Another VW Golf In Disguise
Unbeatable For Quality, Content At The Price; But Matchable By Many
Brand Name Still Means Nothing, Despite Years Of Trying
You might as well call it Brand A for all the locomotion you get from the name
Skoda at least says “look at me” I’m brave enough to buy this, despite that fact that it’s been a laughing stock for half a century
For – looks nice, high quality, keenish prices
Against – SEAT means nowt
Why would you buy a SEAT? For all the Spain-based Volkswagen subsidiary’s frantic efforts to establish some kind of memorable image with an expensive and often risible involvement with saloon car racing, the result is a brand with zero power to attract buyers.
You might just as well call it Brand A for all the locomotion you get from the name. So any SEAT has to be viewed simply on price. For it to succeed in the showroom, there has to be a powerful case for value. When you think of other price contenders like Hyundai and Kia of Korea, they have fabulous guarantees to persuade waverers, not to mention a new styling “wow” factor, and interiors that often would not shame a BMW. Companies like Chevrolet also want to persuade the value-seeker to come on down. And think of all the other mediocre names with zero brand power. There’s Peugeot, Citroen and Renault of France, Fiat of Italy and Vauxhall/Opel, all with only price to differentiate them. And there is SEAT’s sister company Skoda, which at least has the differentiator for its buyers of “look at me” I’m brave enough to buy this, despite that fact that it’s been a laughing stock for half a century.
Sit on it
So why would you walk into a SEAT showroom which arguably has the least brand resonance of all of the above? Well, it might be the nearest dealer in your area, and that’s about all I can come up with. It might help if VW changed the name of the company to something that didn’t suggest you sit on it. Rumour has it that this might be Alfa Romeo one day, if VW decides to buy the Italian and replace SEAT with it. That throws up all kinds of new problems like changing the perception of an Italian brand which has flattered to deceive since time immemorial, with great looking and sounding cars, which almost always let you down.
This is a shame because the new SEAT Leon is an outstanding vehicle, just like most of the competition. The new Leon is another VW Golf in disguise, just like its new sibling the Skoda Octavia or Audi A3 under the skin. So there’s no question marks about the engineering, quality or driveability. Prices start at £15,670, so that should get your attention too, although of course you will have immediately noted the word “start” and wondered where it might end. The new Leon looks very nice too.
Standard equipment includes air conditioning, an MP3 compatible six-speaker CD player, integrated hands-free phone, and a colour touch screen. Every new Leon comes with seven airbags, traction control, electronic stability control with emergency brake assist, and active front head restraints. There are three trim levels; S, SE and FR. SE adds things like ambient interior lighting, a leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, chrome dashboard detailing, front fog lights, cruise control, 16-inch wheels, and hill hold control and adds £1,120. FR versions are more powerful and have 17-inch wheels, twin chrome exhaust pipes, dark tinted windows, front sports seats, a flat-bottomed leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, LED tail lights, and sports suspension. This is £2,520 extra. The Leon is also the first family hatchback to offer LED headlamps. The interior is nice with high quality, soft-touch materials.
Engines include a 1.6 litre 104 hp diesel which is said to achieve 74.3 mpg. Yea sure. You can have a range of petrol engines – 1.2 to 1.8 litres – or diesels – 1.6 to 2.0 litres with varying power outputs, five or six-speed manual gearboxes and a seven-speed automatic. That adds up to a fantastic, perhaps even a bewildering, choice.
So how about this link with “racing”. Skoda wastes millions every year on the Tour de France for no return. SEAT dumps an unknown amount on to saloon car racing. I bet that if you could interview every buyer of a new SEAT and ask them why they bought the car, racing would not be mentioned. The buyer would not even be aware SEAT raced. This is a car in the value section of the market. That’s what motivates its buyers. What does it cost? How reliable is it? How much depreciation will it suffer? But listen to this.
“Motorsport is deeply embedded in SEAT’s DNA and also on-going proof of our technical expertise. With the experience and know-how of experts working at SEAT Sport we have been able to offer a very competitive vehicle for all our customers,” says Dr. Matthias Rabe, SEAT’s Vice President for Research and Development.
It’s hard to know where to start with that quote, but did you get by “Motorsport is deeply embedded in SEAT’s DNA” without collapsing with laughter?
(SEAT provided one night in an hotel)
Neil Winton – April 10, 2013
|SEAT Leon S 1.6 TDI
|Engine:||1.6 litre 4-cylinder diesel
|Power:||104 hp @3,000-4,000
|Torque:||250 NM @ 1,500-2,750
|Acceleration:||0-62 mph-100 km/h 10.7 seconds
|Top Speed:||119 mph-191 km/h
|Fuel Consumption:||claimed combined 74.3 mpg-3.8 l/km
|Boot capacity:||380 litres
|Competition:||VW Golf, Hyundai i30, Kia C’eed, Mazda3, Audi A3, BMW 1 Series, Vauxhall/Opel Astra, Proton GEN-2, Peugeot 308, Renault Megane, Toyota Auris, Honda Civic, Nissan Note, Nissan Qashqai, Citroen C4, Mitsubishi Lancer, Ford Focus, Mercedes A class, Skoda Octavia
|Price:||£18,750 with safety pack (£115), lifestyle pack (£395) and comfort pack – cruise control and rear parking sensors (£395)|
|For:||looks nice, high quality, keenish prices
|Against:||SEAT means nowt