The Leon TDI FR is true SEAT-of-your pants motoring, warns Simon Hacker
You get the feeling the new 168bhp FR Leon is doing dreadful damage to the touchy-feely element in diesel’s PR. It snorts up behind you like some petroleum-powered spaniel, settles for barely enough time to come into focus, then darts by, invariably in a blur of emergencyresponse yellow. It’s Al-Quaida meets a bunch of bananas. Unless you go for red.
The spec is fairly fruity, but the true flavour lies in the test drive: 8.2 seconds sounds like tepid hatch territory, but in reality thismachine’s on a mission to slingshot you from 30mph into the apocalyptic credits of the sequel to An Inconvenient Truth. And there lies the rub. This car is so disgustingly exciting and fun to drive, one feels the urge to take a detour to the nearest hair shirt shop to atone for one’s eco-excess. Before you do though, cast a casual eye over the mpg read out: 47mpg okay enough for you? Yes, that’s right – just as SEAT promised, my test model was happy to hover around thismark, dropping only to a low of 36mpg when hammered over a short distance (the perpetual country sport of catching the last post). A CO2 emission of 161g/km spells tax band D, alongside Fiat’s 1.4-litre Panda and Citroën’s 1.6-litre C2, which is hardly bad company. But enough praise, what about the downside? I pulled and tweaked any vulnerable-looking trim, but am devastated to report that nothing fell off, squeaked, or disintegrated. Indeed, some kindly car thieves had a pop at the driver’s door to see if they could determine any inherent weaknesses. Like me, they left empty-handed. In short, it might be from Barcelona, but it’s boringly German when it comes to structural integrity.
And it’s comfy, too: the seats (albeit a bit buckety) are snug; the steering wheel (as per the new Freetrack) beautifully sculpted; and the boot is big enough to store the inert body of a failed car thief (or maybe that’s wishful thinking). My only gripe is that the cleverly-disguised rear door handles had me thinking it was a two-door for a day or two, but I’m 15 years over the target audience mean age… Bottom line is that the Leon doesn’t take itself too seriously: despite requiring oven gloves, it’s a doddle to drive, and – apart from an odd syndrome with the suspension which crops up at around 30mph and sets the car all a-wobble, it’s a rippingly good diesel. Who needs good PR anyway?
On sale: Now // Price: from £17,695
- Price: £17,695
- Engine: 1968cc four-cylinder turbodiesel
- Max Power: 168bhp at 4,200rpm
- Max Torque: 258 lb ft at 1,800rpm
- Max towing: 1,400kg
- Combined Consumption: 47.1mpg
- CO2 Emissions (taxband): 161g/km (D)
- 0-62mph: 8.2 seconds
- Max speed: 135mph
Strong, sporty looks, and very good fun to drive whilst returning excellent mpg! Comfy and robustly built in side too! A fantastic car for the cash!
It certainly sticks out from the crowd and main colours are NOT subtle! Boot is smaller than most hot hatches and hidden rear door handles annoy…