Diesel hot hatch was wearing the battle scars of nine months on fleet – so we called in the experts to give it some tlc

  • THE voice-activated hands-free phone system in the Leon is really simple to use – even my Scottish accent doesn’t confuse it! Being able to input whole telephone numbers in a single hit, or simply selecting one from my phonebook, is a real boon when I’m trying to stay in touch on the move.
  • THE SEAT’s build quality continues to impress. But one thing rankles: the seatbelts. When the passenger-side buckle is not in use, it bangs against the B-pillar over bumps. The solution is to either raise the shoulder adjustment to its highest setting or fasten the belt.

I’VE decided it’s time to put the shine back into our SEAT Leon FR TDI. Over the past couple of months it has started to show signs of its hard life on our fleet – so I called in the experts to give it a much needed makeover.

First on the agenda was a service, as the on-board display was showing the time had come to visit a dealer for attention.

MK SEAT in Milton Keynes, Bucks, is only 16 miles from home, and it handled my phone booking perfectly.

I waited on site while the work was completed, and although I was disappointed that complimentary Wi-Fi wasn’t available, the daytime TV and free coffee helped pass the time.

Unfortunately, the check-up took an hour longer than expected, and the garage staff didn’t offer an explanation or apology for the delay. To be fair to the technicians, the service desk did appear to be pretty busy on the morning of my visit. And the bill made the wait worthwhile, as it came to a very reasonable £166.28.

The Leon seems to be running even smoother now the work has been done. I’m also hoping the economy will start to creep back up again thanks to the fresh lubricants. In my previous report, the car was averaging 42.8mpg, but since then it has dipped to 39.8mpg. While the Leon was with MK SEAT, staff even gave it a wash – although this did add £5.81 to the bill.

From 20 yards away, through the service reception window, it looked like a new car. But closer inspection of the clean bodywork highlighted evidence of some wear and tear – which prompted stage two of my refresh.

For this I enlisted the car care experts from Shine! (, who tackled the battle scars on the orange SEAT with relish. Worst of the damage was a scraped rear bumper, where the scuffed paint revealed the bare plastic beneath.

After attacking the affected area with an orbital sander – and in the process momentarily making the damage look even worse! – Shine technician Justin resprayed it with fresh paint.

Our long-termer’s orange colour is notoriously tricky to match perfectly, but the shade seems accurate and the repair is a 100 per cent improvement.

Next on Justin’s hit list was a deep scratch on the passenger door, which he carefully filled and repainted. He also touched in the many stone chips that have accumulated on the bonnet and front bumper of the Leon. They’re a direct consequence of the car’s sleek design and soft, eco-friendly paint. I expect it to collect more marks, especially as we head back into winter, but for now the nose looks a lot smarter than before.

When the FR first arrived, I was bowled over by its eye-catching colour scheme, punchy performance, practical hatchback layout and economical diesel engine. It’s fair to say the body damage sustained over the past eight months has dented my affection... but after a quick refresh, I’ve fallen for it head over heels all over again.

If you’re growing tired of your car but can’t afford to replace it, why not treat it to a professional valet and a bit of tlc? It might reignite your love affair – as it did with me and the SEAT...

Second Opinion

“It’s bad news for me that Graeme has fallen back in love with the Leon. Its impressive economy and sharp handling are perfect for my long, twisty journey home, and I’m always reaching for the keys. I also love the orange paint job.”Luke Madden, Motoring Writer

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