‘sport’ or ‘drive’ modes. The sport setting does liven reaction times up a bit, but I suspect the majority of drivers will be happy enough to leave it in drive mode for the majority of the time.

On the road the car is well balanced, handles sharply, rides very comfortably and has plenty of grip. The specific FR suspension fitted here sees the car ride a tad lower than the other versions and this adds to the driving dynamic, but does not present any significant downside in terms of a crashy ride, even on bad surfaces.

That factor, along with the FR specific interior that comes as standard here, makes for a car which is very easy to live with, and while this top specification model adds a good few grand to the cost, a lot of the additions on offer here do add substance to an already well kitted out motor.

While there may previously have been an aura of utilitarianism about cars of this nature that have come from Seat, the ST — and particularly so in FR guise — adds a level of sophistication we might have to start getting used to.

The Spanish arm of the VW behemoth has designs on moving itself upmarket in the coming years and this ST is very definitely a signpost as to where the brand wants to go. If that is truly the case, then Seat are in a very good place, and on the evidence we’ve seen in recent months, what with cars such as the Leon and this ST, the company’s progression up the sales charts should continue apace.

Seat Leon ST

Star Rating: 3/5

The Cost: €30,365 as tested.

The Engine: is the 150 bhp turbodiesel version and is a strong performer without being hard on consumption or emissions.

The Specification: the FR model as tested was crammed with stuff from multi-function leather steering wheel to panoramic roof and there are plenty of standard details which should please even the most demanding punters.

The Overall Verdict: maybe not yet quite up to the standard of some of the class leaders — Focus, Golf etc. — but this Seat is a fine car and one which will deliver plenty of driving pleasure.

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