The SEAT Leon has now been around in one incarnation or another for over 20 years, while constantly pushing the envelope, managing to be ahead of its time, and nonetheless maintaining the same essential “DNA” throughout the duration of this time period.
With the models all being designed, developed, and created in Barcelona, they share the same fundamental essence which initially served to make the Leon a cornerstone of the SEAT brand.
And, of course, there’s no sign of the popularity of the Leon diminishing any time in the near future. With more than 2 million units sold so far, this car continues to be a perennial favourite.
According to Isidre López, who is responsible for SEAT’s Historic Car collection, “This is the model that put SEAT on the world map of motoring, thanks to its design, technology and quality.”
Here is a retrospective look at the success of the four generations of the SEAT Leon.
1st generation, a powerful explosion onto the scene (1999)
The first Leon was designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro and represented SEAT’s first foray into the compact car market.
In the words of Isidre López, “The first Leon was a trendsetter with a design with a lot of personality.”
In many ways, the first Leon was truly pioneering. It was, for example, the brand’s first car which was made in two factories at the same time. It was also the first which featured a four-wheel-drive and a six speed gearbox, and it was also the first to exceed 150 hp, with its potent 180 hp engine.
Michael Geue, the head of Structural Development and Anticorrosion at SEAT, recalls that “It was a superior model to what we had until then.”
2nd generation, a more dynamic and sporty design (2005)
The second generation Leon took a more sporty twist, courtesy of the breakthrough design given to the model by Walter Da Silva.
In the words of José Miguel Royo, a project manager of Chassis Development at SEAT, “He revolutionised a traditionally classic segment, with an exterior featuring its iconic side blisters and the recessed rear door handles that made it look like a 3-door model.”
For its continued emphasis on innovation, the second generation Leon won four manufacturer and driver world titles at the World Touring Car Championship (WTCC), in 2008 and 2009.
3rd generation, sleek and stylish (2012)
With the third generation Leon, the name of the game was sophistication, with a more premium style being adopted which was nonetheless instantly recognisable as a SEAT by any casual observer.
The third generation Leon was the first to feature full LED technology, and its range of trim levels was notably superior to that of previous generations.
4th generation, facing the future (2020)
Perhaps above all else, the new fourth generation Leon represents an unprecedented leap in technological sophistication.
In addition to being SEAT’s first fully connected vehicle, it also pushes the envelope with new innovations in terms of safety and lighting, in addition to being the brand’s first vehicle featuring 5 different drive systems.
With the fourth generation Leon, there are options for petrol, diesel, compressed gas, micro-hybrid, and plug-in hybrid.
In short, the fourth-generation Leon boldly faces the future and continues to advance the trendsetting reputation of the line.
Contact Heritage SEAT for more information.
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