Silver lining for Leon ST as we grow fonder of estates
FUNNY how one person's dark cloud is another's silver lining; how one's raucous whistling can be James Galway's flute playing to the other.
The demise of the compact full-blooded SUV has generated a few silver linings. Not least the surge in crossovers and, to a far lesser but nonetheless notable extent, the 'lifestyle' estate.
Just like SEAT'S silver liner, the new Leon ST station wagon/estate.
This is the first time it has done a silver lining, sorry estate, and there appears to be substance to the marque's belief that an increasing number of people want cars like this.
That is to the detriment, it has been argued, of your more traditional saloon. A case of every silver lining having a cloud, perhaps?
The economic sky remains clouded, we know, but the salespeople have picked up sufficient soundings on their radar from people going into dealerships to expect that 250 or so of you will buy a Leon ST next year. That would swell overall Leon sales to 800 or so for the year.
So what has this got going for it?
I think there are two factors. It looks much better than either of its two stablemates -- the 5-door hatch or 3-door SC coupe. The extra 27cm length/rear overhang (the car is 4,535mm long) helps make it far more substantial looking. The other two are weak-looking/chopped-off along the rear flanks.
Secondly, it has the vital practicality of a big boot (587 litres) and a ridiculously easy way of flipping the back seats to give you more space (1,470 litres).
I also liked the way I could make the boot more shallow or deeper by moving the 'floor' up or down.
What is going against it?
Well, SEAT hasn't exactly been a name to send you into raptures these past few years, has it? And it has made a pig's ear of some things (the Toledo, for example). So there is convincing to be done.
Also against it is a real favourite of mine: the Kia cee'd station wagon -- great little car.
I also didn't like the ST in that oul' dull grey colour SEAT seem to favour. I think it ruins the car. I like it in the maroon or blue.
On the positive side, there appeared to be a bit more room in the back seats; I think it is because the rear aperture is a bit larger but this is certainly a cabin to take a family.
Seat wants to make this into a fleet choice as well -- a new departure. Fleet drivers demand decent spec levels because they're in the car for so long.
I think if you look at the second trim level on this, it's decent. My preference would be FR but that costs more.
The 1.6-litre (105bhp) diesel is expected to be the big seller though I would not discount the 1.2-litre petrol.
My main drive was in the former in FR spec (15mm lower, 20pc stiffer springs) and it impressed me: sharp off the mark and really decent pulling power through the low revs and higher gears. A decent combination, that, for anyone putting up big mileage.
There's a fair bit of car there for the money. We live in keenly price-sensitive times where people will buy if the car/price is good enough. The ST could well be a case in point.
There are plenty of clouds out there, so one suspects there are also a proportion of silver linings. Put on James Galway again there.