SEAT Leon SC (2013-2017)


3dr ‘SC’ Coupe (1.2 TSI, 1.4TSI, 1.8TSI, 2.0TSI / 1.6 TDI, 2.0 TDI)

BY Jonathan Crouch


SEAT is supposed to be about ‘enjoyneering’, a marketing phrase the Spanish maker thinks is suggestive of dynamic driving, striking design and German technology. If all of that’s true, then we should certainly see it in this car, the Leon SC, a shorter, sportier version of the company’s best selling family hatch which was sold here between 2013 and 2017. Does it make a good used buy?

The History

The SEAT Leon’s always had an inherently sporty feel. Back to back World Touring Car Racing crowns in 2008 and 2009 helped of course but this aspect of the car’s reputation is probably more down to the fact that customers have tended to prefer it in the more dynamic guises that have worn FR or even Cupra badges. It’s the kind of branding most makers would pin to the boot lid of a spicy three-door or trendy little coupe, but the Leon line-up never offered us such a thing until the launch of this car, the Leon SC, in the Summer of 2013.

Its existence was made possible by the clever MQB - or ‘Modular Transverse Matrix’ – platform around which the structure of all the Volkswagen Group’s Golf-sized compact family cars was being based by 2013. Thanks to this, models produced by the German conglomerate could be lengthened or shortened almost at will by the constituent companies in the Wolfsburg empire, SEAT of course its Spanish outpost. So in this period, the Barcelona brand was able to easily lengthen its Leon family hatch to create the ST estate version. Or shorten it to bring us something sportier like this three-door SC.

Could we go as far as to call this a ‘coupe’ rather than merely a three-door hatch? Interestingly, SEAT’s marketing material from the time didn’t do that, but then went to great length to emphasise this variant’s quite distinct lower-slung dynamic character, before listing as direct rivals pretty much every affordable little family hatch-based coupe on the market. There wouldn’t have been a dilemma if, like Renault, Peugeot and Hyundai, SEAT had decided to trade sensibility for style in creating a car of this kind. But the Spaniards weren’t prepared to do that, preferring the idea of an affordable yet smartly sporting three-door practical enough for family people yet potentially stylish enough to get the odd admiring glance. Which is what we have here. It sold until 2017, when it was quietly deleted from the Leon range and not replaced.

What To Look For

As a whole, Leon SC buyers seem to be a pretty satisfied lot, though we did come across a few issues in our survey. There were quite a few gearshift issues, so check that out on your test drive. One owner we came across had had trouble selecting first; another with selecting 2nd and 3rd; and yet another with selecting 4th, 5th and 6th. Whilst you’re on your test drive, look out for any signs of sluggish running – a few owners reported that. Oh and listen out for suspension rattles, another reported issue.

One problem that SEAT are apparently aware of is the occasional tendency for a few rogue 2.0 TDI diesel models to suffer an occasional loss of power when cruising on constant throttle. One owner we came across had a door seal leak, another had a dashboard lighting issue. Bear in mind too that headlight bulbs are very expensive to replace.

On The Road

You probably won’t be too surprised to hear that this Leon SC offers a very similar driving experience to that of its five-door stablemate. And fortunately, that’s a very good thing. In this, the Spanish engineers were helped immeasurably by the fact that like its Volkswagen Group cousins, the Audi A3, the Volkswagen Golf and the Skoda Octavia, this car rides on the organisation’s hi-tech MQB platform, underpinnings upon which billions of euros were lavished. It shows too, this car able to handle even the poorest surfaces with supple confidence, yet hold its own on the twisty stuff, where body roll is well controlled.

This is proper ‘sportiness’, complementing the agile, eager feel that’s always epitomised Leon motoring in its pokier guises. Yet even if you choose one of the more firmly-specifed ‘FR’ models with their lower, stiffer suspension and wider tyres, it’s a dynamic recipe you’ll still be happy to live with in the traffic jams, urban jungles and motorway mileages of real life. There’s an extra dash of spirit in this car which for some reason, we just don’t feel in an apparently identical three-door Volkswagen Golf or Audi A3. Perhaps the sportier styling and more dynamic brand image that this SEAT has lead you to push it that little bit harder, revealing unexpected handling talent that its Wolfsburg group stablemates could also offer if only given the chance. Maybe. But somehow we doubt it.

But if we can’t explain to you why even an entry-level version of this Leon can offer a reasonable enthusiastic drive, we can at least elaborate on the reasons why the pokier variants further up the range really relish a good flogging. Go for a model with more than 150PS and it’ll also come with multilink rear suspension. It’s a set-up more suitable for high performance driving, with five links per side allowing greater lateral movement for improved contact with the road, particularly during high speed cornering when the tyres are at the limit of their grip. It’s a pity more Leon SC variants don’t get it. After all, Ford fits such a set-up to even the humblest versions of its three-door Focus.

Still, at least most Leon SCs do get the clever XDS electronic differential lock, there to help you get the power down more quickly out of tight corners, dialing out understeer and firing you from bend to bend. Something you’ll feel minded to enjoy pretty often in the sportiest variants, the 265PS Cupra – which offers a 2.0-litre TSI turbo petrol engine in a form even pokier than that used in the VW Golf GTI – and the FR 2.0 TDI 184PS, a car able to match 67mpg economy with 140mph performance.


You’ll rarely get a better or more credible excuse to own a coupe than this. There are lower-slung, slinkier coupes. And there are more practical three-door hatches. Finding a reasonably priced car better able to combine these two attributes though, could take you a very long time. So this three-door Leon emerges as that most appealing of things: a sensible car that makes you feel special. Which in turn, makes it, in its own sensible, affordable way, a very special car indeed.