SEAT Leon SC First Drive

When we tested the new SEAT Leon late last year a couple of things stood out. The car's design – the foundations of which had been laid under the supervision of ex-Lamborghini design chief Luc Donckerwolke – was, and is, fairly spectacular for this segment. Trapezoidal this, dihedral that; the Leon's razor sharp angles and unashamed blisters come together in just the right way, loud and proud without being brash or chintzy. LED lamps at each corner are the icing on the cake, and to find another car that glares down the road at night with the same crystalline conviction you need to look several segments higher up the automotive food chain.

Contemporary design wasn't the only thing that stood the car out from older SEATs, however. Quality did, too, and in a meaningful way. SEAT's head of design Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos, who helped bring the car from sketch to reality, is particularly proud of many seemingly insignificant parts of the interior – the door handles, indicator stalks, the handbrake cover and so on. All the things we touch, in other words, and that's where the money has been spent. The result is worth every penny, and perceived and actual quality are equally high in this new car.

To get to the point, the brand new Leon SC – perhaps ambitiously standing for Sport Coupé – has a brilliant base to build on.

Before mention of the steeply raked rear, frugal engines or even the car's agreeably aggressive pricing, there's something else worth noting: the wraparound creases at the back of the SC are even more acute than on the five-door Leon. That SEAT felt this was necessary, given that it required substantial new tooling, shows the intent behind this new Leon. The aim is draw people in with an athletic, design-oriented car. And if the five-dour Leon is anything to go by, it's working. SEAT is selling more cars in the UK now that it has ever done before, capitalising on the fact that exciting design really is irresistible to many. The SC's skulking, Scirocco-esque profile wears the raft of visual jewellery particularly well.

The SC benefits from Volkswagen Group's new MQB platform, giving it's energetic aesthetic something solid to sit on. SEAT has shortened the SC's wheelbase by 35mm from the five-door Leon, although thankfully both cars share the same sporting stance. Overall the SC is 20kg lighter than the standard car, which was already some 93kg lighter than its predecessor. Weight has been be saved all over the car, from the chassis to the engine block and even 3kg from the wiring.

Basing the Leon's mechanical's almost entirely on the VW Golf VII and leaving the team at Martorell to breathe life into the car has paid dividends.

The SC might look like a straightforward chop-job from the five-door, but SEAT says that the car's exterior is entirely different from the A-pillar back. The rear windshield is raked 19 degrees more steeply, the roof is 13mm lower at front and 18.5mm lower at the back, and rear three-quarter windows are much more squat. Relatively short overhangs and (on FR models) sizeable wheels complete the transformation.

The cleanest SC in terms of carbon dioxide is the 1.6 TDI with start/stop, which emits 99g/km. The same engine develops 105bhp, which makes for a brisk enough drive in a car that weighs around 1,200kg. So far it's the 1.6 TDI model that tops the range with a combined economy figure of 74.3mpg, although an Ecomotive version will appear in the not too distant future. It's likely that the Ecomotive Leon SC will match the new Golf BlueMotion's 85g/km carbon dioxide emissions figure.

Rather than just building a five-door and three-door Leon, SEAT have given the three-door a subtly different personality and an even more vivacious design than the five-door. The two are much same dynamically, but sex sells, and on that basis the SC deserves to do rather well.


SEAT Leon SC 1.6 TDI

Power: 105bhp Torque: 250Nm @ 1,400rpm 0-60mph: 10.7 seconds Top speed: 119mph CO2 emissions: 99g/km Combined economy: 74.3mpg Price: £17,070


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