ALREADY well established as a car that’s fun to drive and a viable alternative to its Volkswagen stablemates and other rivals, the Seat Leon has upped its game to become a great all-rounder.

There’s a raft of exterior and interior changes in design, some cutting-edge new technology and a bit more room for people and luggage to accompany a wide range of powertrains and no less than six trim levels.

Cornerstone of the Seat line-up since 1999 and a worldwide best-seller for the brand, this fourth generation version goes big on the sort of must-have connectivity features that customers demand, becoming Seat’s first fully-connected vehicle.

Apart from Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay connections, drivers can access their vehicle’s data remotely, while the Car2X system – a cloud-based technology – enables drivers to receive advanced warning on traffic situations.

But let’s not get too distracted from the other core values. There is a suite of new powertrain technologies, with a line-up of petrol (TSI), diesel (TDI), mild-hybrid (eTSI), and plug-in hybrid (eHybrid) choices that means there’s something for everyone unless you want to go for an all-electric option.

Safety is at the heart of the new Leon. The MQB Evo architecture provides an inherently strong and stiff safety cell and allows the integration of predictive adaptive cruise control and emergency assist 3.0, to make it the safest car that Seat has made to date.

The basis for the vehicle’s overall volume is the MQB Evo platform, which allowed for an increased wheelbase. This translates to 49mm of extra legroom for rear occupants and increase in overall length for both the five-door and the estate.

The new exterior has improved aerodynamics and provided some more personality. At the front, for example, the excellent LED headlights are set back, while the bonnet is slightly longer, adding to the more assertive design.

Inside, a whole lot of decluttering has been introduced, reducing the number of buttons to a minimum and planting the focus firmly on the infotainment screen, which includes gesture recognition.

The digital cockpit brings together a high-resolution 10.25-inch configurable driver instrument cluster and 10-inch infotainment system. It also includes a wraparound dashboard light that covers its entire width and continues through the doors.

The five-door Leon has a boot capacity of 380 litres, while the estate provides 617 litres of storage, 30 litres more than the previous generation.

The six trims – SE, SE Dynamic, FR, FR Sport, Xcellence and Xcellence Lux – offer a comprehensive choice.

Even the entry-level SE model comes with keyless start, a couple of USB points in the front, LED headlight technology with automatic high beam, electric and heated side mirrors, electronic parking brake, an eight-inch infotainment system, cloth upholstery, leather steering wheel and gear stick, Seat Connect technology and 16-inch alloy wheels.

But I would recommend upgrading to the SE Dynamic trim, which gets the digital cockpit with 10-inch infotainment and navigation system and 10.25-inch digital driver binnacle, front and rear parking sensors, tinted rear side windows and 17-inch alloys.

Further up the chain in FR and Xcellence guise come more sporty or luxurious features.

The engines can be mated to a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG (direct shift gearbox) transmission.

The petrol engines are all direct-injection, turbocharged units and provide power outputs between 110PS and 190PS.

For the first time, the Leon is available with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder 110PS TSI engine and six-speed manual. Also available, as a 130PS and 150PS output, is the larger 1.5-litre TSI four-cylinder unit.

A 190PS 2.0-litre TSI unit linked to the dual-clutch seven-speed DSG transmission is also available.

The tested 1.5-litre 130PS engine has to be the pick of the bunch, bringing to the party not only strong performance but also fuel economy that nudges 50mpg.

The lowdown:

Seat Leon SE Dynamic Evo

Price: £22,525

Engine: Four-cylinder 1.5-litre TSI petrol producing 130PS

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Performance: 0 to 62mph in 9.4 seconds; top speed 130mph

Economy: 46.3 – 50.4mpg

CO2 emissions: 126g/km

Star ratings:

Performance: ****

Economy: ****

Ride/Handling: ****

Space/Practicality: ****

Equipment: *****

Security/Safety: *****

Value For Money: ****