Top speed: 115 mph
Acceleration: 0-62 mph in 11 seconds
Fuel consumption: 52.3 mpg
CO2 emissions: 124 g/km
Price: 1.2 TSI S Copa £16,180, 1.2 TSI SE Copa £16,940
Here's something that doesn't happen very often these days - a car that gets more interesting or appealing relative to the competition as time goes by. Of course, sometimes cars that are under-appreciated at the time later become much-loved classics but it is unusual for this to happen while a model is still current – especially when benchmarked against newer rivals.
The Seat Leon, though, would appear to be a bit of an exception. Like other mid-range Volkswagen group cars, the Leon is getting on just a little bit in terms of its basic design. That's because when Volkswagen replaced the Golf 5 with the Golf 6, it didn't go for a full platform change, which has had a knock-on effect on other Golf-based models such as the Leon or the Skoda Octavia - they now seem to be facing long replacement cycles. But while today's Leons may look just like their 2005 equivalents, they have quite a bit more going for them - and that starts with their styling. That may seem a strange thing to say given that so little has changed, but the Leon has grown into its looks rather well as time has passed. When the current model appeared, in common with its slightly ugly sisters, the Altea and the Toledo, it signalled a new design direction for Seat that took quite a bit of getting used to. Time hasn't been particularly kind to the Altea and Toledo but now the Leon's looks, aided by a few mid-life tweaks, gel in a way that they didn't before.
Under the skin, in common with other mid-range Volkswagen group cars, the Leon enjoys a strong rejuvenated engine range. Rough old pump-jet diesel engines have been eased out to make way for much smoother common-rail power units, while the petrol side of the range has been greatly improved by the introduction of powerful and economical turbocharged engines, badged TSI, with capacities of 1.2, 1.4 and 2.0 litres. Even the smallest of these provides quite strong performance that's up to most UK conditions, as well as being very refined. The 1.2 TSI engine produces the same 105 horsepower as the normally aspirated 1.6-litre engine still fitted to some mid-range Volkswagen group cars but is much nicer.Finally, Seat has this year introduced Copa versions of selected Leon variants, which provide strong value-for-money equipment bundles for cars fitted with the S or SE trim levels. At £16,180, the Leon S Copa 1.2 TSI costs £565 more than the equivalent Leon S and the same as the S Emocion, but has a fancier dual-zone climate control system, cruise control, Bluetooth, as well as seats with special Copa upholstery, and height and lumbar adjustment for the driver and front passenger. The Copa SE builds on the more generous SE trim level by providing a fancier media system, rear parking sensors, light and rain sensors, an automatically dimming rear view mirror and the Copa upholstery for no extra cost. The Copa SE costs £16,940 in 1.2 TSI form. The cheapest Leon in the current range, an S-trimmed car with an 85 horsepower 1.4 litre normally-aspirated petrol engine and without the Copa goodies, is priced at £14,545 - but the Copas probably provide better value for money.