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SEAT has revealed a wealth of information and sharp studio photography of its all-new third generation Leon hatch. It's launched as a five-door as before, though SEAT confirms there'll be a whole family of models (including a particularly sporty three-door hatchback, likely to be called the Leon SC). The new car is lighter and smaller on the outside, though claimed to be more spacious inside. Its world debut will be at the Paris Motor Show this September, which is when SEAT rolls out a restyled logo as well.
It's no surprise that the new SEAT Leon is a looker. All recent concept cars from the Spanish manufacturer have been attractive and the car it replaces is still good-looking. The recently refreshed Ibiza clearly previewed SEAT's new family look with distinctive angles in the headlights and plenty of sharply delineated curves in the body work - most notably in the character lines up the sides. Gone are the 'hidden' rear door handles of old, though the side glass echoes the profile of the outgoing car. Those headlights feature LED daytime running lamps and buyers can pay for full LED lighting.
Built on the Volkswagen Group's new MQB platform, the Leon is considerably smaller than before. It is 50mm shorter overall, yet the wheelbase has been lengthened by 60mm to the benefit of space. Weight has been reduced by a commendable 90kg too.
Along with more space inside, SEAT has somehow increased the size of the boot to 380 litres - up 40 litres on its predecessor. The single image we have of the cabin reveals an attractive shape and SEAT promises we'll get a premium feel. Helping that will be a range of new infotainment options, all based around an operating system called Easy Connect. Even the entry-level version should get a five-inch touch screen interface with an SD card slot. It is extended in higher models with a larger colour screen, USB, aux-in and Bluetooth connectivity and should also allow access to some of the car control functions (what, we don't as yet know).
It looks like SEAT's Leon will be one of the first models on the MQB platform to feature a range of updated engines too. Along with the well-proven 1.6-litre TDI unit (105hp, 250Nm, as low as 99g/km CO2), SEAT will introduce a 150hp 2.0-litre TDI engine with 320Nm of torque, which returns as high as 70.6mpg in the Ecomotive model. That diesel engine will spawn a high-performance variant in time too, with 185hp and 380Nm at its disposal.
Petrol power comes in the form of a range of turbocharged TSI engines from the 1.2-litre putting out either 86- or 105hp, via a 1.4-litre with 122hp to a 180hp 1.8-litre unit. Gearboxes include five- and six-speed manuals and six- and seven-speed dual-clutch automatics.
The Leon is the first model to feature SEAT Drive Profile, which allows the driver to choose from eco, comfort and sport modes for the power steering, throttle map and - in the FR models - engine sound using some form of sound symposer. The interior ambient LED lighting can even be altered to suit each mode.
SEAT will be vying for attention at the Paris Motor Show this September, where Volkswagen will launch its sister car to the Leon, the new Golf.
We can confirm that the new Leon will hit Irish showrooms in February 2013 at broadly similar pricing to the current car - that means a starting price of less than €20,000.
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