Review: SEAT Leon SC (2013 – 2018)
Shorter and sharper looking version of Leon. Impressive combination of ride and handling. Good value for money.
Pitched as a coupe so not quite as spacious as the five-door Leon. High boot lip makes loading awkward.
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SEAT Leon SC (2013 – 2018): At A Glance
This is the third generation of the Leon, although it's the first time the model has become a three door. Last time around, the Leon’s ‘hidden’ rear door handles led SEAT to believe the five-door was 'coupe-like' enough to not bother doing a three-door.
Today's five-door and three-door Leon models are quite distinct. Instead of simply removing the rear doors, SEAT has changed the styling for the SC in a subtle but real way. The roofline is lower and the so-called blisters above the rear wheel arches are more pronounced, for a wider, sharper look.
With that in mind it’s to SEAT’s credit that, unlike some other manufacturers, it has resisted the urge to add the coupe premium that makes the less practical version of a car the more expensive one. You’ll pay a few hundred pounds less for a Leon SC than you will an equivalent five-door, meaning one of the most stylish three-door hatchbacks around is also great value.
Based on the Volkswagen Golf platform, as are the Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia, the Leon SC is the most sharply styled of all the Volkswagen Group hatchbacks, while its interior quality runs the Golf very close. It’s the best to drive of all four of them too, certainly on a pound-for-pound basis.
And despite being cheaper than the Golf model-for-model (or as closely as you could compare the two) there’s a huge range stretching from the 110PS 1.2-litre petrol to the 2.0-litre turbo Cupra model with 290PS. There are many petrol and diesel engines in between, of course, although there’s no hybrid petrol-electric version of the Leon.
In a move designed to represent the upshift in quality, style and technology of the latest Leon, it was launched as the first production car available with full-LED headlights. Optional, but the company shrewdly bundled them from the start with SEAT’s very impressive touchscreen multimedia system in a reasonably priced Technology Pack to encourage their appearance in as many cars as possible. It’s a wise option to tick, or to look out for if buying used.
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SEAT Leon SC (2013 – 2018): What's It Like Inside?
Call it a coupe or a three-door hatchback, but either way the Leon SC is a very stylish, very good value and well considered car, inside and out. The SC is 35mm shorter at the wheelbase than the five-door Leon, which means legroom is a down a little, this is still very suitable for family motoring.
The boot is the same size as the five-door model and although the missing rear doors will probably preclude those with very small children, there’s only very marginal loss of headroom front and back.
The only criticism of the load space is the same that you could level at the five-door Leon – that while it’s relatively big on capacity for a family hatch, the loading lip is really high. That means you’re dropping bags down into the space (or stooping down to retrieve them), and it makes loading bulkier or heavier items more awkward.
Total boot space with the rear bench folded down (60/40 split as standard) is 1150 litres, which is 60 litres less than the five-door’s, although another slightly awkward feature is that the rear seat backs don’t fold quite flush with the boot floor.
Everything about the SEAT Leon SC is pretty much identical to the five-door from the side pillars forward, which applies inside and out. That means you’re sitting behind a dashboard that’s mostly great quality, and certainly miles ahead of anything SEAT has ever done before, with the possible exception of the Exeo – though that, you may know, was in fact a re-badged Audi A4, so it doesn’t really count.
The beauty of the SC cabin is simplicity. All the dashtop stuff is squishy and quality, so although there’s cost cutting at the lower levels, the switchgear is solid and clear. The cabin’s party piece is the upgraded touchscreen that’s a highly recommended option. It cleverly features a movement sensor that adds functions to the screen when it senses a hand approaching, so it's uncluttered most of the time. It’s as simple to operate as a decent mobile phone plus it comes with Apple CarPlay or Android Link.
Oddment space is okay in the cabin too, with decent sized door pockets, a sizeable box inside the centre armrest and a reasonable glove box. It’s certainly a cabin more accommodating to the detritus of life than, say, the Volkswagen Scirocco.
Child seats that fit a SEAT Leon SC (2013 – 2018)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.
What's the SEAT Leon SC (2013 – 2018) like to drive?
With a fantastically low and adjustable driving position, a sharp turn-in and a real sense of what's happening beneath the wheels during cornering, the Leon SC is a joy to drive.
Some might criticise the steering for being over-light, but then again, that’s part of what makes the car feel so relaxing most of the time. That and the ride quality, which has all the nuance you'd expect of something developed from Volkswagen's multi-brand, multi-national engineering department.
Whereas the preceding Leon was a sledgehammer in its approach to sportiness – it simply had a rock hard ride – this generation’s Leon glides nicely over most surfaces, yet boasts impressive body control.
The technically minded might bemoan the more simplistic rear suspension setup of lower powered Leon SC models, which don’t get the full multi-link treatment, but honestly, you’d have to be either a) cornering unnecessarily fast, or b) The Stig's pedantic cousin to notice.
The Leon SC is available with outputs ranging from 110PS to 290PS, so there’s variation in the way the chassis is setup and, therefore, in the driving experience. The fundamentals are spot on, though. You’ll get near enough as much satisfaction in a basic 1.2-litre TSI Leon SC as you will a Cupra 290.
All the engines are lessons in smoothness and noise suppression, with the possible exception of the slightly chattering 1.6-litre diesel, but even then it’s no big deal when the engine is under light load. The same goes for the 2.0 TDI that you’re most likely to pick, which is available with either 150PS or 184PS, the latter genuinely rapid at low revs, owing to 380Nm torque at just 1750rpm. It’s a catwalk Golf GTD, basically.
Although fuel economy or company car tax implications might point you towards a diesel, the best Leon SC models are petrol powered. Even the 1.2-litre TSI base point is good, with a fizzy character that suits the Leon SC’s fundamental sense of dynamism.
But the 150PS 1.4-litre TSI is the sweet spot. It’s quick (0-62mph in 7.9 seconds), yet because of features like cylinder shutdown, which sends fuel to just two of the four-cylinders at gentle pace, its official economy rating exceeds 60mpg. You can occasionally feel a mild judder when the cylinders are reactivating, but it’s not too often or irritating.
All engines are available with a DSG automatic gearbox (six- or seven-speed depending on engine), which is as win-win here as it is when it’s called S tronic and in an Audi. Quick to shift, smooth and beneficial to fuel economy, it enhances the Leon SC rather than stifling it, regardless of engine.
|1.2 TSI 105||58 mpg||10.0 s||114 g/km|
|1.2 TSI 105 DSG||58 mpg||10.0 s||112 g/km|
|1.2 TSI 110||58 mpg||9.7–9.8 s||114 g/km|
|1.2 TSI 110 DSG||58 mpg||9.8 s||112 g/km|
|1.4 EcoTSI||58 mpg||-||114 g/km|
|1.4 EcoTSI 150||58 mpg||7.9 s||110–117 g/km|
|1.4 EcoTSI 150 DSG||58 mpg||7.9 s||109–118 g/km|
|1.4 EcoTSI DSG||58 mpg||-||115 g/km|
|1.4 TSI 125||54 mpg||8.9–9.1 s||120 g/km|
|1.4 TSI 140||53 mpg||8.1 s||119 g/km|
|1.6 TDI 105||74 mpg||10.6 s||99 g/km|
|1.6 TDI 105 DSG||72 mpg||10.6 s||102 g/km|
|1.6 TDI 110||71 mpg||10.4 s||99 g/km|
|1.6 TDI 110 DSG||72 mpg||10.4 s||99 g/km|
|1.6 TDI 110 Ecomotive||86 mpg||10.4 s||87 g/km|
|1.8 TSI||47 mpg||7.4 s||137–138 g/km|
|1.8 TSI DSG||49 mpg||7.1 s||132–134 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 150||64–69 mpg||8.3 s||106–115 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 150 DSG||63–64 mpg||8.3 s||102–117 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 184||63 mpg||7.4 s||112–118 g/km|
|2.0 TDI 184 DSG||60–61 mpg||7.4 s||119–120 g/km|
Real MPG average for a SEAT Leon SC (2013 – 2018)
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.
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.
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