Nevertheless, the Leon gets the fundamentals so right that you find yourself willing to look past these foibles. It’s truly spacious inside, bettering most of its rivals – not to mention the Golf to which it used to be inferior in this regard. And its more dynamic bent hasn’t been forsaken in favour of this extra practicality; in fact, the way it rides and handles is little short of brilliant.
Perhaps, in this world where new cars are bought using PCPs and rented on lease deals, it’d be worth stumping up the extra few quid a month you’d pay for a stronger engine or a more generous equipment list. In the latter case, you’d get a plusher interior, too, which would mitigate a great many of the issues from which this version suffers. Even as it stands, though, this Leon might not be perfect – but what it gets right, it gets very right indeed.
Telegraph rating: Four stars out of five
On test: Seat Leon 1.5 TSI 130 SE Dynamic Estate
How much? £24,165 on the road
How fast? 130mph, 0-62mph in 9.7sec
How economical? 51.4mpg (WLTP Combined)
Engine/gearbox: 1,498cc four-cylinder petrol with 128bhp, six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel drive
The electric bits: N/A
Electric range: N/A
CO2 emissions: 128g/km
VED: £175 first year, then £150/year
Warranty: 3 years / unlimited miles (capped at 60,000 miles in third year)
Boot size: 620 litres
Spare wheel as standard: No (optional extra)
Skoda Octavia 1.5 TSI 150 SE Estate
148bhp, 50.4mpg, £23,635 on the road
Cheaper, more spacious, even more comfortable and better equipped, this Octavia is still the best of these small estates your money can buy. Granted, it lacks the handling sharpness of the Seat, but it feels more upmarket inside – and its more muscular engine feels less strained.
Volkswagen Golf 1.5 TSI 130 Life Estate
128bhp, 51.4mpg, £25,175 on the road
The Golf is still a classy thing, but no longer does it feel much more special than its two cheaper cousins, of which the Seat is better to drive and the Skoda more comfortable. Both come with bigger boots, too – which has to make you question why you’d choose the Golf instead.
Ford Focus 1.0 EcoBoost MHEV 125 Titanium Edition Estate
123bhp, 55.4mpg, £24,990 on the road
Beneath its slightly awkward styling and an even cheaper interior than the Seat’s, the Focus is a car of real talent. Its chassis is terrific – easily a match for the Seat’s, if not even more agile – and while this mild hybrid version is relatively expensive, it’s also pretty frugal. Beware the vertiginous depreciation, though.
Kia Ceed 1.5 Turbo 3 SW
158bhp, 48.7mpg, £24,090 on the road
On paper, this Ceed has the legs over all of its rivals, with a huge boot, a potent engine, a generous specification and a very reasonable price. Oh, and of course, there’s that stonking great warranty to consider, too. Trouble is, the Ceed’s just a bit bland in the flesh, with unmemorable handling and unmemorable ride quality. Still, if your sensible hat is on, it makes an awful lot of sense.
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