Although the new SEAT Leon Copa is a £32,000 260+bhp hot hatch, the Spanish company has filtered the Copa name throughout the range, even to the ultra-frugal models. The new SEAT Leon Copa Ecodrive has had the trusty, old 1.9-TDi binned in favour of the super economical 1.6-litre diesel, and costs £17,055. The main reason is that the smaller capacity engine manages to dip under the 100g/km CO2 benchmark figure (with a score of 99g/km CO2, 20g/km less than the 1.9), which enables owners to roam around Britain without paying road tax.
Not only are there savings from a lack of pollutants being emitted, the buzzy-little diesel Seat Leon Copa claims 74.3mpg is achievable, however, with such a weedy power output (105bhp compared to 150bhp for the 1.9) you find yourself squeezing the accelerator deeper into the carpet – which gives a real world fuel consumption figure of 50mpg. It’s still allows for a good range between fill-ups but at the cost of having to strain the engine, it depends on whether you like to saunter to your appointments or not.
The low power output is, as ever, beaten by the peak torque output which for a 1.6-litre engine, 184lb ft of torque is nothing to be sniffed at. The peak figure is available from as low as 1,500rpm, but soon wanes and you’re left with having to stir the gear lever a little more often to keep the power ‘in the zone’. The SEAT has very tall ratios in its five-speed gearbox, which doesn’t help you when you’re wanting to press-on, but for motorway journeys (slow ones), it really helps keep the average revs per minute down.
As usual with SEATs, you get a heck of a lot of standard equipment, from traction control, stability control, electric windows and mirrors, as well as supportive seats that are plenty ample for four adults. There is an MP3 player, a great stereo system, sat nav and climate control. It’s enormous inside but never feels any bigger than your average hatchback, and it handles well too; a trait it’s borrowed from more sportier models, no doubt.
The performance of the Copa isn’t scintillating, and nor should it be with the word Ecodrive in its model name. It manages to lope to 60mph from a standstill in 11.5 seconds and will hit 118mph if the wind is pointing in the right direction. What it lacks in performance it certainly makes up for in standard equipment. It seems there is a reason why the list price is high, but when you don’t need to tick the options boxes for traction control, CD/MP3 player, electric windows, sunroof and mirrors, climate control, air-conditioning, adjustable steering wheel with stereo buttons, and fantastically-supportive seats, the Leon feels like a solid car.
There is no doubt that a similarly-priced Focus or Golf even would be just as good to drive but the Seat Leon Copa has unique looks and you get more for your money – even without having to pay road tax and with polluting the air less.