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At the beginning of the year, SEAT revealed the highly-anticipated 2020 Leon. But how has it changed over the years? Join us as we explore the four generations of one of SEAT's flagship models: The Leon.
Bristol Street Motors

Exploring Four Generations of the SEAT Leon

Exploring Four Generations of the SEAT Leon

At the beginning of the year, SEAT revealed the highly-anticipated 2020 Leon. But how has it developed over the years? 

Talking about the Leon, Isidre Lopez, who is responsible for SEAT’s Historic Car collection, explains: “This is the model that put SEAT on the world map of motoring, thanks to its design, technology and quality.” It has been a flagship model for SEAT since its release, and to celebrate the new 2020 model, we’re taking a look back at all four generations of the SEAT Leon.

So, let’s start from the very beginning and rewind all the way back to 1999...

1st Generation Leon (1999) – The Newcomer  

Making its unforgettable debut back in 1999, the first-generation Leon was ahead of its time. Isidre explained: “The first Leon was a trendsetter with a design with a lot of personality. It was a great update on technology and quality.”

Designed by Giorgetto Giugiaro, it was this model that made SEAT strong contenders in the compact car category. It was also the first model from the brand to exceed 150 hp, delivering an impressive 180 hp instead.

Michael Geue, Head of Structural Development and Anti-corrosion at SEAT, adds: “It was a superior model to what we had until then, because of its totally galvanised body (to protect it from corrosion and improve its appearance) and also because of extras such as the automatic opening of the fuel port, which was a very sophisticated feature at that time.”

2nd Generation Leon (2005) – The Sportstar

After the success of the first-generation Leon, SEAT decided to give it a makeover in 2005 and produced a world-class sports star.

The breakthrough design was the work of the talented Walter Da Silva, who was behind the transformation of the Leon’s style. The recreation established a new direction for SEAT; it was the compact car that would offer a performance like no other.


Talking about the work of Walter Da Silva, Jose Miguel says: “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.”

This 2nd generation Leon went on to win four manufacturer and driver world titles, even though its compact design and small boot space would normally be a disadvantage aerodynamically!

3rd Generation Leon (2012) – The Style Icon

Moving with the times, the 3rd generation Leon adopted a more sophisticated style, whilst still notably resembling its predecessors.

Isidre explains: “Its design is 100% SEAT; any driver can immediately recognise a third generation Leon in their rear-view mirror.” This was mainly down to the incorporation of the LED daytime lights, which was the first time a Leon featured full LED technology. It also catered for a range of customer demands, sporting a superior range of trim levels to increase choice. There were 3 and 5 door options made available, as well as family size ST options too, which made this compact a car for every type of driver.

“We put a lot of high-quality features into it, from the materials to the sound of the doors when opening and closing, with particular emphasis on the interior”, says Jose Miguel.

4th Generation Leon (2020) – The One That Rules Them All

It’s time to fast-forward to the present day where we’ve arrived at the most technically advanced SEAT to date: The 2020 Leon.

Installed with the latest technology to deliver the most advanced performance, and offering the smoothest and sleekest exterior design, the 2020 Leon has technically been 21 years in the making, encompassing the excellence of the last three generations of the Leon’s design into one.

Commenting on the 2020 Leon’s interior, Jose Miguel Royo, says: “It’s the most desirable by far for the most discerning user.” The modernised cabin has been crafted with the highest-quality materials to enhance comfort and you can create your own atmosphere with the ambient, LED lighting situated on the dashboard, whilst picking the right music to set the tone with the amplified sound system.

Isidre admits: “It is simply spectacular and it has managed to surpass what for me is one of the best cars in the history of SEAT, the third generation Leon.”

It will also be available as a hybrid variant, making the 2020 Leon “a major pacesetter”, according to Michael Geue, and we definitely agree!

Take a closer look at the 2020 Leon:

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