Seat Leon SC S 1.2-litre TSi petrol six-speed manual.

Price: £15,370 (on the road).

Top speed: 119mph.

0-62mph: 10.2 seconds.

Fuel: 57.6mpg (combined figure).

CO2 emissions (g/km): 114.

Verdict: Great looks, top-bracket engineering, drives well, solid build, reliable ownership proposition, affordable price.

IT’S all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that lower-powered cars are poor relations to the bigger-engine and pokier models.

Not so with Seat’s new threedoor Leon sports coupé range with its German engineering coupled with Spanish design flair and favourable pricing. Indeed, the smaller motors in the range are impressive and with their powerful units and low running costs should prove extremely popular during the present belt-tightening times.

The new coupé has been eagerly awaited by Seat enthusiasts and will be joined by an estate version in the near future.

The SC’s launch follows the introduction of the five-door family hatch a few months ago and builds on the striking good looks of that model. Most importantly, the new Leon models use the new VW platform which has improved the general handling and this really shows.

Like the five-door, the coupé houses a choice of engines to suit most needs and they include 1.2, 1.4 and 1.8-litre turbocharged petrol units and 1.6 and 2.0-litre turbo diesels, with outputs ranging from 105 to 184PS. There are three trim levels – S, ST and FR.

Considering the Leon’s quality build, technology and sophistication, the price tags are certainly competitive, ranging from £15,370 for the 1.2 litre TSi to £22,335 for the 2.0-litre TDi DSG auto model in FR trim.

Even the comparatively small 1.2 litre offers 105PS at 4,500rpm and should be sufficiently powerful for most family needs. With a 0-62mph sprint time of 10.2 seconds, it is no slouch, producing bags of torque or pulling power for swift and safe overtaking. Top speed is 119mph and the economy is a pleasing 57.6mpg on the combined cycle. It drives well, too, with sharp and positive steering.

The more enthusiastic driver also with an eye on the wallet will like the 131mph 1.4-litre TSi with its blend of performance and economy. This petrol unit pushes out a whopping 140PS with strong acceleration up through the gears, yet returning 54.3mpg as an everyday figure.

There is a firm ride to maintain composure when the motor’s performance is being tested but this doesn’t come at the expense of ride comfort.

Under the skin of the new SC is a MacPherson-strut front suspension with torsion beam rear on all but the top model FR trim which gets a fully independent rear set up. Together with new MQB platform and communicative steering there is much-improved handling and controlled travel over poorersurfaced roads.

The diesel cars show major mechanical advances. Not only are the engines silky-smooth but quick, clean and exceedingly economical.

For instance, the 105PS 1.6-litre turbo diesel is outstanding for its economy and with a five-speed manual gearbox has combined fuel return of 74.3mpg and low CO2 emissions of just 99 (g/km).

In SE trim and priced at £18,190 it is expected to be a big seller.

For a more relaxed and comfortable ride choose the 2.0-litre diesel in the generous FR trim. It costs £21,085 and bristles with technology and sophistication. The equipment includes a technology pack and, as with other models, this is free of charge for a limited time.

It includes full LED headlight pack, navigation system, and DAB radio turner.

The coupé looks very sporty. It gets its exterior looks mainly from the wheelbase being slightly shorter than the five-door, having a slightly lower roof line and also large styling creases over the wheel arches which all help give the car more presence. Inside, the quality of materials and ease of use of the switchgear are commendable.

All the cars get a full colour touch screen set conveniently high in the dash. Air conditioning is standard with dual zone climate control being optional.

Drivers will also welcome Seat’s drive profile where the driver can choose between a sporty or a more eco-minded setup.

What the new Leon cars do possess in abundance, however, is the desirability factor which is often the main justification for buying a sports coupe.

The coupé will seat five but two large adults would take up much of the room in the rear. However, the interior is spacious for a coupe and getting in and out of the back is now a fairly straightforward affair with the ‘easyentry’ front seats sliding and tilting well forward with just one handle and then returning to the position they started in once you are inside the car.

There are cubby holes galore and a family-size boot of 380 litres.