SEAT Leon FR review

Fun and frugal SEAT Leon FR TDI diesel warm hatchback arrives in Britain

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The SEAT Leon FR isn't as exciting to drive as the Cupra hot hatchback, but the choice of engines on offer means you can have a sporty looking hatch that has lower running costs and reasonable performance. The sharp handling does not come at the expense of ride comfort, plus it’s great value, too, thanks to having kit such as the full LED headlamps and touchscreen sat-nav both thrown in.

Car makers are keen to cash in on the appeal of their sporty models, and the SEAT Leon FR does exactly that. The Leon hatchback is already one of the smartest looking hatchbacks on sale, but if you buy an FR, those looks are enhanced with a sporty makeover inspired by the rapid Leon Cupra.

The Leon FR has suspension that's been lowered by 15mm over the standard car, a subtle bodykit and extra equipment when compared to other models in the range. FR is a mid-range spec, so it gets more kit than the S and SE models, and is a sportier option than the high-spec Xcellence model.

SEAT Leon review

Standard kit includes 17-inch alloy wheels (you can upgrade to 18-inch wheels, too), full LED headlights, two-zone climate control and sat-nav, while FR cars get unique cloth seat trim featuring two types of fabric and red stitching for a sporty touch. Also included is piano black trim on the dashboard, a steering wheel trimmed in perforated leather with more red stitching and a leather gearlever gaiter.

There are a variety of engines sold in SEAT Leon FR trim, although it's not offered with some of the smaller powerplants. The range kicks off with the 123bhp 1.4 TSI 125PS, then moves to the 148bhp 1.4 TSI 150PS version and the 178bhp 1.8 TSI 180PS. For diesels, there's just the 2.0 TDI engine in 150PS (148bhp) and 184PS (182bhp) guises. All cars come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while all bar the smallest 1.4 TSI can be had with a six or seven-speed DSG auto.

Choose one of the bigger engines, and you can add a Performance Pack, which includes 19-inch alloy wheels, while a variety of other accessories are available to make your Leon FR look even sportier. Other options include a variety of vivid metallic paints, additional 18-inch wheel designs, leather seats, digital dials, Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) adaptive dampers, a Winter Pack with heated seats and heated headlamp washers, upgraded speakers and a sunroof, among others.

Safety is well catered for. The LED headlamps are bright and effective, while adding the Driving Assist Pack adds auto main beam, along with lane keeping and road sign alert. Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) is also on offer, as are front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and starting, auto lights and wipers and colour changing LED interior lighting.

On the road, FR models ride a bit more firmly than other versions of the Leon, but it's nowhere near as harsh as the old model. The payoff is handling that's even more entertaining than standard, and the stock Leon is pretty fun to drive anyway. The engines deliver punchy performance and reasonable economy, and the most powerful FR diesel is a rival for the Volkswagen Golf GTD and Skoda Octavia vRS diesel.

FR trim is offered in hatch, SC three-door and ST estate body styles of Leon. SEAT's rivals also offer sporty trims with ordinary engines, and is the equivalent to VW's sporty Golf R-Line trim, as well as GT-Line trim on the Peugeot 308, Renault Megane and Kia Ceed. Elsewhere, the Ford Focus ST Line and Vauxhall Astra VX-Line do a similar job.

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