SEAT, the Spanish carmaker that is part of the Volkswagen Group, has unveiled the all-new Leon which will have its public launching in Geneva in March. Over 2.2 million units have been sold since it was added to the SEAT range in 1999 and, like the latest Volkswagen Golf 8 and Skoda Octavia 4, it sits on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB Evo platform.
“The SEAT Leon has been improving generation after generation being able to conquer new customers. In 2019, the Leon was the best-selling car for SEAT with more than 150,900 vehicles delivered, as well as being the best-selling car in Spain during the past 5 years,” said SEAT’s Executive Vice-President for Sales & Marketing and CUPRA CEO, Wayne Griffiths. “We have now created the best Leon ever. The new Leon has been designed keeping the ‘created in Barcelona’ spirit and at the same time being the safest, most connected and with the widest range of engines the brand has ever seen. We believe we have all the ingredients to make of the new Leon a great choice not only for private customers but also for corporate fleets.”
Evolutionary approach to design
The exterior design takes an evolutionary approach that enhances the volume and proportions of the vehicle, with the increased wheelbase which translates to 49 mm extra legroom for rear occupants, and length for both the 5-door and the Estate. The form was specifically developed to enhance overall efficiency with improved aerodynamics that have the drag coefficient (Cd) lowered by around 8% compared to the previous generation.
Typical of Spanish design philosophy, the car’s appearance has a lot of personality, with a stronger three-dimensional connection between the grille and headlights together. The headlights are set back, giving it deeper focus while making it instantly recognisable. The body surfaces have evolved, with stronger shapes creating more shift in the light and colour tone across the body, which together create a more elegant design.
The new Leon gets the latest in lighting technology, with the cold white light colour of the LEDs provide superior luminosity of up to 900 lumens, (standard LEDS provide up to 550 lumens), thanks to the packing of 22 LEDs per module. There is integration of all the dipped beam, high beam and daytime running lights. Dynamic indicators more clearly show car’s intended direction of travel when turning, apart from being eye-catching features.
Functionality, minimalism and sleekness
Inside, the evolutionary theme continues with a clear emphasis on functionality, minimalism and sleekness. The smooth-surfaced, slim yet wide dashboard gives the appearance of lightness and appears to float. The effect is created with the help of the decorative mouldings that surround the dashboard and continue through into the front doors.
The cabin has been ergonomically designed to increase comfort, with everything within decluttered, reducing the number of physical buttons to a minimum, with a focus on the main infotainment screen, which includes gesture recognition, providing all key interaction and commands from the occupants.
Interior light is an important feature of the all-new Leon. It includes a wraparound dashboard light that covers its entire width and continues through the doors. It’s not only an ambient decorative light, but it also provides a number of key functions including blind spot detection.
A fully connected car
The Leon is declared as the brand’s first fully connected car, interfacing extensively with the more digitalised world. At the heart of the interior is the SEAT Digital Cockpit which brings together a high-resolution 10.25-inch configurable driver instrument cluster and 10-inch infotainment system. Its ‘diagonal’ graphic design positioning gets inspiration from the Diagonal avenue of Barcelona, the home city of the company. It’s also the first time that the design interface has been created at the new SEAT Digital Lab.
A new voice recognition system enables a natural understanding of language to allow the user to interact with the infotainment system using natural commands, making corrections and referencing previous commands. With the Full Link system, the occupants can connect their smartphones and access their digital data no matter what device they use – either wireless Apple CarPlay (based on Bluetooth or WLAN) or Android Auto using a cabled connection.
The built-in eSIM delivers the eCall service which has been required on all new cars since April 2018. This service directly contacts emergency services should an incident occur. At the same time, the system transmits vital data to the emergency services such as the car’s location (based on GPS data), engine type, and number of passengers.
Car2X connectivity is a cloud-based technology that enables drivers to receive advanced warning on the status of upcoming traffic lights or an incident on a motorway further up the road, with traffic information appearing in real-time on the screen.
Wide range of powertrains
Besides petrol (TSI) and diesel (TDI) engines, customers can also have mild-hybrid (eTSI) and plug-in hybrid (eHybrid) powertrains. Transmissions available are both 6-speed manual or a 7-speed DSG (direct shift gearbox) transmission. The DSG automatic transmission now benefits from shift-by-wire technology. The system is designed so that the gear selector is no longer mechanically connected to the gearbox, instead using electronic signals to indicate a shift.
The petrol engines are all direct-injection, turbocharged units with outputs between 110 ps and 190 ps. These include a 1.0-litre 3-cylinder unit as well as a 1.5-litre TSI 4-cylinder unit. Both engines use a Miller-cycle combustion process and variable geometry turbocharger to ensure performance and efficiency, as does the integrated Active Cylinder Management.
There are 2 diesel powertrain options, both 2.0 litre TDI units, with outputs of 115 ps and 150 ps. The turbodiesel engines introduce a new Selective Catalytic Reduction system that includes dual AdBlue injectors to significantly reduce NOx emissions compared to previous generation diesel engines.
As for the Mild Hybrid (eTSI) powertrains, these employ the 1.0 TSI and 1.5 litre TSI petrol engines which are mated to a 48V starter-generator, with energy from a lithium-ion battery pack. The car can coast (no pedal input from the driver) with the engine switched off (while retaining all key electric functions, such as power steering), harvest energy under deceleration and provide electrical torque assistance during acceleration.
The eHybrid variant is a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and this uses a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with the electric motor, a 13-kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 6-speed DSG transmission. The system output is 204 ps and recharging a totally empty battery pack to 100% is said to take less than 3.5 hours. The PHEV Leon can run on electric power only with a claimed range of 60 kms.
Highly-developed assistance systems
The latest Leon is the safest vehicle the brand has ever developed, the carmaker declares. The safety systems see more of its surroundings and react to obstacles on the road or sudden movements by other drivers, thanks to the integration of a suite of updated and completely new advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS). The new technologies continually sense the environment to offer the optimum protection whatever the scenario.
Predictive Adaptive Cruise Control (PACC) and Emergency Assist 3.0 protect the vehicle and its occupants while driving or stationary. PACC uses feeds from GPS data delivered from the navigation system and input from the front-mounted camera and Traffic Sign Recognition, allowing it to proactively adjust the cruising speed depending on the road layout ahead (bends, roundabouts, junctions, changes in speed limits and built-up areas). This reduces the requirement for driver input and also sudden speed changes and manoeuvres.
Production of the new model has started at the SEAT factory but prices are unlikely to be announced till March. However, like Skoda, SEAT products would be slightly cheaper than equivalent Volkswagen models.