Range-topper brings even more verve to sporty hatch

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Leon is getting on a bit now, but it’s still a sharp tool – and this range-topping new FR+ model is very desirable indeed. It’s good-looking, fun to drive yet won’t cost the earth to run, and while the usual negatives remain – the ride is rather uncomfortable – the fact that it can keep pace with much more expensive hot hatches while returning close to 40mpg means it has plenty of appeal.

The SEAT Leon is getting a little extra with the FR+ line. The new range-toppers make space for a pair of lower-powered cars, simply called FR.

Buyers looking for a bona fide hot hatch will get their thrills from one of the two FR+ cars, fitted with either the 208bhp 2.0-litre TSI from the VW Golf GTI or the Golf GTD’s 168bhp 2.0 TDI. FR has effectively become a trim level, superseding Sport at mid-range, with a 123bhp 1.4-litre TSI petrol or a 138bhp 2.0 TDI.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the SEAT Leon


And although that lets the firm charge £1,000 more for the higher-powered cars, the FR+ does get nearly £2,500 worth of extra kit, including bi-xenon headlamps, front parking sensors and SEAT’s top-level touchscreen sat-nav and infotainment system.

The FR is pretty well equipped, too, with rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloys, sport seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and silver wing mirrors. Shuffling the range also means an FR is cheaper to fuel and insure than ever: the 1.4-litre TSI is £18,205, while the 138bhp diesel returns 58.9mpg. The latter is £2,000 more, though.

With no mechanical changes, save for 18-inch alloys, the FR+ cars drive as per the FRs of old. The Leon has always struggled with poor ride quality, and these sportier models are still unsettling for occupants.

The trade-off is a connected feel that the Golf – and most other hatches – simply don’t have. High-set instruments and tight sports seats lead to a secure, hemmed-in feeling, and the beefy steering is among the most naturally weighted set-ups around. Regardless of engine, the Leon is confidence-inspiring and truly engaging.

Most fun of all is the petrol turbo. It costs a huge £4,000 less here than in Golf GTI form. With a 6.9-second 0-62mph time and a 145mph top speed, on paper it’s clear that the SEAT is a very fast machine – and on the road it doesn’t disappoint.

Not only is it quick off the line, but the in-gear flexibility will really put a smile on your face. The 280Nm of torque gives constant deep-chested urge, allowing you to pull out and pass cars with ease. Factor in a smooth note and the fact that some light-footed motorway driving will return 40mpg, and you’ve got a fine all-rounder.

The Leon may not be the youngest hatch on the block, but in the case of the new FR+ it still feels like a sharp package.

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