LEON, Spain - Seat has launched a direct competitor to the Golf for the first time since it was bought by Volkswagen. Its last lower-medium class car, the Ronda, went out of production 22 years ago.
A hatchback derived from the Toledo sedan, the Leon is the sportiest model in Seat's range. Seat designers trimmed 8.8 inches off the back of the sedan to create the Leon. It will remain a five-door only; there are no plans to add a three-door version.
The Leon range includes Seat's fastest and most powerful model yet: the 1.8-liter, 180-hp turbocharged, four-wheel-drive Leon 20VT 4, which borrows Audi's A3 Quattro system.
The Leon project cost Volkswagen group DM420 million ($216 million), of which DM190 million ($98 million) was spent on research and development.
VW plans to build 80,000 units next year, of which 35 percent will be sold in Spain.
The medium-term goal is to reach 100,000 units a year.
Production will be divided between VW's plant in Brussels - where the Golf and Toledo are built - and Seat's plant in Martorell, Spain.
Currently Martorell builds 500,000 cars based on VW's A00 platform (Seat Arosa) and A0 platform (Ibiza and Cordoba, plus the Inca commercial van also offered by VW as the Caddy).
The arrival of the Leon signals the introduction of A-platform models at Martorell. Available capacity in Martorell for the Leon is just 60,000 units.
The Leon is offered in three trim levels. Gasoline versions of the Leon are expected to account for 55 percent of sales.