Handsome. Well equipped. Efficient and brisk.
The Seat Leon is now in its third generation. The first generation Leon FR and second generation Leon FR were mighty fine cars, offering drivers exceptional power and build quality for the price asked of them. This latest generation Leon FR, though, is available with a range of lower specification engines which has diluted the FR brand slightly. For women on a budget, that's a good thing, because you can now buy a top spec Leon which doesn't break the bank. The question is, is one of the most accessible top-trim Leon's, the 1.4 TSI, any good?
The new Seat Leon, like its predecessor, shares the same underpinnings as the Volkswagen Golf and the Audi A3. Thankfully, just like prior versions, the Leon looks markedly different to the new A3 and Golf and I actually prefer the shape of the new Leon. It resembles the new A3 more than the new Golf, though, with sharp headlights, narrow tail lights, dual exhausts and a well contrasted grey rear splitter. The body kit on the FR is unique to this trim level and it certainly gives the car more purpose than the basic Leon, which looks more suited towards hire car companies than private buyers. The most striking area of the new Leon is the front, which features trapezoidal LED head lights, an aggressive front grill and a bonnet with aggressive lines striking downwards. Compared the new Golf, to look at the new Leon FR is exciting and compared to the new A3, to look at the new Leon is adventurous. It certainly looks better than its cousins, but does it drive better?
With a 1.4 TSI (turbocharged and supercharged) petrol engine, the Leon FR develops a total of 140 bhp and 184 lb /ft of torque. That makes it good for a 0 - 60 time of 8.2 seconds and a top speed of 131 mph. The Leon FR is always brisk rather than quick, but it has enough torque low down the rev range to overtake safely on, say, an incline. Just like the Golf and the A3 the Leon rides extremely well; its suspension is harder than a Golf GT's, but it's softer than an A3 S Line's. It is well balanced, too, with good weight distribution which inspires confidence of tricky roads. Out on the motorway the Leon FR is stable and ensuring, and the sports seats do a fantastic job of keeping you comfortable on longer journeys. As standard the FR comes with 17-inch alloy wheels and despite the size, these do a great job of keeping road noise to a minimum at higher speeds. The same can't be said for the optional 18-inch alloy wheels which vibrate the steering wheel a little too much at 75 mph, though. If you were to test drive the A3, Golf and Leon back to back, the only difference driving at high speed is the higher quality cabin of the A3 and slightly less road noise from the Golf.
The MK2 Seat Leon was not a very nice place to sit. The seats were comfy but the dash and center console were anything but quality. The latest Leon is a huge improvement on that model, and Seat have worked hard to produce a vehicle which offers a lot of car for the money asked of it. The door panels, dashboard and center console in the Leon FR are soft touch, and the only scratchy plastics to be found are hidden at the bottom of the glove box and center console. The center console is arced towards the driver which helps with control input and the dial and read outs are simply a port over from the A3 and Golf; in other words, they're pleasant to look at and use. Like all modern VAG cars, the Seat Leon FR 1.4 TSI is a wonderful place to sit on long journeys, with every single control having a near perfect weight to it - little things, like the weight of the indicators and the feedback from volume knobs make for a complete car that inspires a smile every now and again.
The Seat Leon FR's 1.4 TSI engine is rather remarkable. It offers excellent power and refinement, and it will also deliver over 60 mpg on the motorway, according to Seat. Around town Seat say you will get around 44.1 mpg. Although many manufacturers are generous with their quoted figures, the 1.4 TSI engine really does feel like it could deliver on its promise, so long as you don't red line it everywhere (something which could prove hard, given the cars spritely and willing performance). Should you opt for the 2.0 TDI in terms of economy? Motorway users will most likely prefer the diesels spread of torque at the top end, and the TDI promises even better mpg.
Trim and equipment
As standard, the Seat Leon FR 1.4 TSI comes with a generous amount of equipment, including LED daytime running lights, cruise control, electric power folding heated mirrors, climate control, Bluetooth, front parking sensors and rear parking sensors, iPod / MP3 connect and media input. Heated seats cost £350 extra, leather seats cost £1,195 extra and the electric sunroof costs £695 extra. You can boost the resale value of the Leon by ticking desirable options, such as leather and heated seats, although hot Seat Leon's tend to hold their value quite well anyway.
The Seat Leon FR 1.4 TSI is an excellent family car. You should stick to the 5 door version to get your money's worth, as it increases legroom and transforms the car in to a relaxed holiday wagon. As standard the FR comes with a generous range of equipment and even though it undercuts the Volkswagen Golf by thousands of pounds, interior quality is superb, and a significant leap from the bargain basement plastics found in the MK2 Leon. A non-FR low spec Leon might be best for some women, but for pure coolness, the FR is the Leon for you.