09 Dec 2013
SEAT LEON ST: First Drive
Aidan Timmons was in Barcelona attending the international launch of the SEAT Leon ST. With SEAT Ireland making pretty impressive headway in the market this year, Aidan was keen to find out if the new estate version of the Leon is likely to be a hit in Ireland.
LINK TO A VIDEO REVIEW – SEAT Leon ST review by Aidan Timmons on Vimeo.
SEAT Ireland are the latest brand to populate the market with an estate car, which is succinctly labelled the Leon ‘ST’ (an abbreviation of Sports Tourer).Tending to actuarial matters first, the range starts from €20,185 for the 1.2 TSi ‘S’ model and, omitting the somewhat irrelevant to the Irish market 1.8 TSi FR model, the range topping diesel has an equally impressive price tag as the petrol version standing at €28,095. Buyers who opt for the most fuel efficient option, namely the 1.6 TDi 105 with start stop technology, can expect an invoice for €24,405.
However (and sticking with the numbers game ahead of any initial first hand impressions of the car’s road manners) the PCP finance option sort of reduces the price tag to an even more pleasant shock at just €239 per month for the most fuel efficient option. I try to not make a habit of repeating myself but it’s warranted on this occasion. This means a brand new SEAT LEON ST with 99g CO2 per kilometre, a 3.8 litres per 100/km fuel efficiency figure and appointed in a perfectly acceptable ‘SE’ trim level can be purchased for €239 per month. The hatchback model Leon was one of my favourite cars this year and with a penchant for estates I’ve come over a little smitten even with the very notion of a more practical Leon at this price point.
Will it hold it’s value?
Residual values have suffered in the past for the Leon which, it could be argued, lost out to rivals on the weight of it’s badge. Couple this with a rapidly modernizing segment and it’s not hard to comprehend the sufferings of a model that had run it’s course perhaps a year or so before it’s due revision date. Pricing of new models is key in helping the retention of as much of its value as possible and typically if a car company can keep it’s models from rising too sharply in price they can also protect against large valuation drops. This of course is barring any major fluctuations at a category or market wide level.
Here, yet again, is where PCP rides to the forefront of the Leon ST’s charge. At its most basic level, a guarantee of a minimum future valuation is a safeguard that there is a point beyond which a car’s value will not drop. These levels are set low enough to afford the financier a buffer in the case of things going wrong. Throughout Motor Trade Publishers’ assessment of the residual values of vehicles, we found that in 2009 the average prices of vehicles fell by two years worth of depreciation in a 12 month period. A repeat of this is unlikely but being offered peace of mind that if the unthinkable happens, SEAT’s customers are protected, is an insurance policy I’m sure many of you won’t mind taking.
Back to the metal
The car itself is tremendous. It will be at least another 12 months before SEAT incorporate a mini-SUV into their range so in terms of practicality, the Leon ST is where the Spanish brand have centered their focus. The delightful blend of mountainous roads and hectic rush hour Catalan traffic meant that, save the weather, the conditions were almost identical to a drive from Dublin city to the Wicklow countryside. The Leon ST handled it with aplomb, never tiring me or it out. You would have to spend quite a considerable sum of money more to find a compelling reason not to buy one. And the Leon ST isn’t a form over function car either. The boot is one of the best I’ve seen. The floor pan slides outwards and then down to provide a more accommodating loading area. Leave it sit flat if you want to avoid any back strains from leaning over a boot lip to get at heavy goods. It’s a simple design but masterfully executed.
….AND THE BOOT WITH THE LID IN THE LOWER POSITION
Estate cars have consistently captured the hearts of over 5,000 buyers every year for the last 5 years and with an increasing number of buyers keen to future proof their motoring needs whilst simultaneously downsizing and looking for an economical solution, the Leon ST makes a convincing argument in this regard. Truth be told, I wasn’t even remotely impressed with Barcelona when I first visited the city. There’s too much reliance on Gaudi’s works of art for a start. And in much the same way, estate cars have all become a little too similar for my liking. What made me change my opinion about the city and the estate was the Leon ST. It’s every bit as beautiful artistically with bulges and details in many of the right places but it’s practical and priced properly too. And thankfully I don’t have to travel that far again to drive it as it hits showroom floors here in Ireland early next year.
Aidan Timmons is the presenter for Driving Seat on TV3 and the motor trade’s most prominent figure on residual values. He is the co-editor with Motor Trade Publishers and acts as a consultant to key figures in the motor trade.