After an unfortunate collision with a skip, our SEAT Leon FR is in full health again following a trip to the bodyshop. And it’s piling on the miles with some aplomb... although we still think it could deliver more fun
Country living is idyllic. Peaceful, slow-paced and stress-free, it’s a world away from the hectic pace of our London-based offices. Having recently moved to a village in Rutland, Britain’s smallest county, I can happily confirm this.
Of course the 96-mile commute into London isn’t ideal, but after fighting my way out of the capital and enduring the boredom of the A1, the several miles of roads that lead to my house are certainly a welcome sight.
However, given that it’s claiming to be a hot hatch, the Leon FR seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. Because while I’m all for diverting off the motorway and on to some far more interesting roads, the Leon is far happier on smooth dual carriageways.
The reason? Put simply, the ride is just too firm. Over the uneven and often bumpy surfaces that are invariably found on country roads, the Leon feels unsettled and uncomfortable.
Worse still, it makes driving quickly but smoothly difficult, and after only a few miles the experience can become tiring. The pay-off for this stiff set-up is excellent resistance to body roll and high levels of grip. With two new Avon tyres up front – the second was fitted at the recent 18,000-mile service – it feels even more sure-footed around corners, but often there’s so much crashiness from the suspension, it’s difficult to appreciate.
Despite its shortcomings, I’m still very much in love with the FR. On the motorway, its 300Nm of torque can really be exploited and the noise of the engine is less noticeable, but if you do find a smooth piece of twisting road it’s perfect.
That hasn’t been easy recently. Following a collision with a skip back in March, the Leon was booked in to be repaired at the Peterborough branch of Nationwide Crash Repairs. The initial estimated time for the job was five days – roughly what you would expect for the replacement of the tailgate, glass and some paintwork on the bumper. But this turned out to be a week, then a further four days and eventually two weeks.
At this point, the continual delays were becoming frustrating, so to be told it would take a further four days – making it two- and-a-half weeks in total, was the final straw. A few choice words with the bodyshop manager by fellow road tester Lesley Harris produced results, and the car was eventually ready 14 days after it was dropped off.
The work itself seems good – although the rear wiper was fitted the wrong way round – and to have the Leon back in pristine and undamaged condition is pleasing, especially when you consider what a great looking car it is. The next project for the FR is the addition of a larger tailgate spoiler and maybe some special black Cupra style alloy wheels. Hopefully these extras won’t take quite as long!