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Hire car bingo - Seat Leon 1.2 TSi

I picked up a hire car at Gatwick last week. “Avis group B, Astra or similar” had been ordered for me.  What I got was a petrol 1.2 TSi Seat Leon 5 door hatch, in SE trim. That made it interesting on two counts – I’ve not driven a Leon before or tried that engine.

First impressions were good. The seat (and Seat) was comfortable, the clutch felt light and the 6 speed manual box shifted easily. And unlike the last small diesel I drove – a 1.6 Volvo D2 – it did not need a stupid amount of revs to pull away cleanly. In fact it felt pretty torquey at low revs, which was a pleasant surprise as I’d expected to have to thrash it to death.  

I suspected that SE must be quite basic as it had smallish wheels (17’s), manual aircon, the Satnav said “not available” when I pressed the button and the traffic info was disabled. But it found my iPhone over Bluetooth on the second attempt, so at least I could play tunes on the way home through a stereo that was much better than I expected.  And the steering wheel was leather trimmed.

On the motorway it cruised with the traffic, was quiet, with little road noise (courtesy of the higher profile tyres I suspect) and wasn’t a bad place to spend time. You needed to shift down to 5th to accelerate much as 6th was a true overdrive. When I refilled the car for them to pick it up, it had done 49 mpg  (true figure) in a combination of motorway cruising and heavy traffic stop start.

Hardly a true long term test - no B roads, no over-takes. But as a car for a job, it did its job well.

I liked the fact that it was boringly normal inside in terms of dials (round and big), switches and layout. But it did have that stupid thing where the tacho is graded in x100 revs. So at first glance it looks like a second speedo running at half speed! Who on earth thinks that grading a tacho in 100’s is good? Other minuses were that some of the plastics were very hard and scratchy in places you would like to see better finishes – like the door caps, arm rest and centre console.

I didn’t have to try the lights, probably thankfully as I remember Simon saying the ones on his Leon were terrible.  

When I got home I looked on the Seat website and SE is the second trim level up (S, SE, FR, Cupra). You have to get the Tech pack to get Satnav and the like. The website gives the 1.2TSi as 110PS, 175Nm, 9.9 0-62, 114 CO2, 46.3 urban mpg and 57.6 combined.

But the list price was £17,700k. Without Sat Nav. seems a bit optimistic, which is borne out by Drive the Deal offering them at just over £14k which seems more resasonable.

My overall view? As an £18k car, no thanks. But as £14k car, it merits a “better than expected” again. Which must be praise, as given the choice between this and, say, the Volvo V40 diesel I’ve had as a loan car, I’d take this. And engine wise, if this is the way that lower sized petrols are going, then bring it on v diesel any day.

You do get a discount fairly easily when you buy a SEAT. I got about 4 grand off mine from memory and the Cupra had only just been released back then.

The price seems about right for a mid range turbo petrol Focus sized car TBH regardless of nav. Most cars in that class are about £20k with nav and a Diesel engine.

The 1.2 TSI is a well regarded engine from hat I've read although I've only tried the 1.4 TSI (in 160bhp and 180bhp forms in a Jetta and Fabia vrs). It's slowly being superseded by the 1.0 TSI which has replaced it in the Golf and A3 with the Octavia getting the smaller engine in the summer. The 1.0 is rated at 115ps despite being a 3 pot so should be quite good to drive, I'll let you all know in October!

I am currently trundling around in this - a 1.4 TSI according to the keyring.

It must be the same sort of spec as it has auto lights/wipers/interior mirror dim, climate, leather wheel etc - but not a great deal else.

It's very pleasant - steers nicely, rides well, refined, comfortable (done 1,300km in it so far), brisk, economical.

My only real complaints are that the pedals are spaced too far apart for easy heel and toe, and that the door stay positions are ridiculous - first one isn't enough to get into the car easily; the next is fully open at pretty much 90 deg to the car which is generally impossible in a car park. This was taken in a very wide space!

No parking sensors either, but then I'm used to that...


I thought the A3 would be a bit posher and have 3 positions for the doors. Sadly not...

PR wrote:
I am currently trundling around in this - a 1.4 TSI according to the keyring.

It must be the same sort of spec as it has auto lights/wipers/interior mirror dim, climate, leather wheel etc - but not a great deal else.

I didn't have those, but maybe Euro specs are different?

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