Road Test: SEAT Leon FR 2.0 TDI DSG (184PS)
Sector: Lower medium Price: £23,805 Fuel: 60.1mpg CO2: 119gkm
There’s a real sense, with the latest SEAT Leon, that the brand’s core model has really come of age. With upmarket styling, an excellent new platform and a choice of bodystyles, not only does it have value on its side, but it’s become an altogether more appealing choice for user-choosers too.
SEAT’s hot-blooded, performance-led character is as much a part of the brand’s DNA as good solid value for money. So it means equipping the Leon with the same 181bhp 2.0-litre TDI engine as the Golf GTD ought to add up to one of the most attractive user-chooser options outside the premium sector, if not in general.
Beyond the way it looks – and the Leon FR takes a good chunk of design influence from the Cupra anyway – the value on offer here is pretty incredible. Prices start at £3,865 cheaper than the Golf GTD, with no sacrifice in performance and the same low running costs – 67.3mpg and 109g/km with a manual gearbox. Plus the Leon can be ordered as a sporty estate.
DSG-equipped versions, as tested here, are actually slightly more fuel efficient than the Volkswagen, and you could argue that, especially with the all-LED headlights, the Leon looks the more expensive of the two. Residual values are slightly higher for the Golf, owing to that ever-desirable Volkswagen badge, but it’s not enough to cover the difference over a three-year life cycle.
Sensible aspects aside, this is a lot of fun to drive. There’s almost no diesel clatter from the cabin, and the flat torque curve from 1,750 to 3,000rpm offers enthusiastic in-gear acceleration right in the middle of the rev range. Reductions in the Leon’s kerb weight make great use of the power on offer and, with the multi-link rear axle, roadholding and ride quality are excellent.
But it doesn’t punish you for having the opportunity to enliven your commute. Switch to Eco mode and everything softens, though there’s still plentiful power on offer. Fuel economy of just under 60mpg at motorway speeds is easy to achieve with a gentle right foot, too.
There are some sacrifices though. The interior looks great, but there are large patches of hard plastic where the Golf or Audi would feature gloss black panels and the optional satellite navigation is a frustrating system which is prone to lagging while entering addresses. These are frustrations you could live with, given the value on offer elsewhere.
The only point at which you might question this as a choice is the £990 price difference against the equibalent 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI. Both versions look identical, unlike the Golf, running costs are very similar with the DSG transmission, and the lower powered engine is almost as eager on the road. Whichever you choose, though, the Leon is unlikely to disappoint.
One of the most appealing affordable user-chooser options on the market, the Leon looks and performs like a much more expensive car. Some features are a little behind the Golf’s, but whole-life costs for the SEAT can even trump the high-value Skoda Octavia vRS, which also uses this engine.