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Seat Leon (2012) first official pictures

By Ollie Kew

First Official Pictures

16 July 2012 09:00

This is the new Seat Leon. Debuting as a five-door hatchback, there'll also be a sportier three-door in the mould of the Ibiza SC and an estate in the not-too-distant future.

Lighter and packed with more technology than before, the new Leon goes on sale in late 2012.

What's new about the 2012 Seat Leon?

It might look like an upscaled version of the facelifted Ibiza, but under the skin the Leon sits on an all-new platform - the same MQB architecture that's already seeing service in the new Audi A3, and will also feature in the next Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia.

The new Leon is five centimetres shorter than its predecessor, but should have a roomier interior thanks to the extra six centimetres than have been squeezed into the wheelbase. The whole car is a useful 90kg lighter than before, too.

A longer wheelbase also enhances the car's shorter overhangs and alludes to the sporty, wheel-at-each-corner stance the Spanish outfit wants to promote as part of its sporty brief.

Other visuals to note are the all-LED headlamps - the Leon is the first family hatch to boast such a design - and the removal of hidden rear door handles in favour of conventional ones; given that this Leon will be available as a three-door, there's no longer a need for the five-door to play at being a coupe.

Is it all VW engines for the 2012 Seat Leon?

It's the usual mix of efficient petrol and diesel four-cylinder turbocharged engines for the new Leon, which are collectively 22% more efficient than those in the old car, according to Seat.

The most frugal unit is the 104bhp/184lb ft 1.6 TDI in Ecomotive trim, which will purportedly achieve 74.3mpg and 99g/km, thanks to stop-start and brake-energy recuperation. The higher-powered 2.0 TDI is good for 70.6mpg, but is stronger overall, developing 148bhp and 236lb ft.

Seat will extensively revise its petrol line-up in 2013, with a new 1.2 TSI, 1.4 TSI and 1.8 TSI family. Power outputs range from 85bhp to 178bhp, and though there's no official word on hot Cupra versions just yet, we'd be very surprised if Seat didn't continue to offer a lairy Leon with over 200bhp to rival its Golf GTI sister. More powerful Leons will bin torsion beam rear suspension for a more advanced multi-link set-up.

There's also yet more diesels on the way in 2013: a 1.6 TDI with 89 bhp will be joined by the range-topping 181bhp, 280lb ft 2.0 TDI. Engines will be mated, depending on spec, to five- or six-speed manual gearboxes, or the familiar DSG dual-clutch transmission.

New platform, new powertrains, new look. Anything else?

Seat has provided its own tailored driver settings for the new Leon FR.  Power steering, throttle control and engine sound can be varied on FR trim models, via a sound actuator using three modes: eco, comfort and sport. 

The interior ambient LED lighting changes according to the selected setting: white in eco and comfort modes, and red in sport, for when the red mist descends.

A 5.8-inch touchscreen display dominates the new interior on higher models, and contains the usual navigation and iPod functionality. You can combine this with up to 10 speakers for the full mobile disco experience.

When can I buy a new Seat Leon?

Before a seventh-gen Golf, that's for sure. Tellingly, the Seat challenger is getting a head-start on its Volkswagen relative to boost its sales chances as much as possible.

The Leon will arrive before the end of 2012, and although prices haven't been set in stone by Seat, there's unlikely to be too much of a change from the current car's £15-26,000, in order to sit below the Golf line-up.

>> Is the sharp-suited Leon enough to spearhead a Seat revival, or is the Spanish brand always destined to be VW's poor relation? Tell us what you think in the comments below.