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Seat Leon FR 2.0 TDI vs VW Golf GT 2.0 TDI

seat leon fr tdi

Seat Leon FR 2.0 TDI 

The Seat Leon FR 2.0 TDI is, on paper, the best premium German hatchback that money can buy. It offers Volkswagen Audi Group quality at prices well under of what the two main protagonists can muster, as well as a style distinct from the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3. But is it too good to be true?

Our pick of the FR range is the Hatchback 2.0 TDI CR 150 FR 5dr. This particular model rolls in at just £21,385, compared to the £23,675 asking price of the equivalent Volkswagen Golf. That's despite it sharing the same chassis, same engine and same quality. Granted, the Seat badge is not as desirable as the Volkswagen badge, but is VW so good that it can ask for more than £2k more?

In my opinion, it isn't, and I find it hard to believe that any sensible man or woman would opt for the Golf over the Leon when it is so blatantly obvious that VW is ripping customers off. How can I say that?

Because the new Seat Leon is just that good.

It all starts with the styling. The new Seat Leon is a far cry from the old version, and features piercing LED head lights, a low fat back bumper and aggressive body styling. The Golf, on the other hand, just looks like any other golf - high, boring and, if you squint your eyes, exactly the same as the old shape. The new Leon, Golf and A3 are all based on the same platform, yet they each offer a different look to the other. The Leon is clearly aimed at slightly younger drivers than the Golf, hence the FR (Formula Racing) badge on the front and rear of the car. The body kit is also more aggressive than either of those cars and you are certainly more likely to move out of the way of the Leon's piercing stare on the motorway than a Golf.

But does that styling advantage make the Leon a better car to drive than the Golf?

Well, they both share the exact same engine. It outputs 150 bhp and 236 lb /ft of torque which allows both cars to reach a top speed of 134 mph. In a straight line, both cars are level pegging, and the same holds true in-gear; the transmission is also the same on each car.

Inside, the Seat Leon FR is gorgeous. It's more sporty than the Golf and although it isn't quite at the same quality (there are more hard plastics in the Seat cabin than the VW), almost everything you'll touch is either wrapped in leather or soft touch rubber. The driver controls and media controls are just as good, with the centre console perfectly laid out for operation whilst on the move. The red stitched, flat-bottom leather steering wheel, gear gaiter and seats add to this sporty appeal further.

By contrast, the Golf is simply too laid back. It is a fine car to drive the Golf and it'll hold its value better than the Seat, but for the younger man, I say go for the FR. It just is that good.

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VW Golf GT 2.0 TDI

True, the new Seat Leon is a great car, but as noted above, it doesn't have the same quality inside as the Golf nor does it hold as prestigious a badge.

The Volkswagen Golf has since 1974 been the car that all other hatchback makers have tried to beat, and failed.  It has won so many awards over the years that it'd take sheets of A4 paper to list them, but here's a few; the Volkswagen Golf won the World Car of the Year in 2009 with the Volkswagen Golf Mk6 and in 2013 with the Volkswagen Golf Mk7. Every generation of Golf has been a runner-up in the European Car of the Year awards and two have been winners. The Seat Leon by contrast has won very little, even with modern efforts.

So what makes the VW Golf such a success?

Well, it's good fun to drive, it looks fantastic, it holds it value well, it's made to the highest of quality and of course, the Volkswagen Golf is available in practical 5-door format. Our pick of the current range is the GT 2.0 TDI which shares the same engine, transmission and chassis as the FR above. Unlike the FR which is all snarls and sporty fun, however, the Golf is more laid back and grown up. It is, for all intents and purposes, the car a Seat Leon drivers dad buys.

But that is a good thing.

You see, the Volkswagen Golf has always been a classy car. VW has the GTI, GTD and R versions to pick up sporty models. A regular Golf is for the budget conscious family man who wants to be able to travel in a refined, high quality vehicle. Plus, the Golf does everything so well - the diesel engine in this car will return a combined fuel economy of 68.9 mpg with a c02 rating of 106 g /km. It will do this with a power output of 150 bhp and 236 lb /ft of torque which is enough to offer thrills on a country lane. At speed wind and road noise is negligible, and the suspension is so good on UK roads that you would be forgiven for thinking that you're riding in an A6.

Everything the Lean FR is good at - comfort, refinement, fun - the Golf is excellent at. It has a slightly softer suspension for regular driving, better refinement at speed, and argue as you like, it'll go about its fast business in a more conservative way than the FR too.

To me, the FR is a good car. But the Golf is a great car. The trouble is, at over £2k more, you'd expect the Golf to be at least 10% better, but it isn't. Sadly, the Leon FR is the wisest choice of the two vehicles, even though I love the VW badge. 

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