For our March motoring reviews, Sussex Business Times got behind the wheel of two Seat Models – the Leon ST FR and the Ibiza. Here, we share our thoughts
SEAT Leon ST
The SEAT Leon ST is one of five body styles the versatile model is now available in. Options include the three-door, five-door, hot hatch Cupra, four-wheel drive X-Perience and the load-lugging ST. The ST line-up mirrors the five-door’s, with S, SE and FR trim levels, and power coming from a selection of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines. These include an efficient 87g/km 1.6 TDI Ecomotive model, but many will go for the standard 1.6 TDI in SE specification.
This is the first time that an estate version of the Leon has been offered, and SEAT has done a wonderful job of keeping the hatchback’s style in tact. It drives almost as well too, despite weighing 45kg more than the five-door and there’s even a hot Cupra version arriving soon and designed to take on the Ford Focus ST Estate.
Better insulation means the VW Group 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine feels smoother in the SEAT than it does in the Skoda Octavia Estate. It never really feels slow, thanks to a slick gearshift and snappy throttle response. A 108bhp 1.6 TDI Ecomotive model returns an incredible 80mpg, but lacks refinement as the revs rise, while the punchy 104bhp 1.2 TSI is much smoother and cheaper to buy in the first place. Moving up the range there are 1.4 TSI, 1.8 TSI and 2.0 TDI engines – all available in sporty FR trim.
This SEAT model has an advantage over its rivals for handling thanks to its electronic diff. In corners, this system gently brakes individual front wheels, and as a result the Leon gets around them with far greater agility than its main rivals. It feels stable and has lots of grip, while body roll is kept in check, too. This performance doesn’t come at the expense of comfort, either. The suspension becomes a little unsettled over bumps, but the Leon regains composure quickly. Even the X-Perience with its raised ride height, handles well and is barely any different from other ST models.
Choose one of the smaller diesel and petrol engines, and running costs really are minimal. Pick of the bunch is the 1.6 TDI Ecomotive model – the particular motor SBT had the pleasure of testing – capable of fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 80mpg and 87g/km – making it one of the cleanest non-hybrid cars on the road. The 1.2 TSI unit comes with either 85bhp or 104bhp, returning 54mpg and 119g/km, or 58mpg and 114g/km respectively.
Price: Prices start from £18,900
Engine capacity: 1.8 litre
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-62mph: 6.7 seconds
Max speed: 146mph
The SEAT Ibiza has always been one of the most fun choices in the supermini market, and the latest version upholds this reputation by delivering a more engaging driving experience than its small car cousins from the VW Group, the Volkswagen Polo and the Skoda Fabia. In terms of price though, the Ibiza sits somewhere in between the Fabia and Polo, and it offers lots of standard equipment for the money. Add those stylish looks, as well as nimble handling, and the car makes lots of sense in the showroom.
The Ibiza isn’t quite as practical as the best models in this class, largely thanks to the rakish roofline, while there are some question marks over its reliability record, but it’s still an appealing supermini choice. Alloy wheels arrive with SE spec, as does an upgraded colour touchscreen system. Connect editions bring Internet connectivity, MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay among a feast of infotainment upgrades. The FR package however, adds sports suspension and a wealth of racy trim enhancements inside and out.
Some buyers will find the suspension a little harsh, but SEAT tweaked it as part of the update to the range in 2015 in a bid to take the edge off. The driving position in the SEAT Ibiza is excellent, adding to the sense of involvement behind the wheel. And no matter which model you go for, there’s not much body roll in corners, while the steering is quick. If only it provided a little more feedback.
The Ibiza comes with a five or six-speed manual gearbox, depending on the engine size. There’s also an automatic option, in the shape of the seven-speed twin-clutch DSG system sourced from Volkswagen. The combination of the refined engine and softer suspension means the SEAT supermini covers ground with far more poise than it did before. The five-speed manual gearbox is short and snappy, while power from the engine builds progressively. With a useful 160Nm of torque, it delivers a 0-62mph time of 10.4 seconds and a 119mph top speed.
SEAT has a reputation for building good-value cars, and the Ibiza is no exception. It comes with a decent level of kit, and all the engines should prove easy on the wallet, too, so you can’t really go wrong with this little motor.
Price: Prices start from £24,435
Engine capacity: 2.0 litre
Transmission: 6-speed manual
0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
Max speed: 134mph