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SEAT Leon FR+ 2.0 TDI

Click to view picture gallery“Not all SEAT models are ‘go-faster
  or niche race-bred products —
  they also do
normal and ecomotive
  versions. Due to their touring car
  activities, the most sporting SEAT
  model is probably the 5-door Leon
  family hatch. And now there’s a new
  range-topping FR+ version...”


THE LEON OFFERS A GOOD RANGE of engines and trim in a market sector that sees it competing against its VW stablemate, the Golf, Vauxhall's Astra and the Ford Focus. The improved specification FR+ is in response to demand for an even better equipped and sportier version. And given that one in every four Leons sold to date in the UK has been a FR (Formula Racing) model, the additional, and more expensive, FR+ spec should fit the bill nicely.

21,940 is what you'll pay for the 208bhp 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol FR+ but representing slightly better value (21,780 and with nicer engine characteristics) is the same model but with a 168bhp 2.0-litre TDI turbodiesel unit. While it produces 40bhp less than the petrol-powered version, it's the 258lb ft of torque on call from 1,750rpm which gives this sporty diesel model its gutsy get-up-and-go — although not at the expense of fuel economy. And neither is it hard on your wallet when it comes to paying for tailpipe emissions.

“In spite of the Leon
FR+’s limited visibility,
very firm ride, road noise
intrusion, slow-to-use
SatNav and fiddly
heater buttons, I still
appreciated my time
behind the wheel of
the 2.0 TDI —
the faults just melted
away because it’s a hot
hatch for people who
like to drive
...”
Family hatch it may be, but this 133mph diesel express zips from standstill to 62mph in 8.2 seconds. Plus it will, officially, do 55.4mpg. I didn't quite crack 50mpg, but bearing in mind the fun I had and the driving pleasure it gave while getting from A to B both quickly and sure-footedly, the 49.8mpg I did achieve was more than acceptable.

Private buyers will also be glad of the 134g/km emissions because this keeps the annual road tax bill to a reasonable 115. Company car drivers should be equally chuffed: BIK is a relatively modest 19% — not bad for the performance. However, the insurance costs are a bit steeper due to a 29E rating. Even so, not many family cars offer this impressive performance for the same running costs.

Leon FR models bristle with sports styling and are packed with kit including 'FR' sports seats and steering wheel, auto lights and wipers, on-board computer, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, rear parking sensors, bespoke front and rear bumpers, twin chrome tailpipes, silver-finish door mirrors and distinctive LED rear light clusters.

Moving up to the FR+ adds SEAT's Media System 2.2 (includes SatNav with five-inch colour touchscreen and dynamic route guidance), DAB radio, Bluetooth audio streaming, SD card slot, Bluetooth 'phone connection, 18-inch 'Ibera' alloy wheels, Bi-Xenon headlights with Adaptive Front-lighting System and front parking sensors.

The best of it is that all this extra kit would, if specified separately, cost an extra 2,465 — yet the cost for upgrading to the new Leon FR+ models is just 1,070. In terms of equipment, not only do the new Leon FR+ models offer a significant step-up from the 'standard' FR versions but, thanks to the powerful 2.0-litre engines, it's not 'all show and no go'.

In spite of the Leon FR+'s limited visibility, very firm ride, road noise intrusion, slow-to-use SatNav and fiddly heater buttons, I still appreciated my time behind the wheel of the 2.0 TDI. The faults just melted away because it's a hot hatch for people who like to drive.

I also like the Leon's styling because it successfully mixes sportiness with family practicality. As such it can be a low-tax, fuel-frugal company or family car (with a useful 341 to 1,166 litres of load space) from Monday to Friday then, with no effort, slip into sports car mode for the weekend.

“I also like the Leon’s
styling because it
successfully mixes
sportiness with family
practicality.
As such it can be a low-
tax, fuel-frugal
company or family car
from Monday to Friday
then, with no effort,
slip into sports car mode
for the weekend
...”
Private owners who cover lower annual mileages and who just use a car predominantly for social travel but who would welcome some fire in their driving will also benefit from running a FR+ — although they may prefer the 2.0-litre petrol version.

Whichever powerplant is chosen, both are appealing and both offer the choice of either a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG automatic 'box.

Given the choice, I would go for the 2.0-litre TDI diesel because of its 'grunt'. In this configuration, sixth gear is very much an overdrive to relax the engine noise at high cruising speeds (and also, of course, to help achieve that 50mpg+ official fuel economy and low CO2 rating).

That noted, the other five ratios are perfect for this torquey engine, ensuring that performance remains sharply responsive when needed yet flexible at lower speeds. And, adding to its easy driveability, with so much torque available, block gearchanges are easy.

Against? Very firm ride, restricted all-round vision from the driver's seat, fiddly heater controls, cumbersome SaNav operation.

On the plus side, it offers sporty and very responsive performance, first class handling and needle-sharp steering. Additionally it delivers good fuel economy with low taxes, has a high specification and works well both as a sports car and as a versatile family hatchback.

The FR+'s handling is as taut as you could wish for, the steering pin-sharp — and it's very agile. Happily, all this sporty driving can be done without an eco guilt-trip because, even when driven hard, the engine remains frugal and CO2 friendly-ish. The good news is that this range-topper Leon has more +s than minuses. — David Miles

SEAT Leon FR+ 2.0 TDI | 21,780
Maximum speed: 133mph | 0-62mph: 8.2 seconds | Overall test MPG: 49.8mpg
Power: 168bhp | Torque: 258lb ft | CO2 134g/km