We drove the Seat Leon ST X-perience: the one with the lion’s heart…

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It is wrong to say that today’s cars lack character and personality. Our recent drive in the Mini One masterfully proved the contrary. Behind the wheel of this Seat ST , we again had – as the name of this car puts it – a wonderful automotive experience, one of driving a true thoroughbred, well built car displaying sportiness, stamina and agility, both on and off-road!

Indeed we loved this Seat every meter we drove it, just read our experience(s) here…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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Already from the outside this Leon ST X-perience seduces with elegant, angular yet fluent lines, and excellent proportions. From all angles this Seat looks very harmonious, and evokes just this sportiness which it actually brings to you when you drive it.

The interior also breathes this fine thoroughbred elegance, which is translated in the cockpit design.

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Nice, big round dials for rev counter and speedometer meet your eyes, with the centre console also purposefully and elegantly designed. The seats are well contoured and firm, in good VW group tradition, and yes, this Seat has a Tuetonic quality feel about itself.

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The classic layout of handles and knobs which we also find in the VW concern products is of course also there, with the Seat designers nevertheless succeeding in giving the dashboard a less austere, downright elegant Latin character. No small feat!

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The designers of the Leon did not skimp on the quality and fit of the materials either, and the impression of premium luxuriousness was further enhanced on our test car with the optional leather covered seating. Our car also sported a panorama sunroof which proved ideal to let the first warm spring air and sunshine in.

The delight of sportiness…

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But our hearts were not only warmed by spring air alone. The willingness of the whole drivetrain and the agility of suspension and surefootedness of this Leon delighted us every time we drove it.

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Under the bonnet of “our” Leon sat the well known 1,4 liter TSI double overhead cam 125 HP four cylinder, an engine which has won many international awards. The unit impressed us this time still more with its outstanding willingness and smoothness. Indeed, we did not notice any hesitation or “flat spot” when driving away from standstill, and one could easily and smoothly potter around in slow urban traffic using very low revs, and effortlessly drive in third gear at the 30 km/h speed limit.

The engine is flexible enough to accelerate smoothly from these low revs, but rewards you with instant pulling power under a beautiful staccato when you change down a gear with sporting verve. No need to keep the revs up nervously in the higher regions, but it certainly pays off to keep this unit in the 2-3000 rpm range when you opt for more lively sportiness.

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We have only to congratulate the Seat engineers for giving this engine in the Leon such an  engaging sporty throb, an exhaust note which invites you to rev the unit with abandon more often than not.

Performance is quite entertaining with acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in a good 9,7 seconds, with top speed being 200 km.

In our sporty enthusiasm economy took a second seat sometimes, and this translated into a somewhat higher average test consumption figure of 6,7 liters/100 km, but it is of course just as easy as the other VW group cars equipped with this outstanding 1.4 liter engine to achieve very a good overall economy indeed. The manufacturer quotes  5,3 l/100 km as official ECE average, with CO2 emissions being 122 g/km.

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This Leon ST X-perience shares its MQB platform with the Mk 7 Golf and Mk3 Audi A3, and needless to say that this brings state of the art handling, comfort and moreover excellent high speed stability. Therefore the Leon feels equally well at home in dense urban traffic as on winding mountain passes or fast, straight Autostradas. A GT car par excellence, is the best way to summarize it all.

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Everyday practical pleasure, also off the beaten path…

The Leon is not only engaging to take it for a drive every morning, it is also your very nice and practical daily companion. Infotainment and navigation stem from the VW concern stable, and are of course excellent in quality and ease of use. This SEAT also carries LED headlamp illumination, a boon for those fast trips in the dark.  But there is more, like for instance the available space, which reflects itself in impressive boot capacity, increasing to not less than 1470 liters with the rear backrests fully folded down. There is also very good legroom in the rear, making this Leon a very practical and roomy companion for those family outings.

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This X-perience version of the stylish Lean ST is actually an off-road version, which translates itself in styling elements like the wheel arch inserts and the 15 mm increased ground clearance. The version we drove has two wheel drive, but this X-perience is available in 4WD in most versions. This increased ground clearance and the short(er) overhangs make it fit for those (family) outings off the beaten path, and indeed we appreciated this more than once during our test.

Conclusion

The Seat Leon ST X-perience is a well built, elegant and roomy (family) car which displays very entertaining sportiness behind the wheel, and is very engaging to drive.

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Besides all this driving pleasure it is very nice to look at, and its lines have timeless, refined Latin elegance. The Seat people have succeeded in giving this Leon a distinct personality, and we would conclude here, just X-perience it…

 

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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