LeonOC.com where kindly invited to the UK Media launch of the new MK3 Leon 5 Door on Wednesday 20th march. The MK3 Leon is based on the VW Group’s new MQB platform which also is used on the Golf and Audi A3.
The event was held in the picturesque village of Lower Slaughter in The Cotswolds, The venue was The Slaughter Inn which is full of 17th century character and surrounded by amazing scenery.
The event started at 9am, Arrived at the venue and was greeted by a car park full of MK3 Leon’s the first thing that stood out was every single one had the headlights on, LED Headlights that stood out against the 17th century backdrop, The MK3 Leon has some very sharp edged styling compared to previous generations and this styling also sets it apart from the new Golf and A3. The MQB platform is built using hot formed high strength steel which allows a saving of upto 90kg over the previous generation.
At 09:30 the press presentation started the speaker was SEAT UK’s new head of press and public relations Juliet Carrington. After a short 30 minute presentation about the MK3 Leon including videos and photography we where invited to drive any of the selection of cars in the car park.
The cars available on the day where:
Leon S 1.2 TSI 105 PS
Leon S 1.6 TDI 105 PS
Leon SE 1.2 TSI 105 PS
Leon SE 1.6 TDI 105 PS
Leon SE 2.0 TDI 150 PS
Leon FR 1.4 TSI 140 PS
Leon FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS
A Spanish registered Leon FR 2.0TDI 184PS was also available for driving on the day something which I experienced later in the day. Two MK2 Leon’s where also on hand for journalist’s who hadn’t driven the previous generation Leon, For me I didn’t need to test these as I currently have a MK2 Leon Cupra R 2.0TFSI which is putting out slightly more power than the standard 265bhp.
The first car selected was the Leon FR 2.0TDI 150PS model, I had paired up with a journalist called Alan from a major motoring magazine which I sat with in the press presentation earlier. We selected the 1hour 35 route and off we went, A selection of rural and town driving was experienced on this route, The car drove very smoothly and handled the poor road surfaces very well and offered a great deal of comfort, The Common Rail 150ps TDI engine pulled very well and was quiet compared to the previous generation Pump Duse engines. I was driving first so I kindly asked Alan if he minded if I tried out the car in a spirited manner to which he replied he was more than happy for me to, putting the car through the paces of a person who is always running late I was able to test out how the car handled on the tight and twisty country lanes and was very pleased with the outcome. We turned on the built in Sat-Nav system which is a massive upgrade compared to the outgoing Leon’s RNS310 system, The MK3 Leon FR also had a display on the MFD that showed oil temperature which is something that many of us MK2 owners have been wanting for a long time. Half way through the route I pulled over to swap places with Alan.
The rest of the journey then allowed me to have a look around the car, Feel the materials and look at the shapes, The first thing I noticed was the shape of the new MK3 Leon mirror’s which looked very styled compared to the previous generation Leon’s. The FR we had was fitted with seat’s that featured Alcantara in the middle of them which was very nice. The car is just as comfy as a passenger as it was from the drivers seat but if I had to find something I didn’t like with the MK3 Leon it would have to be the front wipers which have returned to a more traditional wiper compared to the wiper’s on the MK2 Leon which are one of my favourite parts of the MK2 but this is of course my own personal opinion.
We returned to The Slaughters Inn handed over the keys and went to grab a coffee break, This provided the opportunity to grab a word with Juliet Carrington who I personally have never met before, Juliet is very passionate about cars having previously worked for Audi as the press fleet & VIP relations manager and Skoda as the media relations manager amongst other car brands, Juliet could answer every question I threw at her. The main question for me somebody that owns a previous generation Cupra R was details on the expected Cupra to which she replied wait and see!. We had a good old chat about everything SEAT and I was very impressed to see the newly appointed head of press & public relations was so passionate about SEAT as a brand.
One of the SEAT support crew then came and informed me that I was next up on the waiting list for the FR 2.0TDI 184PS Spanish Registered car, I grabbed my Alan and off we went again, because the car was in high demand we picked the shortest route which took 35 minutes. The car itself was very much the same as the car we drove previously with two differences, This car had the 184ps engine compared to the 150PS and this car was the only car in the car park that had the multi-link rear suspension, All the other model’s had torsion-beam rear suspension, Previous in the day when I drove the 150PS TDI FR I had noted how well it handled and that was with the torsion-beam suspension so I was excited to see how the power and suspension felt on this car. I was first to drive again and straight away I struggled when I got into the car and went to grab my seat belt, Only to find that it wasn’t on the right where it usually would be. After about 10 minutes of driving I started to get used to being on the wrong side of the car and started to enjoy the car, The handling felt different, we headed into the country lanes again which provided me with the opportunity to test out the 184PS engine and was pleasantly surprised with the way the torque was delivered. I previously owned a Pump Duse 170PS Leon which was modified and the PD engine has always been known as a very punchy engine, I had since driven the Common Rail 140PS and 170PS engine’s fitted to the Facelift 2nd generation Leon’s and although they were smooth and quiet I found them lacking a little bit in the torque punch department. The 184PS engine however drove more like my old PD170 which put a smile on my face. Apart from the extra power and slightly better handling there wasn’t much more to report from this car. Test drive concluded and if I was to pick a car to buy right now for me personally it would be the 2.0TDI 184PS. The FR comes with a new technology for the Leon called SEAT Drive Profile, it allows the driver to choose between 4 different set ups for the car, The first being ECO, Second comes Normal, Third is Sport and the fourth is a custom setting that allows you fine tune the settings. Usually these types of technology don’t really do much but when you adjusted the settings on the Leon FR you could feel the difference.
SEAT provided a light buffet at lunch time with a selection of Spanish Tapas. Although I love my food and love other traditions when it comes to food I can’t say I have had much Tapas in the past so this was a nice time to get into the Spanish spirit.
Many of the journalist’s commented through out the day on how good the 1.4TSI 150PS FR was and I have to agree it is a very good engine and feels nice, I personally come from a background of Diesel ownership and would rank the 1.4TSI engine second in my list to the 2.0TDI 184PS but for the petrol purist’s the 1.4TSI is the engine to have until the 1.8TSI 180PS arrives. Power delivery from the 1.4 is good, this engine has ACT (Active Cylinder Technology) which closes down the second and third cylinder during low to medium throttle openings which reduces fuel consumption.
The rest of the afternoon was spent talking to other journalist’s while walking around the car park looking over the cars on show. One of the Leon’s was fitted with a nice cream leather interior, The colour wasn’t for me but the leather seat’s felt a lot better quality compared to the leather seat’s fitted in my MK2 LCR which feel very plastic, This just strengthened the fact that SEAT had improved the quality of the materials used over previous generations.
Throughout the day I also got to chat to the SEAT UK Team which comprised of Mark who is the senior press officer, Katherine press relations manager and Adrienne press administrator. The afternoon was banter full with the SEAT UK team, Mark even managed to find some really old SEAT press release photo’s of the MK2 Ibiza and MK1 Alhambra to which we all had a laugh.
A lovely meal was put on in the evening served with wine, Some journalist’s arrived before the meal ready for the Thursday event which allowed me to speak to people I hadn’t spoke to all day, They all asked the same question though, From a MK2 Leon owners point of view how do I find the MK3 which leads me to my conclusion.
- If I had to replace my MK2 with a MK3 which car would I pick? For me the FR 2.0 184PS would be the choice followed very closely by the 1.4TSI 150PS, this might change though when the 1.8TSI 180PS arrives.
- Has the MK3 Leon evolved, has it become more grown up and will it hold its own against the A3 and Golf? Yes, the car has some very sharp lines which separate it from the A3 and Golf in terms of styling, SEAT are aiming this car at a younger generation of owners, the evolution is obvious when you get inside the MK3 and spend time with it and the material quality has improved a lot. It’s packed with technology and with regards to lighting especially the LED set up it’s a first in its class. Every journalist I spoke to said the same thing that after driving the MK7 Golf recently the Leon felt a lot more positive and was surprisingly different to drive in a positive way especially the gearbox.
- Was there anything I didn’t like about the MK3? To be perfectly honest yes there are a few little things that I didn’t like and it wouldn’t be fair for me not to mention them here, I have also mentioned them to Juliet Carrington. The first thing is the rear door handles, I like how the MK2 Leon has them hidden away and I think the MK3 Leon also could have had them hidden away. The front wipers have also returned to a more traditional style of wiper compared to the MK2 which had them hidden up the side of the windscreen for me once again the MK3 could have had them like the MK2. The third and last thing is the steering wheel, Every car I got in even the FR had a very thin steering wheel compared to the chunky steering wheel found on the MK2 FR, Cupra and Cupra R this once again is my personal opinion but I would of preferred a slightly thicker wheel on the FR.
The Final Say
The MK3 Leon has surprised me and impressed me, Pictures on the internet don’t really do it justice as it looks even better in the flesh, You cant appreciate the technology and materials in pictures, It handles very well and feels well built, On a general note I feel it would be fair to say that’s its evolved nicely from the MK2. This car is a very important car for SEAT taking the company forward from now on and I feel they have a very good car to take the company forward. I would be very happy to recommend this car to friends and family and it’s not because I am enthusiastic about SEAT but because I believe this is a good car. I just hope that SEAT finally listen to the enthusiasts and build a MK3 Leon Cupra R that is more at home on the track rather than the shopping centre like Renault have with their Megane Cup and RS recently.
I would like to say thank-you to The SEAT UK team who invited me for this day, Not just the team mentioned above but all of the support crew that came along with them, The guys that stayed out in the car park all day in the cold, I would also like to thank The Slaughters Inn staff who made my stay very welcoming.
Andrew Barratt, Leon Owners Club Admin
The views expressed above are of my own acting as a representative of LeonOC.com