Seat goes upscale with new Leon
Next-generation model joins VW Golf, Audi A3 in sharing MQB platform
LISBON, Portugal -- Seat has had a busy year revamping its model lineup. At the beginning of 2012, the automaker launched the Mii minicar from parent Volkswagen Group's New Small Family range that includes the VW Up. At the end of June, the Spanish brand presented the new Toledo compact sedan and now, just a few weeks later, Seat has revealed the new Leon compact five-door hatchback.
Unlike the Toledo, the Leon sits on VW Group's new Modular Transverse Matrix architecture, which in German goes by the acronym MQB, short for Modularer Querbaukasten. The platform will underpin all the group's cars with a transverse-mounted engine. By 2018, VW Group plans to make 40 models, generating production of 6 million vehicles using the MQB platform.
At 4260mm (168 inches), the Leon is not as long as the 4480mm Toledo. According to Seat, the Leon is a more upscale than the Toledo and therefore its starting price -- about 15,000 euros in Spain -- will be 2,000 euros higher.
"The Leon uses A-grade components from VW whereas the Toledo derives directly from the Skoda Rapide and will be more suited to BRIC and other less sophisticated markets," a VW source told Automotive News Europe.
The Leon is an important to part of the Spanish brand's plans to grow sales outside its home market, which is being hit hard by Europe's debt crisis. New-car sales in Spain fell 8.2 percent to 406,070 in the first six months, according to data from ANFAC, the Spanish carmakers association. The organization believes full-year sales are unlikely to top 750,000, compared with 1.6 million deliveries in 2007.
The compact market is one of Europe's most competitive segments so Seat plans to develop the Leon range beyond the initial five-door hatchback. "It will first come as a five-door model and will subsequently grow with further variants into a full-fledged family," said James Muir, Seat's president.
Design-wise, Seat has moved the Leon upmarket with a sportier look, new interior designs and full-LED headlamps, a first for a mass-market compact, according to Seat.
The height of the new Leon has been reduced by 50mm than its predecessor, yet the wheelbase is 60mm longer due to the new platform, which allows more interior space for rear-seat passengers and 40 liters more luggage room than its predecessor. The new model is also 90kg(198 pounds) lighter as a combined result of a shorter body and more intensive use of lightweight materials in manufacturing.
Seat will offer customers a choice of gasoline and diesel engines in the Leon, varying in size from 1.2 liters to 2.0 liters, all featuring direct injection and turbocharging technology.
The 1.6 TDI Ecomotive engine will be the most frugal, according to Seat, consuming 3.8 liters of diesel per 100km (62 mpg U.S./74 mpg UK) and emitting 99 grams of CO2 per kilometer.
Depending on the engine, transmission options range from five- and six-speed manual gearboxes or six- and seven-speed dual-clutch transmissions.
The Leon will go on sale in Europe in the fourth quarter after its premiere at the Paris auto show in September.
Seat is the only brand in the Volkswagen Group that failed to increase deliveries in the first six months, VW reported last week. Sales fell 12.4 percent to 163,300 as the Spanish unit continued to be hit by poor economic conditions in southern Europe.
You can reach Joaquim Oliveira at firstname.lastname@example.org.