A hatchback disguised as a coupe

Introduction

This is the Seat Leon SC. In essence a three-door hatchback that would normally sit in the fiercely competitive family car market populated by the Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra, and many other big-hitters. Seat’s clever trick is instead to classify this Leon as a coupe. That puts it up against affordable sports cars like the Toyota GT86/Subaru BRZ, Volkswagen Scirocco, and Audi TT. In such rakish company, its attractive but upright styling might put some buyers off, but the truth is that the Leon SC offers a sharp drive coupled to plenty of practicality and competitive pricing.

 

Body Style: Hatchback  Seats: 5  MRP from £19,125 - £30,990 

 

Did you know? SC stands for Sports Coupe, which is how Seat distances this particular Leon from simply being a three-door hatchback.

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Verdict: ★★★★★★★☆ (8.2/10)

Seat’s transformation from the Volkswagen Group’s youthful but budget arm into arguably one of the best all-round mainstream marques today was down in no small part to this third-generation Leon. Thanks to edgy styling and being based on the group’s ubiquitous MQB chassis, the sheer quality of the 2012 Leon was a quantum leap on compared to its predecessors. Better still, it proved capable of mixing it with both the C-segment hatchback elite – including the Volkswagen Golf, the car it shares so much with – and a glut of affordable sports cars. After a facelift in early 2017, the Leon SC is as deeply impressive as ever. The entertaining SC, while lacking the ultimate practicality of its five-door sibling, therefore remains one of the finest cars in its sector.

Design & Exterior

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Interior & Comfort

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Technology & Connectivity

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Performance & Handling

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Safety Features

★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

Specs & Trims

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Running Costs & Fuel Economy

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

Pricing

★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Seat Leon SC

We Like

Handsome exterior looks

Fantastic chassis

Refined and comfortable

We Don't Like

Ride firm on 19-inch wheels

Interior lacks sparkle

Not an obvious coupe

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Design & Exterior: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 Seat Leon SC

We could make the argument that the Seat Leon SC’s fabulous, chiselled looks are its USP – if it weren’t for the fact that it is incredibly strong in several other departments too. So successful was the MkIII Leon’s angular styling that it was barely altered for the 2017MY updates and its appearance has gone on to influence two of the Spanish company’s key models since: the Ateca SUV, and the fifth-generation Ibiza supermini, which is to all intents and purposes a shrunken Leon.

It’s worth bearing in mind that Seat wants customers to believe the three-door is markedly different to the five-door Leon, a fact perhaps borne out by the SC having a shorter wheelbase than the ‘proper’ hatchback version. This, claims its maker, results in a Leon that’s more agile than its stablemates. There is also alternative treatment of the rear-window line that makes for subtly tweaked proportions on the Leon SC.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Interior & Comfort: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Seat Leon SC

While Seat benefits from the huge repository of know-how and parts available to it courtesy of the Volkswagen Group, if there’s one area where the Spanish cars remain behind their German counterparts, it’s interior finishing. There is nothing wrong with the layout of the Leon SC’s dashboard, as the major controls are sited in a perfectly rational manner, and indeed the way everything fits together and feels solid is also fine. The issue is the complete lack of visual flair. If Seat is serious about suggesting the Leon SC is a viable rival for the Audi TT, then the cabin should be far more interesting to look at than a fascia that appears to be lifted out of a mid-spec Golf from 2010. Odd splashes of chrome and piano black trim are not enough to make this a cockpit that will draw appreciative noises from occupants.

Practicality

It has no less capacious a boot than the five-door hatchback Leon, the SC’s cargo area rated at 380 litres. Despite lacking rear doors, four adults should fit on board easily and access to the back seats isn’t too difficult. Two ISOFIX child seat fittings are provided in the rear and the back seats also split 60:40, although they don’t lie flat with the boot floor once folded.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Technology & Connectivity: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Seat Leon SC

Seat’s decision to trim down the Leon SC range to just one specification means a lengthy equipment list as standard. Expect full LED lights outside and an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system called Media System Plus within – this incorporates clear and attractive 3D mapping for the satnav, voice recognition, USB and SD ports, Bluetooth, DAB, and eight speakers through which to play music. Optional Seat Sound is inexpensive to buy and yet it adds 10 speakers and a boot-mounted subwoofer for an impressive audio performance.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Performance & Handling: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Seat Leon SC

Lively performance is assured by the entirely turbocharged range of engines, as even the least powerful Leon SC is capable of 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds. There are two capacities of TSI petrol engine, of 1.4- and 1.8 litres, the former of these producing 125hp, or 150hp with Active Cylinder Technology as well, which shuts down two of the Leon’s four cylinders to save fuel when possible. The 125hp unit comes with a six-speed manual gearbox only, whereas the 150hp motor can be optionally specified with a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic.

Above these is a fine 1.8-litre TSI rated at 180hp, again available with either the manual or optional DSG auto, but if you need more punch than the 150hp 1.4 then we’d advocate looking at the diesels (or the specialist Leon SC Cupra of course). There’s just one diesel unit offered, the 2.0-litre TDI, but like the 1.4-litre petrol, the diesel is available with either 150hp or a fulsome 184hp and 280lb ft of torque; this latter specification is the motor that powers the Volkswagen Golf GTD hot hatch. Only the 184hp TDI can be fitted with DSG, although in this instance it’s a six-speed gearbox.

It’s not just strong and smooth engines that define the Leon SC’s superb dynamics, though, as the MQB chassis provides excellent driving manners. The Seat gets the XDS electronic front differential as standard and it provides the front axle of the Leon with real bite. The steering is nice and direct, while the brakes are strong and the body control first-rate due to sports suspension. The SC certainly drives more sweetly than anything else with the same underpinnings, such as the Golf, Skoda Octavia or even Audi A3, and yet it’s perfectly quiet, comfortable, and civilised the rest of the time – although steer clear of the 19-inch optional alloys if you can, as they spoil the ride comfort.

Recommended engine: 1.4 EcoTSI 150 manual

0-62 MPH

7.9 seconds

Fuel economy

57.6mpg

Emissions

114g/km

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Safety Features: ★★★★★★★★★☆ (9/10)

2017 Seat Leon SC

High scores for both adult protection (94 per cent) and child protection (92 per cent) contributed to the Leon picking up the full five-star Euro NCAP rating, bolstered by good figures for both pedestrian safety (70 per cent) and safety assist systems (71 per cent). Seat took the opportunity afforded by the midlife facelift to introduce some extra safety tech that wasn’t previously available on the Leon SC, in the form of Traffic Sign Recognition and Traffic Jam Assist – the latter taking control of the car in heavy traffic conditions at speeds of up to 37mph.

All Leon SCs come with seven airbags, ISOFIX points in the outer two rear seats, ABS, electronic stability control, hill-hold control, Front Assist radar monitoring with pedestrian protection, and the company’s clever Multi-Collision Braking System. This, in the event of a collision that triggers the airbags, automatically activates the brakes to prevent or mitigate any subsequent impacts the car might have with road furniture or other traffic.

Safety options include a driving assist pack with automatic high beam functionality and Lane Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, and an alertness monitor that warns the driver if the car thinks they are showing signs of fatigue.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Specs and Trim Levels: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Seat Leon SC

Colours

The standard, no-cost colour is non-metallic Mediterranean Blue, with Emocion Red and White the other two solid options. The metallic shades include Boheme Purple, Technic Grey, Mystery Blue, Ice Silver, Monsoon Grey, Midnight Black, and Nevada White. A little more expensive again is Desire Red.

Trim Levels

This couldn’t be simpler: there’s just one, the FR Technology. Seat UK has decided that because this is a coupe, it should only be offered in sporty, high-end specification to suit. To that end, what you get with the SC is a bulging standard equipment list, including a discreet body kit, 17-inch alloys, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, sports seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and Seat Drive Profile multi-mode settings.

Choose the 1.4 EcoTSI manual and opt for a bright body colour to show off the crisp external lines. Treat yourself to a few luxury extras, like Seat Sound, the panoramic sunroof, keyless entry and go, and part-Alcantara front chairs, while you’re at it.

Size and Dimensions

Unless your garage is designed for an Austin A40, the compact Leon SC should fit in no problem. Electrically folding door mirrors are standard equipment, so the width measurement below is accurate if you want to check the size of the aperture on your outbuildings.

Length

4,246mm

Width

1,810mm (excluding door mirrors)

Height

1,431mm

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Running Costs & Fuel Economy: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Seat Leon SC

All Leon SC models, bar the 1.8-litre TSI (55mpg), are officially able to achieve more than 60mpg, with the 150hp diesel potentially able to deliver in excess of 72mpg. Emissions that are no higher than 120g/km on all cars except the 1.8 take best advantage of the revised road tax laws, meaning £160 VED in year one and then £140 annually thereafter. Residual values are improving, as Seat’s UK sales increase and the perceived quality of the marque’s products goes up.

Reliability and servicing

So confident is Seat in the reliability of the Leon SC that it will offer extensions to the standard three-year/60,000-mile warranty, up to a maximum of five years/90,000 miles. Fixed-price servicing packages are available for one-off lumps sums or monthly fees, while regular servicing prices are reasonable.

Minor

12 months or 10,000 miles

Major

24 months or 20,000 miles

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Pricing: ★★★★★★★★☆☆ (8/10)

2017 Seat Leon SC

The Leon SC 1.4-litre TSI 125hp FR Technology starts from a tad in excess of £19,000, but most variants are comfortably into the lower to mid-£20,000s bracket. The most expensive model is beyond £25,000, which might seem a lot, but as the SC is considerably cheaper than an equivalent Audi TT or Volkswagen Scirocco, while the options list is modest and reasonably priced, the Leon starts to look like a bargain.

 

Verdict | Design | Interior | Technology | Performance | Safety | Specs | Running Costs | Pricing

Recommendations

First time Driver

The 1.4 TSI 125 is the least potent Leon SC of the range and comes in at less than £20,000.

Car Enthusiast

If you don’t mind the extra expense and running costs over the 1.4, then the 1.8-litre TSI with 180hp is the hottest non-Cupra SC.

Cost Conscious

It’s not the most exciting engine offered, but the 150hp 2.0 TDI could return more than 70mpg – worth it, if you do lots of miles.

Rivals

Audi TT

The style icon in its class, with beautiful looks and a wonderful cabin. It’s not cheap, though, and the Leon drives just as well as the Audi.

BMW 2 Series

Much pricier than the Leon SC, but the BMW looks like a proper coupe, and most models are rear-wheel drive too.

Ford Mustang

Great value, wonderful retro looks and the possibility of a V8, but the Ford has a dreadful Euro NCAP rating of two stars.

Toyota GT86

Incredibly fun rear-drive handling marks the Toyota out, but it’s not cheap, is seriously light on torque, and the interior lacks finesse.

Volkswagen Scirocco

Rather stodgy dynamics and impractical interior packaging let down the ageing Scirocco, which is also costlier than the Leon SC.

What others say

What Car?

The Seat Leon SC is good value and nice to drive, and more practical than some of its coupe rivals.

Car Buyer

The Seat Leon SC gets two less doors than the hatchback but offers plenty of practicality and decent engines.

 

2017 Seat Leon SC