Seat Leon FR

With great looks and strong performance, the SEAT Leon FR DSG has all the right credentials

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Although it doesn't have the all-round talents of the class leaders - such as its fellow VW Group variant, the Golf - with great looks, a stylish cabin and strong performance, the Leon FR DSG has all the right hot hatch credentials. It's competitively priced, too. Unless you really need the extra flexibility that's provided by the semi-automatic set-up, however, the manual model remains the best value option for keen drivers.

As performance brands go, SEAT's FR division is something of a newcomer. The Formula Racing stable can't hope to rival the likes of the Volkswagen GTI or sporty Ford RS badges for heritage. However, when it comes to serving up driver thrills, it's a whole new story.

The handsome five-door Leon has the looks, performance and price to make it a real threat to its illustrious competitors - particularly now that SEAT has given the 2.0-litre TFSI variant a boost, in the form of the VW Group's clever DSG gearbox.

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

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The 197bhp engine lifted straight from the VW Golf is mated to the nifty twin-clutch set-up. And it's capable of changing ratios faster than a conventional manual transmission, so the performance is even sharper.

Pay £900 for the DSG model, and you will be able to shave a tenth-of-a-second off the 0-62mph sprint time, which now takes 7.2 seconds. While you won't see the improvement from behind the wheel, the appeal of the paddleshift set-up is undeniable.

Changes are very smooth, and the system couldn't be easier to operate. You simply pull one paddle to shift up, and the other to shift down.

However, in Drive, or the more responsive Sport setting, the DSG transmission isn't as good as a conventional automatic box, and changes feel both clumsy and hesitant - so the system isn't flawless.

The rest of the car is standard FR, which means you get purposeful bumpers, smart alloy wheels, silver door mirrors and twin chromed tailpipes. Inside, there are FR-branded sports seats and white-backed dials, while the chunky three-spoke steering wheel looks and feels the part.

On the road, the Leon's characteristically firm ride remains. It lacks the finesse of the Golf DSG, and the low-speed ride is badly compromised. Rutted country roads and uneven urban surfaces have the SEAT crashing along nosily, even if grip is impressive.

It still doesn't offer the all-round talents of the Ford Focus ST, Golf GTI or Honda Civic Type R, but the SEAT is great value and DSG has its appeal. However, it's all too easy to slot the transmission into auto and leave it there, which defeats the object of a go-faster model. So even though it's good fun, the manual Leon is still the more entertaining choice.

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