The new SEAT Leon ST demonstrates that thrilling sporting character and exceptional everyday usability do not have to be mutually exclusive.
The third member of the Leon family combines the young, dynamic design and the precise handling qualities of its siblings with an amazing amount of practicality. Like every Leon, the ST displays an impressive level of craftsmanship and uses premium materials throughout.
The luggage space of the compact estate car, which measures 4,535 mm long (264 mm longer than the five-door Leon), offers excellent versatility and is full of useful touches that make it a joy to use day-to-day. It has a load capacity of 587 litres, rising to 1,470 litres with the rear seat backrests folded, and its twin-level boot floor makes loading bulky items much easier; the rear seats can be folded flat using easy-to-reach handles on the sidewalls of the boot.
“Nobody has to choose between sporty and practical anymore – the new Leon ST offers both,” says Jürgen Stackmann, President and CEO of SEAT S.A. “With its sporty look, its surprisingly high utility and its state-of-the-art technology, the Leon ST defines a new standard in the compact estate car class – at a very fair price. Like the already highly successful Leon and Leon SC, the new ST is the perfect representative of SEAT’s brand values,” he adds.
The unveiling of the third member of the Leon family also serves as the introduction of the Leon Ecomotive – the lowest emitting Leon ever made, with an astonishing CO2 rating of just 87 g/km.
Fuel consumption for all versions of the Ecomotive is rated at 85.6 mpg combined, meaning its theoretical tank range is a shade over 940 miles. Power comes from a 109bhp version of the 1.6-litre TDI diesel engine already established in the Leon range, which in the non-Ecomotive car develops 104bhp.
Changes over the standard Leon for the Ecomotive (across all variants) include a specially adapted six-speed manual transmission, the fitment of low rolling resistance tyres and optimised aerodynamics, comprising lowered suspension, closed-off cooling apertures at the front, additional under-body panels, a roof spoiler, and rear screen side spoilers.
The extensive range of hi-tech options already available with the Leon, such as the full-LED headlights and SEAT Easy Connect multimedia system, is expanded with the addition of ACC Adaptive Cruise Control with proximity radar, and DCC Adaptive Chassis Control with variable damper adjustment. In addition, optional progressive steering enables a high degree of control under sporty driving conditions.
All three of these systems will be available across the entire Leon range, but are introduced with the debut of the Leon ST in Frankfurt.
The design: a truly sporty estate car
The much applauded design language of the Leon range has been further accentuated for the ST. Here, too, sculpted lines along the sides deliver a thrilling interplay of light and shade. The estate also features the same sharp lines and precise edges as the rest of the Leon range, which communicate energy and vitality. The new ST adds a whole new dimension to the Leon family – the dynamic silhouette looks taut and elegant, yet the car offers comprehensive utility for work and leisure, family and sport.
“In the development of the new Leon ST, we have fully retained the dynamic essence of SEAT design,”says Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos, Head of SEAT Design.“The roofline follows almost exactly the same line as the five-door, just stretched a little further back. While the wheelbase remains the same, an extra 27 centimetres on the body shell allows the car to offer the luggage volume of a fully-fledged estate car.”
The side view of the new SEAT Leon ST is exciting yet very well resolved. It includes a balanced relationship between the metal and glass surface areas; the vertical ratio of the glasshouse to the body shell is one to three. This clear division accentuates solidity and underscores the refined stance of the compact estate car. The slight taper of the side window surfaces towards the rear emphasises the feeling of spaciousness, which can be further enhanced by the optional panoramic glass roof. Every Leon ST gets roof rails as standard.
The extra 27 centimetres added to the rear overhang provides some indication of the generous luggage space available within, while the low rear windscreen and muscular shoulders emphasise the car’s dynamic character. And in FR trim, with its even more expressive front and rear designs, the Leon ST brings whole new meaning to the term ‘sporty estate’.
The interior: premium, functional and intelligently designed
The Leon ST is a car whose stunning and well-balanced looks are continued in the cabin. The space for the driver and front seat passenger has a clear and intuitive layout: all the switches, buttons and levers are where they would be expected to be. The broad centre console is a notable feature, with its clear orientation towards the driver. The instrument panel is extremely elegant and, due to its two-tone design, seems to float slightly in mid-air.
During the design of the SEAT Leon ST, a high priority was placed on functionality and flexibility; there are no fewer than a dozen storage spaces and five closed cubbies in the doors and centre console, as well as below and between the front seats. The front stowage bin in the centre console is extremely spacious. Keys, mobile phones or other everyday items can be stored here quickly and safely.
A special equipment package for families includes retractable sunshades for the rear side windows, as well as practical folding tables on the rear side of the front backrests. For a good view of the sky and an even greater feeling of spaciousness, SEAT offers a panoramic glass sliding roof as an option for the Leon ST.
Aside from outright space, intelligently designed functionality touches make the Leon ST brilliantly practical. The rear seat backrests, for instance, can be folded very easily from the boot using integrated release handles. The double level boot floor means it can be lifted to sit flush with the boot lip, making it easier to load or unload heavy or bulky items. An optional chromed loading edge provides even more convenience for transporting all manner of items, and luggage nets are optional.
In addition, space for stowing the roll-out parcel shelf beneath the boot floor means it need never be left outside of the car, while some versions offer the facility to fold forward the backrest of the front passenger seat for stowing particularly long loads.
The optional panoramic sunroof delivers a very bright and airy sense of space, especially for the back-seat passengers – and, with its large, black surface, provides an additional design element, particularly in combination with light-coloured paintwork. The front section of the glass roof can be retracted over the fixed rear section, and can also be opened and closed using the remote-control key.
The body shell: systematic lightweight design
The Leon ST’s extremely good fuel consumption figures are not only a consequence of sophisticated engine technology, but of systematic lightweight design. The base Leon ST* has a kerb weight of just 1,233 kg, making it the lightest estate car in its class, yet it offers optimum safety and the best possible comfort thanks to a solid body shell; an intelligent chassis structure guarantees that the vehicle remains light and efficient.
High-strength and ultra-high-strength steels are used extensively in the chassis. These hot-formed hi-tech steels alone reduce the weight by of the chassis by 18 kg, while providing even greater stiffness to the occupant cell.
The body-in-white of the five-door variant of the Leon is lighter than the preceding model by no less than 25 kg. And for the new Leon ST, too, systematic lightweight design was implemented across all elements of the vehicle. Thus, a great many parts in the engines, chassis and interior also make a contribution to weight reduction.
The drive: dynamic and efficient
The technology package for the new SEAT Leon ST is the same as that for the Leon and Leon SC models. The fuel-efficient TDI all work with direct injection and turbocharging and are engineered for rapid warm-up and low internal friction.
Every engine in the Leon ST range, and indeed the five-door and SC versions, comes with Start/Stop and Energy Recovery as standard, regardless of transmission.
The diesel line-up offered in the new SEAT Leon ST covers a broad performance spectrum, ranging from 104bhp to 182bhp. The entry-level engine, the 1.6-litre TDI 104bhp produces a substantial 184ft lb of torque so it feels strong, yet it consumes fuel at a rate of 74.3 mpg, returning 99 g/km.
The efficiency highlight is the Leon ST Ecomotive. With a CO2 figure of just 87 g/m, it sips fuel at an outstandingly low rate, registering 85.6 mpg combined. And this while being quicker to the 62 mph benchmark than the standard 1.6 TDI; the Leon ST Ecomotive, with 109bhp, hits 62 mph from zero in 10.4 seconds, while the 104bhp 1.6 TDI version does it in 11.1 seconds.
The 2.0 TDI with 148bhp and 236ft lb of torque provides the new SEAT Leon ST with urgent acceleration, yet it returns close to 70 mpg: 68.9, to be precise, while hitting 62 mph in 8.6 seconds. The range-topping 184 PS version of the engine – the most powerful Leon ST at launch – returns 65.7 mpg and gets to the acceleration benchmark in 7.8 seconds. Its CO2 rating is 112 g/km, and at launch it is the only engine not available with a DSG gearbox.
Start/Stop and Energy Recovery System
In the new SEAT Leon ST, the Start/Stop system deactivates the engine when the car is at a standstill with the gearstick in neutral and the clutch disengaged. On re-engaging gear, a powerful starter motor restarts the engine quietly, smoothly and quickly.
The Start/Stop system, which can be deactivated by the driver at any time, also works perfectly with the DSG automatic transmission. Thanks to a very powerful battery, the system remains active even under extremely cold winter conditions. The Start/Stop system offers fuel savings of up to 4%.
A further efficiency measure in the new SEAT Leon ST is the Energy Recovery . It uses intelligent voltage regulation in the alternator to recover energy under braking and trailing throttle conditions. This is temporarily stored in the battery, flowing back into the vehicle electric system when the car subsequently accelerates. This takes the load off the alternator by enabling it to run from time-to-time on a lower voltage or to be switched off entirely. It draws less power from the engine, resulting in lower fuel consumption.
When it comes to transferring power to the wheels, the transmissions on offer vary in accordance with the engine, from a five- or six-speed manual to the compact and lightweight DSG dual-clutch gearbox. It changes its six- or seven gears in a matter of milliseconds and is incredibly efficient. Certain variants come with a coasting function, which reduces fuel consumption even further.
The chassis: dynamic and comfortable
The well balanced chassis gives the new SEAT Leon ST an extremely dynamic character. The suspension makes all manner of uneven surfaces feel smoother, while the steering has an excellent level of feedback, yet is light and comfortable for day-to-day use.
The compact estate car uses an all-new vehicle architecture that has been developed from scratch – the MQB platform – and its engines are all angled at 12 degrees to the rear. This layout enables SEAT’s engineers to move the front axle forward by 40 millimetres compared to the outgoing Leon. The result is a comparatively long wheelbase and a well-balanced distribution of axle load – factors that have a major impact on comfort and sporty handling.
“We have achieved a perfect suspension setup which combines comfort and agility,” says Dr. Matthias Rabe, SEAT Executive Vice President for Research and Development. “Starting with the Leon ST, DCC together with further advanced driver assistance systems are available now for the whole family.”
At the front are MacPherson struts on a sub-frame. The ST responds quickly and precisely to steering input, mastering all manner of bends and corners with relaxed stability. The new speed-sensitive electromechanical power steering makes a significant contribution to the efficiency of the new Leon ST because it consumes no energy during straight-line driving. The turning circle measures just 10.2 metres.
On engine versions up to and including 150 PS the rear end is equipped with torsion bar suspension. The more powerful variants use a multi-link set-up that handles longitudinal and transverse forces independently from one another. Shock absorbers and coil springs are mounted separately to deliver a particularly refined response.
An electronic transverse differential lock applies tiny braking impulses to the lighter inside front wheel to make handling at the cornering limits safer and even more fluid. The ESP electronic stability program has been perfectly adapted, while the braking system provides outstanding stopping power.
SEAT Drive Profile with DCC adaptive chassis control
The character of the FR version of the new SEAT Leon ST can be personalised to suit both mood and situation: SEAT Drive Profile enables the driver to vary the characteristics of the power steering, throttle control and DSG transmission in three modes: Eco, Comfort and Sport, plus an additional individual setting.
For the FR, SEAT also offers the latest generation of the DCC adaptive chassis control with three different modes that can be selected via the SEAT Drive Profile. In the Sport mode, the Leon ST is even more agile, while the set-up in Comfort mode is considerably more relaxed. As well as DCC, the optional Dynamic Pack for the Leon ST FR includes the progressive steering system. It reduces steering effort when manoeuvring at low speeds, while at the same time raising the dynamics on winding roads with a more direct steering response.
The SEAT Drive Profile in the Leon ST FR with the 1.8 TSI and 2.0 TDI 184 PS engines also influences the engine sound, which is modulated via a sound actuator, as well as the interior ambient lighting; depending on driving style, the interior lights switch between white (Comfort, Eco and individual) and red (Sport).
State-of-the-art infotainment and assistance systems
A new feature of the driver assistance systems for the SEAT Leon is the ACC adaptive cruise control. The radar-based system maintains the pre-set speed and a minimum selected distance to the vehicle in front, braking or accelerating automatically in flowing traffic. The speed can be set within a range of 19-99 mph. ACC works with both manual and DSG gearboxes. In vehicles with DSG, the system can brake all the way to a standstill behind a slowing vehicle, and with the approval of the driver, the car then automatically drives off again.
Further state-of-the-art driver assistance systems are also available for the new SEAT Leon ST. Alongside the standard Multi-Collision Brake are assistants such as Drowsiness Detection and the two camera-based systems Full Beam Assist and Heading Control, a lane-keeping assistant.
When it comes to infotainment solutions, too, the new SEAT Leon ST is fully up to date. The foundation for the very best on-board entertainment is the SEAT Easy Connect operating system, which enables the control of entertainment and communication functions, in addition to numerous vehicle functions, via a cockpit touch-screen.
Measuring up to 5.8 inches, the touch-screen and its associated buttons and rotary controls are located centrally in a convenient position between the central air vents. It is easy to read and to reach for both driver and front seat passenger.
For the first time, SEAT is using a touch-sensitive screen with proximity sensor. As soon as the driver’s or passenger’s finger approaches the touch-screen, the system automatically switches from display to operating mode. In operating mode, the elements that can be activated via the touchscreen are brought to the fore, making intuitive use (smartphone-style swipe and zoom gestures) even easier. The display mode, on the other hand, is distinguished by its extremely clear and uncluttered presentation. The graphics of both modes are a perfect match for the sporty aesthetic of the SEAT design.
The optional SEAT Sound System, with 135-watt output and ten speakers, offers clear and powerful sound at all five seats. A large proportion of this impressive listening experience is attributable to the centre speaker integrated into the dashboard and the large subwoofer in the luggage compartment.
As with the Leon five-door and SC, innovative full-LED headlights in combination with LED rear lights are available as an option for the new Leon ST. Alongside their expressive design, LED headlights have many further benefits. They illuminate the road with a colour temperature of 5,300 Kelvin (K), for instance. Because this is very similar to the 5,500 K of daylight, they put very little strain on the eyes. In terms of efficiency, the LEDs consume very little energy; full-LED headlights on dipped beam draw only 20 watts per unit.
The dipped beam is made up of six LED modules per headlamp. When the main beam is switched on, three bright spot modules are activated in each unit and the dipped beam is raised accordingly.
Two white LEDs per unit light up the Leon’s distinctive LED daytime running light strips. Nine yellow LEDs on each side provide the light for the indicators, which are likewise integrated into the headlamp unit.
Intelligent sensors prevent oncoming traffic from being dazzled. Furthermore, the new full-LED headlights are completely maintenance-free and designed to last the lifetime of the car.
The functions of the full-LED headlight include a motorway light. The angle of the beam is raised slightly as soon as the Leon ST travels at a speed of above 68 mph for more than 30 seconds. This improves illumination of the motorway without irritating other road users.