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Road Test

SEAT Leon FR TDI driven

Driven June 2013

Additional Info

Quick! Stop reading this page and go buy a Leon FR diesel! Now! Stop reading! Why are you still reading?

Oh, you wanna know why? Well, if you're quick enough to get your hands on this Leon before the new Golf GTI and Audi S3 arrive in a few months' time, you can righteously boast you own the most powerful MQB-platform car ever built. OK, so MQB (VW's genius new modular architecture) only debuted last year, but who cares? Right now, there's no Golf, Octavia or A3 more powerful than this 181bhp diesel Leon.

If that's not enough, here's another reason to rush out and buy this FR diesel: it's stonkingly good. The best Seat in years, quite possibly ever.

The spangly new diesel engine is a fine start. Nice to see Seat getting first dibs on the good stuff: for too long, the ‘sporty' Spaniards have seemed bottom of the VW Group pecking order. And this 2.0-litre turbo is a beaut: far freer of inertia, and revvier than any VW Group diesel we've tested before. It's quick, too: 0-62mph takes 7.5 seconds, helped by a ripping turn of in-gear pace up there with the best hot hatches.

Even the fastest Leons have traditionally served up the instant feedback of a game of postal chess, but the FR does justice to its powerplant. It steers quickly, rides smartly and, for a medium-sized hatch with a big ol' diesel engine up front, feels very wieldy about the nose. In excellent news for clutch-pedal enthusiasts, you may only have this engine with a six-speed manual 'box: no DSG for you, Sergeant Flappy-Paddles. Oh, and if all that weren't enough, this Leon officially returns 112g/km of CO2, which is... ridiculous, actually. A real-world 50mpg is entirely plausible.

Of course, it won't be long until this engine finds its way into the equally well-engineered Golf and A3. It'll doubtless be excellent in both, but it won't be so cheap. This Leon costs the same as the 148bhp diesel Golf and comes better-equipped, too. Not that you'd know it to sit inside, the source of our only real gripe with the new Leon: its dash is so pared-back and button-free that it feels under-specced when in reality it's optioned to the brim.

But what's a bit of bare dash between friends? This is the best diesel hot hatch around, and one of the finest hatches on sale right now. But, of course, you've just bought one, so you know that by now...

Sam Philip

The numbers
1968cc, 4cyl FWD, 181bhp, 280lb ft, 65.7mpg, 112g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 7.5secs, 142mph, 1345kg

The verdict
One of the best hatches we've driven this year. Considering a diesel Golf? Have a long, hard look at this first

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