by Seán Creedon
Not many of us will get an opportunity to holiday in Spain this summer. So we may appreciate visiting more scenic locations in our own country using cars with Spanish names like: Alhambra, Arona, Ateca, Ibiza, Tarraco and the recently launched new version of the Leon.
Seat always name their cars after districts in Spain, but most of their cars are now made at the company headquarters at Martorell, outside of Barcelona.
I visited the Martorell plant in the ‘good old days’ when we took red eye flights from Dublin.
The recent launch of the new version of the Seat Leon was done via our new virtual friend Zoom. While you can get all the information from power points presentations, you still need to drive the car to fully appreciate the improvements and changes.
The Leon was introduced in 1998 and this is the fourth generation. My test car came in a very attractive shade of red; the official colour was Desire Red.
The new Leon certainly has that elongated look. The front grille is neat and now has full LED headlights.
At the back the name Leon is written on the boot door just below the ‘S’ logo which also opens the boot.
Seat is calling their continuous red light between the two rear red lights ‘coast-to-coast.’
The company claims this is the safest Seat to date with adaptive cruise control as standard.
They expect petrol engines to be the most popular in Ireland where 13,500 versions of the Leon have been sold over the past 22 years.
I wasn’t mad about the controls on the 8.5-inch screen on the dash. It’s wasn’t the type of screen that you could safely use your left hand to adjust the sound or temperature while driving.
I realise it’s ultra modern, but I would have liked a few old fashioned style knobs to use some of the controls, but there are also slave controls on the steering wheel.
I have driven several cars where you get a flashing yellow light on the wing mirror if you are about to be overtaken.
For the first time that flashing light was inside the window in the new Leon. A nice touch and it certainly gets your attention straight away.
There is decent boot and the good news is that you get a mini spare wheel.
I drove a 1.5-litre automatic version which was very lively and powerful. The ‘drive’ lever plus electronic parking brake are neatly located in a column where you would find the gear lever in a car with a manual gear stick.
Prices have only increased by around €500 from the previous version; the starting price now for the 1.5-litre petrol is €23,910 and €26,040 for the 2.0-litre diesel.
You can download a €1,000 online voucher offer and then it depends on whether you have cash or a car to trade in.
As you may know Seat are owned by VW and some people are making favourable comparisons between the new Leon and the VW Golf Mark 8. Now that’s well deserved praise.
An Estate or Sports Tourer version should be here in August with a plug-in hybrid due in the last quarter.
Niall Phillips, Brand Director for Seat Ireland says they won’t be able to confirm a price for the plug-in hybrid until after the Budget.