BY BRIAN BYRNE
WITH more than 2,000 units sold this very difficult year, SEAT Ireland is snapping at the heels of Audi for a place in the top ten brands in the Irish market. The new Leon compact hatch is likely to help them achieve that before the end of 2020.
The global debut of the fourth generation of SEAT’s best-selling model worldwide happened at the beginning of the year, but thanks to the pandemic it didn’t get into Irish dealer showrooms until June. So you won’t have seen many of them yet.
You will, though. And when you do, it will stand out. Which is what the Spanish carmaker does in relation to the other marques owned by the Volkswagen Group parent. SEAT always has something on style.
The new Leon retains elements of familiarity with its predecessors, but with more edge. In addition to the hatchback, there’s an estate variant of the new model too, reflecting the popularity of the format in the previous generation — a fifth of Leons sold in 2019 here were Sportstourers.
Which is nice in an era of crossover-SUV that there’s still fight left in the compact family car segment, and in the wagon style.
In Ireland over the last couple of years, Leon has been the fourth most important model for the SEAT brand here. We got a detailed presentation last week, albeit via video-conference which remains the current way of launching cars during the coronavirus crisis. The upside is that I didn’t have to dress up. The down is that we don’t get a quick first drive.
The car is available in three configurations, each with two levels of specification. It is built on an enhanced version of Volkswagen’s compact platform, designated the MBQ EVO. It shares underpinnings with the latest Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3
There are petrol, diesel, and mild-hybrid powertrain options, and a plug-in hybrid will be available towards the end of the year.
Petrols and MHEV are 110hp and 150hp, while the diesel options are 115hp and 150hp.
Since the first generation was launched in 1998 some 2.2 million units have been sold globally, with 13,500 units in Ireland since 2000.
In-car connectivity technology includes online navigation, internet radio, and an embedded SIM. A digital cockpit is fully customisable by the owner to their own preferences. Two sizes of centre screen are available, the larger for included navigation versions.
Standard equipment through the range includes LED lights, adaptive cruise control, lane assist, auto high-beam, and air conditioning. Available details on some levels include rear view camera, park assist and other driver assistance technology, and a high end sound system.
For the 202 registration period, special offers include 2.9pc APR finance, a €1,000 online discount voucher, and three-year service plans.
Price differential between petrol and diesel is €1,900, and between manual and DSG automatic €1,800. The Sportstourer estate is €1,470 more than the hatchback.
Brand director for SEAT Ireland Niall Phillips noted that, in 2019, the brand achieved its highest ever market share here at 3.5pc, with 4,119 cars sold. This was against a total market which had shrunk by 8pc in the same year.
In 2020 year to date, despite the market difficulties caused by the coronavirus, the brand share is running close to 4pc.
Price: From €23,910.