SEAT Leon Cupra/FR

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Seat Leon T FSi FR Car Review | 9 August 2006

Driven August 2006

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It's difficult not to be cynical about the VW empire sometimes - badge engineers manipulating products to make people feel they're buying something different. But with cars like the Leon FR, it seems to make more sense.

Seat has taken all the shared VW components marked 'hot hatch' and built a decent interpretation of the genre that aims straight into the heart of its youthful target audience. It's cheap, it's quick and there's a vibrant flair to the design some Golf buyers really wouldn't get.

The jury's still out on whether the Leon design is genuinely stylish or just a bit contrived, but there's no doubt the FR has the right intentions. It takes the standard Leon shape and uses redesigned front and rear bumpers, chromed twin exhausts and a set of 17in alloys to add a bit more attitude. And, as always, some yellow paint if you really fancy it.

The 2.0 turbocharged FSI engine is the FR's greatest asset. It's the same 197bhp unit as in the Golf GTI, so you can expect the same addictive, fizzing exhaust note with 62mph served up in 7.3 seconds.

There's a six-speed manual 'box fitted as standard, but the tempting DSG auto is available with a paddle shift gearchange that'll make you wonder why you ever wanted an old-school clutch in the first place.

For those with a slightly more sensible head, there's also a 170bhp turbodiesel option. It's basically a tweaked version of the 140bhp unit found elsewhere in the VW range, delivering a useful 236lb ft torque and 47mpg. It isn't quite as spritely as the petrol alternative, but mid-range grunt is impressive enough - especially on the motorway.

On twistier roads, it's the usual story. The FR's suspension has been tuned for a firmer ride than most comparable Volkswagen stablemates, but that does help deliver a broader smile in fast corners. Choose the optional 18in wheels and you might find yourself bouncing around more than you'd like, but if you really want a hot hatch, there are prices to pay.

Which seamlessly brings me onto the FR's most attractive feature - the price on its windscreen. You'll only need just under £17k for the petrol version, rising to £17,495 for the diesel alternative - that's an easy four-figure saving over some rivals and over three grand less than a Golf. Great news, unless you're over 40...

Paul Regan

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