Ahead of their imminent public debut ‘in the metal’ at the forthcoming Geneva Motor Show, SEAT is unveiling the first official pictures of its revised Leon and Altea family of vehicles.

The wide array of changes to its big-selling compact family hatchback and five-seat MPV offerings are calculated to further strengthen the cars’ already broad appeal, adding fresh visual charm as well as extensive engineering and equipment improvements.

SEAT’s quickly-establishing trademark Arrow Design, first seen on the new Ibiza, makes its debut on the revised Leon and Altea models. There are subtle but important changes front and rear adding a coherent ‘family’ face and making the cars instantly recognisable on the road.

They now boast smoother, more elegant lines, a new grille with a smaller SEAT logo and more stylised chrome surround as well as larger headlights, new door mirrors and new wheel designs. Meanwhile, at the rear, the glass area is made larger to deliver greater visibility, while the rear hatch and light clusters have also been modified.

Inside, there are important modifications to the instrument panel and centre console as well as changes to the door panel trim and materials resulting in a modern, more ergonomically efficient passenger compartment.

The revisions to SEAT’s Leon and Altea family are much more than skin deep, though. Engineers at the advanced Martorell Technical Centre near Barcelona have been working to include a raft of crucial if ‘invisible’ engineering upgrades to the new models.

Perhaps chief among these is the addition, depending on specification, of cutting-edge XDS electronic traction control technology. Mimicking the function of a conventional limited slip differential but doing without the costly and heavy mechanicals associated with existing systems, XDS works together with ESP to improve the car’s performance in situations where traction is lost by braking the wheel that loses grip.

Combined with SEAT’s famous Agile Chassis concept, XDS serves to deliver exceptional dynamic response and car control in the broadest possible range of driving situations.

In its home market the broad engine range on the new Leon, Altea and Altea XL models now offers no less than ten choices – five petrol and five diesel. They have all undergone a significant engineering evolution with the emphasis firmly on improved performance as well as reduced fuel consumption and emissions.

A powerful 211 PS 2.0-litre TSI engine steals the spotlight in the petrol engine range, while the most important innovation among the diesels is the arrival of common rail technology to the 170 PS 2.0-litre TDI. What’s more, all versions equipped with SEAT’s slick DSG automatic sequential manual gearbox now feature motorsport-style shift paddles on the steering wheel.

Safety is, of course, a key consideration in the 2009 Leon and Altea line-ups, with a comprehensive selection of active safety measures on offer. Among the electronics racing to the SEAT driver’s aid when things get sticky are ABS + TCS and ESP with EBA emergency braking.

The already generous equipment list has been significantly upgraded, too. Besides the cutting edge XDS system which is exclusive to the Leon, SEAT’s new vehicles can feature outstanding additions such as Hill Hold Control, bi-xenon headlights with AFS and daytime driving lights, a new climate control system, new audio equipment, cornering fog lights, front and rear parking sensors and an optical parking system displayed on the new navigation system.

All versions feature new upholstery, with new leather seat options in the Leon. Meanwhile, Leon FR versions are now set to offer a combination of black fabric (for the seat sides) with eye-catching red or silver Alcantara down the middle.

Welcoming the new cars’ world debut at Geneva next month Head of Marketing at SEAT UK, Steve Robertson, said: ‘These subtle design changes allied to the significant engineering and equipment improvements combine to make the new Leon, Altea and Altea XL models more appealing than ever.

‘The revisions come at the perfect time, too, as SEAT looks to build on a strong start to 2009 and further strengthen its position as a maker of sporty, lively, and design-driven cars.’

UK pricing and full specification details for SEAT’s revised Leon and Altea line-ups will be released closer to the models’ showroom debut here this summer.