Review: SEAT Leon (2005 – 2013)

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Stylish design. Excellent road manners. Roomy and well-equipped cabin. An easy car to live with and enjoy. Superb value. FR models are the best.

Acres of dull plastic across the dashboard. Poor treatment of owners over ABS/ESP issue.

SEAT Leon (2005 – 2013): At A Glance

Walter d'Silva designed the Alfa 156 and 147.

Opening the garage doors to one of those is a bit like waking next to the face of a woman so beautiful you forgive her almost anything. Which can be the case with these Alfas.

Walter was tempted away to SEAT, a few months before the launch of the original Leon, but too late to influence its styling. That car's beetleback, Alfasud shape, like the hunched, racy look of the 2nd generation Toledo, had nothing to do with d'Silva.

The first SEAT to bear his touch was the Ibiza launched in 2002. Then we started to get tantalising glimpses of a new generation of d'Silva SEATs, showcased by the Salsa concept car in 2002.

That first morphed into the Altea MPV and I wondered what had happened to it. Then the disappointing, lardy-arsed 5-door Toledo that looked like the taxi it has become all over Iberia. We had to wait until last year for the car the Salsa was the true precursor of. And I forced myself to hang on until the 2.0TFSI before driving it, because I didn't want to be disappointed.

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What does a SEAT Leon (2005 – 2013) cost?

List Price from £18,870
Buy new from £14,000
Contract hire from £133.60 per month

SEAT Leon (2005 – 2013): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4309–4323 mm
Width 1768 mm
Height 1443–1458 mm
Wheelbase 2578 mm

Full specifications

It's surprisingly spacious inside. Plenty of head and legroom, even for piggy in the middle in the back. The minimalist dash is like a cliff-face of grey plastic, for the good reason it does not reflect in the huge front screen. The neat little A pillar windows actually work and prevent blindspots at the front when emerging from junctions. The engine pulls smoothly and strongly to 100 with no trace of turbo lag, just like a Golf GTI 2.0T.

The cruise works better than in most other cars because the buttons are on the indicator stalk and respond quickly so you can easily slow on the cruise from 70 to 50. It resets quickly too.

You get lots of kit too. Dual front climate control, electric folding mirrors, fogs, CD radio, trip computer, leather steering wheel cover, airbags all over the place. The only thing I missed was satnav.

Child seats that fit a SEAT Leon (2005 – 2013)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the SEAT Leon (2005 – 2013) like to drive?

In 2002 I auction-bought a 28,000 mile, 2000X lipstick pink metallic Leon 20VT 180 Sport, for just £7,750. I took a chance, but it turned out to be a brilliant buy and an excellent car. I had to let it go after 11 months and nearly got my money back after an excellent year's motoring during which it showed up most of the cars I road-tested, including the Golf IV GTI 180. So I really wanted to drive the new Leon that would be its natural successor. In a few months time there will be an FR 200PS version for another grand or two. And late in the year a red hot 240PS Cupra. But in the meantime the 2.0TFSI Sport is a bit of a bargain at just £16,020

One thing is for sure: the new Leon is colour sensitive. My test car came in ‘Rubi red' metallic, not very different from my old 20VT Sport. And while it looks wonderful from some angles, it doesn't work so well from others. The high slab sides and low roof are supposed to elongate it, but from the rear three quarters it can look a bit dumpy. It shares d'Silva's trademark hidden rear door latches. It doesn't quite have the bigness of screen and shortness of body of the Salsa. Yet its looks work best from the front, front three quarters and side. Well enough to raise a smile of satisfaction when you open those garage doors. You can congratulate yourself for saving £4,000 on a Golf GTI for almost the same car in a sharper suit. And with d'Silva's unique tuckaway wipers that park themselves vertically in the A pillars.

The gearchange and cornering grip are good too. But if I owned one I'd whip it straight into a VAG dealer and have the steering weight re-set heavier via the OBDII port. As mine came, it was too light and feel-free but all current VAG electro hydraulic steering can be re-set by the garage to six different levels of assistance.

Despite the feel free steering the car doesn't disappoint in the corners. It can be pushed really hard before it starts to understeer, and tells you exactly when that is about to happen. Even on 17" alloys with 225/45 tyres ride quality is okay. The seats are comfortable. The engine is wonderfully flexible and with 25mph per 1,000 rpm in 6th you can leave it on cruise through the roadworks.

Over 229 miles I got at least 31mpg, maybe more. So it gets a fairly enthusiastic nod. It's quick, flexible, economical and practical and good looking. Like the old model, I could live with one for a year.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
1.2 TSI 52 mpg 10.9–11.0 s 124 g/km
1.4 45 mpg 14.1 s 147 g/km
1.4 TSI 44–46 mpg 9.8 s 145–155 g/km
1.4 TSI FR 46 mpg 9.8 s 145 g/km
1.6 37–39 mpg 11.7 s 169–183 g/km
1.6 TDI 67 mpg 11.3 s 109 g/km
1.6 TDI DSG 60 mpg 11.7 s 123 g/km
1.6 TDI DSG Automatic 60 mpg 11.7 s 123 g/km
1.6 TDI Ecomotive 74 mpg 11.5 s 99 g/km
1.9 TDI 57 mpg 11.3 s 135 g/km
1.9 TDI 90 57 mpg 13.3 s 135 g/km
1.9 TDI Ecomotive 63 mpg 10.9 s 119 g/km
2.0 FSI 34 mpg 8.8 s 197 g/km
2.0 TDI 50–55 mpg 8.2–9.3 s 125–147 g/km
2.0 TDI DSG 50–50 mpg 8.0–9.3 s 139–148 g/km
2.0 TDI FR 59 mpg 9.5 s 125 g/km
2.0 TDI FR DSG 53 mpg 9.5 s 139 g/km
2.0 TDI FR+ 55 mpg 8.2 s 134 g/km
2.0 TDI FR+ DSG 50 mpg 8.0 s 148 g/km
2.0 TSI 39 mpg 6.9 s 170 g/km
2.0 TSI Cupra 34–35 mpg 6.4 s 190–199 g/km
2.0 TSI DSG 38 mpg 6.9 s 174 g/km
2.0 TSI FR 39 mpg 6.9 s 170 g/km
2.0 TSI FR DSG 38 mpg 6.9 s 174 g/km
2.0 TSI FR+ 39 mpg 6.9 s 170 g/km
2.0 TSI FR+ DSG 38 mpg 6.9 s 174 g/km

Real MPG average for a SEAT Leon (2005 – 2013)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

22–63 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the SEAT Leon (2005 – 2013)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

A delivery moped hit my son's car - should the company that employ the rider pay for the damage?

My son bought a used SEAT Leon FR from a friend two weeks ago for £2000. It was in excellent condition with a full service history. On Thursday, two young lads on pizza delivery mopeds came to his place of work to make deliveries and decided to race each other round the company's private car park. One of them hit a speed bump and crashed into my son's parked car, severely denting the front wing and cracking the bumper; the Leon had to be jacked up by the AA to remove the wedged bike. My son has had a quote of £1600 to repair the damage, meaning the car is likely to be called an economic write-off by Papa John's insurers. The car is still drives well and the whole incident was recorded on the company's CCTV. It's unfair that my son should have to buy his car back from the insurance company, if it is written off, and to deal with all that hassle himself (his own insurance is third party). He also has to have a car for commuting daily from Norfolk to Cambridge. So, should Papa John's pay for any damage and inconvenience, and restore my son to his original position with regard to an unblemished car? Is there any legal route my son could pursue such as the Small Claims Court, if necessary?
Firstly, do not deal with the at fault party's insurer directly. A vehicle is only ever a total loss when the repair cost is more than the market value. If this isn't the case, insist on it being repaired. Your son's entitlement is here: Do not listen to what the insurer says, your entitlement is there. Constructive total losses do not exist. If your son claims via his own insurer, and they advise we only pay up to a certain amount of the market value, ask them to highlight where in the contract of insurance they can limit their indemnity to less than the market value. No reference is also made in the new salvage code to constructive total losses. It is your son's car, he decides what happens to it. He is also entitled to another vehicle whilst the claim is ongoing, and any out of pocket expense and inconvenience incurred. Stick to your guns, do the above. You could always claim via a solicitor or regulated claims management company.
Answered by Tim Kelly
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