What is it? All-new estate version of family hatch
Key features: Load capacity and practiclity in stylish package
Our view: The SEAT Leon ST is not the largest estate in its class, but more than adequate for most families
The new, third-generation of SEAT’s Leon family car was always conceived as a family. The five-door hatch and three-door Sports Coupé are already on sale, now comes the third and final member, the ST, Sports Tourer or estate in everyday parlance.
With its first Leon estate, the brand is launching into a growing sector of the market, as more buyers with a need for serious load capacity but a desire for better economy downsize from larger estates such as Ford’s Mondeo and the Vauxhall Insignia.
The mid-sized estate market is equally dominated by Ford, with the Focus, and Vauxhall’s Astra Sports Tourer, but the Leon ST will also face other cars coming into the market for the first time such as Honda’s Civic Tourer, also launching this month.
First impressions are good – the Leon has always sold on style, and adding a large boot does not compromise the much-praised looks of the latest range. Forward of the windscreen pillars all three cars are the same, and the ST shares the wheelbase of the hatch. The larger car’s rear overhang, however, is extended by 272mm while maintaining a sleek, muscular look that certainly disguises its extra capability.
The load space is 587 litres – 207 more than the hatch, and extendable to 1,470 with the rear seats folded. While impressive, this is not as much as some rivals including the Civic.
The car does boast lots of practical touches, however, including a double boot floor, a through loading hatch for long thin cargo, roof rails and a retractable rear shelf, which sensibly is provided with storage when not in use. There are also 13 extra storage spaces too.
The interior is of course shared with the ST’s sister models, with a combination of more upmarket soft-touch surfaces and detailing and increased technology including the five-inch colour touchscreen infotainment centre.
Some technology, however, debuts with the Leon ST. Progressive steering is more reactive at lower speeds to ease parking and aids high-speed stability, while radar-activated Adaptive Cruise Control and Dynamic Chassis Control, with its ability to electronically monitor damper settings, are also available on certain models, along with a panoramic sunroof.
The engine line-up is familiar from early tests of the hatch and SC and includes two with emissions in tax-free sub-100g/km territory. The best Ecomotive variant offers a mere 87g/km, along with combined cycle fuel economy of plus 85mpg.
On the launch event The Car Expert was able to test the 1.4 TSI petrol of 138bhp, and the likely to be fleet-friendly 1.6TDI of 104bhp, the latter with the DSG auto gearbox.
Surprisingly it was the petrol unit that impressed more. While boasting the same torque figure as the diesel, it felt more sprightly and the manual gearbox more slick than the DSG. However it cannot compete with the almost 20 extra miles per gallon offered by the diesel.
As in all Leons suspension setup varies dependent on model – the lower spec S and SE versions have a rear torsion beam, while on range-topping FR models a multi-link setup is specified. This makes a difference on the road, especially on the pothole-damaged tarmac of winter England. Certainly there is no feeling of driving a load carrier.
The Leon ST won’t be the largest estate in its class, but it will be more than adequate for most families, with its practicality scoring highly. Where it will score most of all, however, is on style – few estates will match it for looks.
SEAT Leon ST – key specifications
Model Tested: SEAT Leon 1.4 TSI 140 PS, 1.6TDI 105 PS DSG-auto
On the road: January 2014
Engines: Petrol 1.2, 1.4, 1.8. Diesel 1.6 x 2, 2.0 x 2.
Power (bhp): 104, 138, 177. 104/109, 148/181.
Torque (lb/ft): 129, 184, 184. 184/184, 236/280.
0-62mph (sec): 10.3, 8.4, 7.8. 11.1/10.4, 8.6/7.8
Top speed (mph): 119, 131, 140. 119/122, 134/142
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 57.6, 53.3, 47.9. 74.3/85.6, 68.9/65.7.
CO2 emissions (g/km): 114, 122, 137. 99/87, 106/112.
Key rivals: Ford Focus Estate, Vauxhall Astra ST, Renault Megane ST
Test date: January 2014.
* all figures with manual gearbox models