SEAT LEON FR TDi CR DSG
The theory goes that familiarity breeds contempt, but if another two months in the company of the Seat Leon FR TDI is anything to go by, this particular axiom can be consigned to the history books. Another 3,500 miles has been covered during the summer,
HE theory goes that familiarity breeds contempt, but if another two months in the company of the Seat Leon FR TDI is anything to go by, this particular axiom can be consigned to the history books. Another 3,500 miles has been covered during the summer, over all sorts of roads and in a variety of conditions - even some very thick Welsh mud.
Yet the FR TDI with the slick DSG gearbox continues to offer a seemingly spot-on blend of performance and usability. The regular daily commute has a mix of urban streets, motorway and a brief twisty country road, and the Leon deals with them all in the same unflappable manner. Yes the FR version has firm suspension, but certainly not harsh - there are softer versions should you feel the need, but if entertaining B-roads feature on your favourite routes then anything less would be a waste.
The steering and brakes are also finely judged - the power assistance means parking with a single finger, but above 30-40mph there is reduced help, with the accuracy and good weighting that keeps you fully informed about what is happening at the front wheels. All of which adds up to a lot of fun when the conditions are right. The FR is a hot, but not super, hatch, and so has enough power to be quick and enough grip to be fast, but not so much that only the emptiest of roads can be fun.
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A quick comparison with the daddy of the Leon range, the Cupra R, is where the FR's strengths lie. The Cupra R has a rippling 261bhp, will blast to 62mph from rest in only 6.2 seconds and reach 155mph. Around the twists of Rockingham race circuit and on the surrounding roads it was an absolute blast. Yet climbing back into the FR at the end of the day wasn't a disappointment, because it would still be keen to play as well as cover the ground without fuss and in a very economical fashion.
Economy is proving to be one of the Leon's trump cards too. Common knowledge says that diesel engines take a good few thousand miles to settle in, and as they do economy improves steadily.
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Despite some less than sympathetic driving and the occasional abandonment of a good green ethic, the Leon FR has averaged a very respectable 41mpg, with a best figure well into the mid-50s. Although fractionally less frugal than the manual version, the DSG gearbox makes it easier to extract better figures.
More miles have also revealed some more small details that simply add to the Leon's all-round competence. For example, it has heated electric folding door mirrors as standard, but until very recently it seemed the only way to fold them when parking was to flip the interior switch. Not so: all that's required is to hold the locking button on the remote for an extra two seconds, and the door mirrors neatly tuck out of the way of inconsiderate drivers. Another clever trick is that, when descending a steep hill with your foot on the brake, the DSG gearbox recognises the situation and shifts down a gear for you, as you should anyway and a useful stress reliever on the brakes.
A summer holiday also proved the Leon is still at heart a family hatch.
Ordinarily such an undertaking would require a large MPV at the very least to squeeze everything in, but on this occasion a modest roof box was it all took. Two adults, two children and all the assorted paraphernalia all went in with plenty of room to spare.
Still going strong and getting better all the time is the end of term report. What is also very revealing is that, given the choice, there's very little on the Leon FR that could be changed for the better.
- MATT JOY
SEAT LEON FR TDi CR DSG - from �20,990 otr