Already more than a decade ago we asked at the annual VW press conference how the group was coming along with its (VW) bestsellers running on natural gas. The answer was somewhat hesitant then, but positive. Things were under study, so they said, and indeed, looked likely to be introduced. Well, the VW group engineers have taken things at heart. And state of the art CNG technology is now available on a wide range of models and brands within the group, amongst others in this elegant looking Seat Leon ST (Sports Tourer) . We drove it, and it brought a smile on our face…
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The well known and proven 1,4 litre TSI petrol engine has been redeveloped to run both on natural gas and petrol, and develops a healthy 110 HP at 6000 rpm. Indeed, the unit likes to be revved, although a solid 200 Nm of torque is available over a wide rev range, i.e. between 1500 and 3500 rpm. This means that even for spirited driving one hardly needs to rev the unit above 4000 rpm. But really pressed, the unit revs willingly higher under a beautiful staccato.
All this delivers quite good performance, with 0 to 100 kmh being reached in 11 seconds. Top speed is an excellent 194 kmh.
For most of the test distance, we drove this Leon running on CNG, and engine seduced us with outstanding docility and smoothness. Pulling nicely from 1300 rpm onwards, it was very restful and pleasant to drive in urban traffic, helped by a very smooth and progressive clutch and a very slick and easy changing six speed manual gearbox.
The very positive picture is further enhanced by quite decent economy, with an average CNG consumption during our test of 4,2 kg per 100 km. Of course, the energy content of CNG is outstanding. One kg of natural gas contains as much energy as 1,5 liter of petrol and 1,3 liter of diesel, and not less than 2 liters of LPG. The CNG tank contains 15 kg, and the petrol tank 50 liters. This gives this Leon TGI a formidable range of over 1200 kilometers. The Leon CNG will switch automatically and imperceptibly from CNG to petrol, so no worries there.
Needless to say that the running costs of this Leon TGI are very low indeed…with the price of CNG in Belgium being a modest 0,84 Euros. This TGI is also well treated tax-wise. It has no first registration tax when you buy it, and there isn’t even an annual road tax. Refueling this Seat with CNG is quite easy, and the filling orifice is located next to the petrol tank opening. The CNG tank is totally safe, and so you can park this car anywhere. Lats but not least there is the CNG station network. Belgium has now about one hundred refueling stations, mostly concentrated however around Brussels and Antwerp.
We drove the Connect version, quite pleasing externally with 17 inch Dynamic alloy wheels in Atom Grey, matching the rearview mirrors, also being sprayed in this Atom Grey. But the beauty lies also inside. This Leon came with the Seat Media System Plus.
SEAT offers here so-called Full Link, a completely integrated infotainment system. It connects with all available Android and iOS devices, thanks to Mirror Link, Android Auto and Apple Car Play. So you can make calls, dictate and listen to messages, play your favourite music and enjoy also the benefits of a host of third party applications like Spotify, etc.
When you have used this system for a few days, you wonder how you have ever lived without it…
Sporting and practical
The Leon has full-led headlamps and our test car also came with the very fine adaptative cruise control…
We already praised the excellent handling of this Leon ST. Our test car sported very fine sporting seats which gave very good lateral support, making spirited driving even more enjoyable. We also liked the blue and grey colored seat colors and also the matte blue dashboard panels and inserts. Truly nice. As a station wagon befits, the load capacity is opulent, and has not been reduced by the CNG extra tank.
As one knows, the Sports Tourer estate is 27 centimeters longer than then Leon hatchback, sharing the same chassis and having the same wheelbase of course. This results in 587 liters of boot space with the rear seats up, an impressive 1470 liters with all seats flat. Remarkable is also that despite this extra length behind the rear wheels, the proportions and looks of this Seat remain as smart and elegant as ever.
This CNG version is a very interesting addition to the Seat Leon range, marrying the pleasures and delights of a sporting petrol engine with the uncanny frugality and economy of a CNG powered car.
The bi-fuel versatility of the engine lets you enjoy an almost unlimited action radius, as CNG refuelling points are not yet around every corner. So there is no reason whatsoever why you should not take a very close look at this car, certainly if driving greener is also important to you…
Hans Knol ten Bensel