SEAT Leon 2.0 TDI

22 Feb, 2013 11:45am Damion Smy

The fun and frugal five-door SEAT Leon has already impressed, but is it as good on UK tarmac?


There's a lot to love about the Leon FR. It’s got smart looks, great performance and is fun to drive. It’s well mannered around town and razor-sharp on B-roads. Plus, it’s refined and practical, with a large boot and reasonable rear legroom. Add in the kind of running costs we used to expect from eco specials, and the Leon makes a lot of sense.

When we drove the 181bhp SEAT Leon 2.0 TDI FR on foreign roads last year, we came away thinking it was one of the best models yet to use the VW Group’s MQB platform (which also underpins the VW Golf MkVII and Audi A3). But now we’ve driven a left-hand-drive version in the UK, is that still the case?

The FR is the flagship of the current line-up and it makes the most of the Leon’s sharp lines, with LED lights, aggressive bumpers, twin exhausts, sports suspension and 17-inch alloys.

Inside, there’s a better finish and a more robust, solid feel than in the old Leon. The FR has a flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped in leather, with sports seats set off by red stitching. There’s also a seven-inch touchscreen and dual-zone climate control, while ambient lighting adds a touch of class.

On the road, the Leon FR is an outstanding performer. The 181bhp from the 2.0-litre diesel is impressive, but more significant is the substantial 380Nm of torque from a low 1,750rpm. Quick overtakes come easily and, with so much in-gear power on tap, you often won’t need to change down. In fact, leave the smooth six-speed manual in gear in town and the low-speed response – not usually a diesel strongpoint – is excellent for brisk manoeuvres.

The Leon rides well on its firmer sports suspension, with no crashing over bumps in the way old FR models tended to. Its taut chassis and sharp steering make for crisp turn-in, while there’s loads of grip and traction on the way out of bends.

It’s very entertaining down a winding road, and although there’s a hint of diesel rattle at high revs, refinement is impressive. So, too, are the 65.7mpg fuel economy and 112g/km CO2 claims, and its 380-litre boot.

SEAT’s been setting UK sales records recently, and with the new Leon FR, that success looks set to continue.

Key specs

  • Price: £23,000 (est)
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbodiesel
  • Power: 181bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 7.5 seconds
  • Top speed: 142mph
  • Economy: 65.7mpg
  • CO2: 112g/km
  • Equipment: Leather seats, parking sensors, eight-speaker stereo
  • On sale: 31 March