Until recently, if you’d wanted a Leon, you’d have had to content yourself with a five-door hatchback. But Seat’s new mid-range contender has spawned two new bodystyles: the three-door SC (which we tested back in August), and now the brand’s first foray into the core fleet lower medium estate class, the ST.

First impressions are favourable. The sharp styling borrows more from the sleek three-door hatch than the more sensible five-door, with slim, forward-raked C-pillars. Inside, the dash is unchanged; it’s still attractive and feels well put-together, albeit marred by cheap materials in a couple of places.

But of course, it’s the other end of the car that we’re really interested in. Aft of the rear seats, the Leon ST does the job, with a false floor in the boot that hides an extra storage compartment, and an impressive 587 litres of load space – more than most in its class, but less than both the VW Golf and Skoda Octavia estates.

Seats down, though, the ST isn’t quite so capacious, with a 1470-litre load bay that’s bettered by many of its rivals. That said, the seats stow at the pull of a lever, and what’s more, the front passenger seat can fold flat too, allowing items of up to 2.67 metres in length to be carried within the car.

Three petrol and four diesel engines are available, including a 110hp Ecomotive diesel that emits just 87g/km CO2 and returns an official 85.6mpg. Seat is also offering two range-toppers, neither of which has an equivalent in the Golf estate range: a 180hp 1.8-litre TSI petrol and a 184hp turbodiesel. It’s the 105hp 1.6-litre TDI SE that’ll be the best-seller, though.

That particular variant wasn’t available to test, but we know from our experience of this engine in the hatch that it’s a solid option, teaming a useful amount of mid-range shove with excellent consumption.

Of the engines we were able to drive, the 150hp 2.0-litre TDI was admirably gutsy, while the 184hp 1.8-litre TSI variant offered strong pace, although it became a little coarse when pushed.

Ride comfort is generally very good, but the top-spec FR is a little on the firm side. Handling, meanwhile, is crisp and controlled, but the Leon can’t quite match the class-best Ford Focus for involvement.

While the Seat gives away a little in ultimate load-lugging ability to some of its competitors, it is a flexible, versatile and appealingly rakish entrant to the market.

Starting at £16,675 for the 1.2-litre TSI S, it also represents commendable value – although spending a little more on the better-specified SE?trim level is worth doing if you have the means. 

Seat Leon ST 2.0 TDI 150 SE
P11D price: £20,790
Model price range: £16,675-£23,640
Residual value: 33.8%
Depreciat­ion: £13,765
Fuel: £5472
Service, maintenance and repair: £1512
Vehicle Excise Duty: £40
National Insurance: £1492
Cost per mile: 46.9p
Fuel consumption: 68.9mpg
CO2 (tax): 106g/km (16%)
BIK 20/40% per month: £55/£111
Service interval: Variable miles
Insurance (1-50): group 18 (estimated)
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000mls
Boot space: 587/1470 litres
Engine size/power: 1968cc/150hp
Top speed/0-60mph: 133mph/8.6secs
On sale: January 2014