It’s time to wave goodbye to one of the sportiest vehicles on our fleet, yet funnily enough boasts some of the lowest set of running costs. James Folkard reports.
My personal highlights have been twisty A and B-roads. Sure, the Leon could trawl up and down the UK’s motorways all day long, with ease and in comfort, but it doesn’t bring the best out of the FR – with its tight sports suspension and 18-inch alloy wheels with low profile tyres, it’s a driver’s car. Not quite Pikes Peak, the Kirkstone Pass is the highest peak in the Lakes open to traffic at 1,489ft or 454 metres, and at its steepest, the gradient is 1:4, the scenery is terrific, there is a pub or inn at the top, and it is a really fun drive, if you are in the right vehicle. A warm hatch like the Leon FR is that vehicle, and repeating the experience three times over a weekend’s walking holiday was a great way to see some great views.
One of the biggest improvements over the previous model Leon is inside, where a stupidly awkward and poorly located satellite navigation screen and cheap looking plastics are no more. The plastics in the new car are a world apart from its predecessor, and are pleasing to touch in areas where you would expect regular contact, and the whole cabin space feels much more upmarket. The navigation screen is right where you want it – at the top of the dash, just in line of sight. I’m still to be sold on the benefit of the colour changing LEDs on the door panels, but they give you an idea as to the level of thought and detail that has gone into the FR.
If I had £995 burning a hole in my pocket, I’d think twice about spending it on an upgrade to LED headlights. You can still get quite a lot for that money – it’s a reasonable mortgage payment, a very smart flat screen LED TV, a built-in in-car satellite navigation system, or a holiday. It’s certainly not where you will see the value recouped in 36 month’s time. LED headlights are, however, I have no doubt, the future. Excellently bright, evenly focused light and no maintenance (although you could get a fair few bulbs for £995). Like everything new and from “Tomorrows World” you pay a premium to have it today. Give it a few years and kids will be asking their parents what a bulb was when TV’s used to be box shaped. But thankfully, SEAT are currently giving away the LED lights, satellite navigation and DAB radio in a free Technology pack. It’s been free since the Leon was launched last year, but that could well change at any moment – it’s another reason to buy a Leon over a comparable Focus, Golf or Astra in my opinion.
Biggest niggle – the dubious heating and cooling fan. In short, there’s a distinct lack of puff when the weather gets mucky. Condensation, and ice on the inside of the windscreen, are not really evicted with any great gusto – more of an in your own time, if that’s ok with you, kind of thing. It’s certainly not what you want on a frosty workday morning in February. Heated front screens have recently become an option in some Volkswagen Group cars, and hopefully it’s an option that will reach the Leon before much longer. Obviously it’s not an option that would get daily use, but in our climate, neither is air conditioning, and that has become pretty much a standard in all but the most basic of vehicles.
So would I buy a Leon FR? Well, technically I’ve already ticked that box. I owned a Mk2 red Leon FR in 2008, and chopped it in as part of a deposit on a house two years later. There was very little wrong with it over those two years, and as it was 12 months old when I bought it, I lost surprisingly little money in depreciation over that time. Would I buy a current model FR? Yes, with both my head and my heart. We’d have to carry on working on the packing light(er) when we go away, but with the exception of the heater fan and the lack of hidden rear door handles that I liked on the previous generation incarnation, there really isn’t a great deal wrong with it, and everything right. If I was to buy one with my own cash, though, I would probably be tempted by the new 181bhp version of the 2.0-litre TDI engine paired to the six-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission – now what a machine that is shaping up to be!
|Whats Hot:||The interior of the Leon is a huge step forward compared to the previous generation car.|
|Whats Not:||The ventilation system seems to struggle in poorer weather.|
|Date arrived:||20th May 2013|
|Mileage to date:||13,909 miles|
|Fuel consumption:||68.9mpg (official combined)
49.7mpg (on test)