SEAT Leon ST handsome holdall with huge appeal

SEAT Leon ST is a stylish compact estate car that has loads of room and is entertaining to drive.

SEAT Leon ST is a stylish compact estate car that has loads of room and is entertaining to drive. - Credit: SEAT

SEAT has extended its stylish Leon's appeal with a spacious ST estate that measures up, says motoring editor Andy Russell.

While driving the new SEAT Leon ST I saw an old SEAT Cordoba which made me appreciate how far the Spanish car-maker has come in terms of its models' dynamic styling and desirability.

That's certainly the case with the latest Leon, for me the best-looking SEAT ever so no wonder it is making the most of it with the five-door hatchback and three-door SC Sport Soupe being joined by the first ever estate version called a Sport Tourer – ST for short.

There was a time when estates were slabby and boxy and you had one because you needed, rather than wanted, one. Now compact estates, like the Leon ST, are lifestyle statements and more like stretched hatchbacks. The Leon ST has lost none of the hatchback's sharp looks with its bold curves and strong contours creating contrasting patches of light and shade to really show off the dynamic design.

What the ST gains with its longer body is a vast 587-litre boot – one of the biggest in its class and bigger than some from the class above, too. And, with no spare wheel, there is plenty of underfloor storage space as well as little cubbyholes each side of the boot floor – ideal for things like cans of de-icer.

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All Leon STs get a twin level boot floor – flush with the load sill in its raised position – and roof rails.

Lay the rear seats down and the loadbay swells to 1,470 litres and, with the boot going back a long way, it swallowed a large mower and garden roller when I was called in to help give my son's new lawn some TLC. And it's so easy on mid-spec SE and range-topping FR versions with easy-release handles for the 60/40 rear seat backs in the boot sidewalls as well as buttons on the seat backs themselves so they just drop flat on to the cushions. And if you have you hands full, just press the leading edge of the tonneau cover and it retracts – it's touches like these that make the Leon ST so easy to live with.

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It's not just good at carrying loads either with lots of legroom in the back so can carry four large adults with easy, but a passenger in the centre rear seat has to straddle a large hump in the floor.

Petrol power is popular for the hatchback and SC but the 105PS 1.6-litre turbo diesel is expected to be the pick for the ST which is likely to carry heavier loads.

It's flexible at low revs with punchy, refined mid-range performance with the standard sweet-shifting five-speed manual gearbox– you can also have the DSG automatic transmission. Easy to drive, it's also easy on the wallet with a best of 67mpg in real-world motoring and 58mpg overall without being eco-minded.

The ride is on the firm side but supple damping takes the sting out of the worst bumps and lumps and road noise is kept in check.

The hatchback and SC are entertaining to drive but you won't feel you're missing out by going for the ST which is equally agile and rewarding to drive on twisty country roads with the electro-mechanical steering weighting up at speed and getting progressively sharper to enhance the driving experience.

The cabin is well trimmed with soft-touch materials where you see and come into contact with them but the plastics are harder and less tactile lower down but will prove durable and easy to clean.

The driving position has all the adjustment short or tall people need to get comfortable at the wheel and the fascia is uncluttered with large, clear dials, straightforward controls and many functions controlled via a high-level touchscreen. There's also lots of cabin storage including a large glovebox and doorbins.

Safety equipment and creature comforts are SEAT strongpoints. Entry-level S includes seven airbags, traction and stablity control, air-con, electric front windows, remote central locking and colour touchscreen, USB and auxiliary ports, SD card slot and Bluetooth. Go for SE and the gains include upgraded cabin trim, front fog lights with cornering function, cruise control, electric rear windows, 16in alloys, electronic limited-slip differential and hill-hold control.

SEAT has raised it game again to a new level with the latest Leon and the ST offers style and space in equal measure in a well-conceived attractive package.

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