There's a bright new addition making an impact on our fleet in the shape of SEAT's sporty Leon

  • Engine: although it is rather peaky, the diesel packs plenty of punch, and its torquey nature means you don’t need to change gear too often.Styling: it’s based on the VW Golf, but the Leon’s looks are a million miles apart. The styling turns heads, and the yellow paint further enhances the shape.Door handles: not everyone finds them easy to use, but the concealed rear handles give the Leon a coupé look. I’ve even had to convince people it’s a five-door!
  • ipod Connection: The £75 option is located under the driver’s seat, so it’s fiddly to connect, and doesn’t offer full control via the stereo.

According to the experts, silver is the number one colour choice for new cars. Good for resale values and hiding dirt it may be, but let's face it - it's dull. That's why I opted for something altogether more garish when it came to choosing our new long-term Seat Leon FR - Crono yellow.

In fact, I have a history of owning unusually coloured cars. My first set of wheels was a very second-hand Ford Fiesta MkI that came in a delightful colour known as 'primrose yellow', which proved ideal for hiding rust.

Eleven years down the line, I'm back with a yellow car, but this time it's totally my choice. I think the paintjob complements the Leon's lines and highlights its aggressive nose and high waistline. It's also easy to find in a packed car park.

But one extra I didn't go for was the optional bodykit. It can be seen here fitted to another Leon FR, but I reckon it's a bit brash. If anything, it gives the Leon a bloated look and has a slight aftermarket feel, particularly those gaping gill-like false vents. Even worse, at £2,500, it's incredibly expensive. One option I did decide to pick was the larger £350 18-inch alloy wheels. They look great, but sadly a visit to an Arc car wash in South Wales over Christmas resulted in considerable damage to the driver's side front wheel. Apparently this can happen to cars fitted with low-profile tyres in some pull-through washes - you have been warned!

All credit to the company, though. Following a swift E-mail, they sent out a customer services manager who assessed the damage and agreed to pay £245 for a replacement wheel. The firm claims it is now altering its carwash set-up to prevent further incidents, but to be on the safe side I'll be sticking to a bucket and sponge from now on!

The final decision I had to make was what went under the bonnet. The 2.0-litre T-FSI petrol unit - which is shared with the VW Golf GTI and Audi TT - was tempting, but with a 160-mile daily commute, fuel economy is an important factor, so I've gone for the 168bhp TDI diesel.

We've already sampled this high-output version of the VW Group 2.0-litre oil-burner in the Passat and Skoda Octavia vRS, but haven't been very impressed with its rather sudden power delivery and coarse engine note. It's certainly better in the lighter Leon, although refinement is still in short supply, particularly at start-up. Its highly tuned nature means that driving in traffic can be a chore while you wait for the turbo to spin up, and a short first gear doesn't help matters. Things are much better on motorways and A-roads, where you can use the 350Nm of torque for effortless cruising.

Other downsides? The ride is firm - as you would expect from a performance hatch - but it's also quite crashy on country lanes and is unpleasant for passengers. The boot isn't overly generous, either, and annoyingly the hatch always requires two shoves to get it closed properly - our long-term Golf GTI was the same.

These gripes aside, the Leon has proved an excellent companion, covering more than 1,000 miles in a week over Christmas. Most of that was in patchy fog, when the stand-out yellow paint didn't seem such a silly idea after all...

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