As we waved goodbye to our hot-shot Leon FR hatchback, we came over all sensible and welcomed a more eco-minded SEAT Leon ST with extra carrying capacity at the back. Richard Dredge reports.
The engineers haven’t exactly skimped, either. For a few weeks, I was lucky enough to run our Leon FR hatchback, previously seen in these pages, and it didn’t take long for me to realise just what an incredible piece of kit it is. Great-looking, fast, composed, well-equipped, spacious, practical – there really was no catch. The thing was, knowing it was to be replaced by a more eco-minded version of an estate car left me feeling that if the Leon ST could be only half as good as the FR it replaced, I’d be very pleased. The thing is, having spent just a few weeks in the Leon ST so far, it’s great to be able to report that the 1.6-litre TDI version is rather more than half as good as its hot hatch brother. Of course it doesn’t have the tyre-shredding pace; it can muster just 103bhp and 184lb ft of torque compared with the 148bhp and 236lb ft of the FR, and as a result, it doesn’t have the mid-range muscle that made the FR so fast and enjoyable to drive on any road from urban to motorway. What’s interesting is that so far, the 1.6 TDI engine is also proving to be less frugal than the 2.0 TDI-powered FR. However, the ST’s engine hasn’t loosened up yet and the 500 or so miles we’ve covered so far haven’t been on long journeys; by the next report we should have a better idea of what sort of fuel economy it’ll give, and I’d be surprised if it isn’t somewhere around the mid-50s.
When SEAT offered us the chance to run a Leon ST on our long-term fleet, we could choose between the 1.6 TDI or an FR, with the former offered in manual or DSG dual-clutch automatic forms. Having run an FR hatch for so long, we decided that it made sense to give an eco-version a try, not least of all because the FR is a relatively niche seller compared with the more mainstream 1.6 TDI. As far as the choice of transmission is concerned, it was chosen partly for selfish reasons and partly because we already know that the manual gearbox is really slick. In the coming months, the ST will be driven in urban and stop/start traffic rather a lot, so it’s nice to know that there’ll be no clutch work required, and thanks to the fitment of a dual-clutch system, there shouldn’t be – in theory – a significant penalty to pay at the pumps.
One of the disadvantages of downgrading from an FR to an SE would be the reduced button count; the former comes with quite a few extra toys as standard. However, SEAT ticked a few option boxes for us and the car has come to FR spec and beyond, as it includes such niceties as power fold door mirrors, privacy glass, dual-zone climate control and parking sensors all round. Also, because SEAT is including the Technology Pack for free right now, there are also LED headlights, satellite navigation and a DAB digital radio. Which means that by signing up to our test car for the next few months, we get all the toys of the FR, but with (hopefully) significantly greater economy. All in all, I can’t say I’m feeling short-changed.
The seat heaters have variable temperatures, so even those who arenít normally fans, like them.
The DSG twin-clutch automatic transmission is great to use, but itís a shame that on our car there are no steering wheel paddles.
|Date arrived:||14th March 2014|
|Mileage to date:||2,125 miles|
|Fuel consumption:||72.4mpg (official combined)
46.9mpg (on test)