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SEAT Leon Cupra/FR

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Seat Leon FR 2.0TDI CR
5/10

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Road Test

SEAT Leon Cupra/FR 2.0TDI CR

Driven October 2009

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If you prefer your car to suckle from the black pump but still crave some hot hatchery, then this facelifted Leon FR is aimed at you. Fear not, petrolists, you can still have an unleaded FR and - like this diesel - it has some new mechanical bits and minor cosmetic updates.

But it's the diesel that will account for around 70 per cent of sales and that's what we've driven here.

Top of the list of changes is a new engine. This FR is engaged in warm diesel war with the Golf GTD (the petrol version takes on the GTI) and both sides plunder the same VW Group arsenal. So the 2.0-litre TDI living inside this Leon also has a home in the Golf, though this is the first time the Leon has used common rail injection in place of a rattly old pump-duse unit. Both cars have a hunky 258lb ft of torque but 0-62mph runs of just over eight seconds won't trouble their petrol counterparts.

Also new on the FR is an electronic diff. It's one of those pseudo-mechanical jobbies that uses the ABS and stability control systems to grab individual wheels if they threaten to spin (rather than divert power to the one with the most grip). As a tool to reduce torque steer it works subtly enough, but the front tyres will still scuffle with the tarmac and you will understeer if you're aggressive in tight corners. We know electronic diffs can work - the Abarth 500's is a good example - but the FR's fails to really hardwire you to the road.

On the motorway it may also give you a small headache, as road roar is channelled to your brain on a background stress frequency. Maybe the optional 18-inch alloys are to blame, in which case settle for the standard 17s and save yourself a titanic Nurofen bill.

We can deal with the visual changes briefly, as they are few and subtle: new front and rear lights, new front grille, new bumpers, wider rear window. Inside there are some new knobs and buttons and a new instrument cluster.

The FR is supposed to sucker you into the driving experience. But it doesn't. To those who like their hot hatches diesely, the FR is an appealing idea but there's something cold about its execution. Maybe it's because it fails to sneak onto your emotional radar. Or perhaps it's the badge that fools: what we have here is a quick-ish diesel hatch wrapped in some funky metal. The FR bit, whatever that is, simply doesn't do - or mean - enough.

Dan Read

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