Seat Leon 1.4 TSI FR review

  • Sporty Leon hatch driven
  • Priced from £18,515
  • On sale now
What is it? The Seat Leon has always offered something of a sporting alternative to class leading small family cars such as the Ford Focus and Volkswagen Golf – and now there are more sporty models in the range to choose from.

The FR badge used to be reserved for the most powerful – and, therefore, most expensive – Leon engines, but now it's available with more affordable units: the £18,515 1.4 TSI petrol version – that we tested – and the 2.0 TDI 140 diesel unit that costs £19,660.

For that, you get a model that differs from lesser Leons with silver door mirrors, LED rear light clusters and sports suspension. There also an FR bodykit, twin chrome exhaust pipes and FR sports seats.

What's it like to drive? The FR might not be quite as sporty as it looks – for the biggest thrills in the Leon range, you'll need the FR+ and Cupra R models – but it's still a fun car to drive.

The 1.4 TSI engine has a broad spread of power, with peak torque coming at just 1500rpm and then pulling smoothly all the way to the redline. Admittedly, this is a warm rather than hot hatch, but it's no less enjoyable for that.

In pretty much any gear at any speed, the engine responds keenly and if you do need to change gear, you'll find the shift is fast and precise.

Just as important, when you've worked up some speed, you can maintain it through bends. The sports suspension keeps the car nice and flat, so there's little body roll to discourage you – and the sports seats hold you firmly in place.

The price you pay for this sportiness is a firm ride. This is most obvious at low speed, but you'll also notice lumps and bumps at higher speed, as well as expansion joints on the motorway. Still, if you enjoy a sporty drive, it's something you'll be able to put up with.

The car's refinement, though, is more of a disappointment, especially so above 60mph, when there's too much road noise.

What's it like inside? Despite the unique FR sports seats and flat-bottomed steering wheel, the FR is like any Leon: not as smart inside as it is outside.

The biggest disappointment is the dashboard, which is a thoroughly uninspiring design that's composed of unappealing plastics. It's not a patch on what you'll find in rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf.

On the other hand, you'll have no trouble finding a comfortable driving position, with plenty of adjustment on the driver's seat, as well as reach and rake adjustment on the steering wheel.

There's enough room inside for four six-footers, and the only major complaint about practicality is that the boot has a high lip and the entrance is awkwardly shaped.

Should I buy one? The Leon doesn't have the same breadth of talents as rivals such as the Ford Focus or VW Golf, but there's an endearing quality to this FR version.

We have to admit that it has its weaknesses – its ride and refinement, in particular – but the keen engine and sporty handling, on top of the smart looks, mean that it offers something a little different to the biggest sellers in the class.

If you think that the Golf, Focus and Astra are too run-of-the-mill, this could be the car for you.

Rivals:
Ford Focus
Volkswagen Golf

What Car? says


Andy Pringle@whatcar.com

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