SEAT Leon FR 1.5 TSI

EVO

SEAT Leon FR, front
SEAT Leon FR, profile
SEAT Leon FR, front, dynamic
SEAT Leon FR, rear
SEAT Leon FR, dashboard
SEAT Leon FR, interior
SEAT Leon FR, boot

THE Leon has been a cornerstone of the SEAT range since 1999, accumulating more than 2.2 million sales globally across three generations.

More than 250,000 of those have found homes in the United Kingdom, transforming the Barcelona-based brand into a key competitor in the market here.

The fourth generation car hit showrooms earlier this year promising greater practicality, improved connectivity and more efficient powertrains, including mild-hybrid and plug-in hybrid options.

Design-wise, though, changes have very much taken the form of evolution rather than revolution, something we have come to expect across the Volkswagen Group. The new Leon still boasts the smooth curves and clean lines of its predecessor, which was already the most dynamic looking hatchback among its group siblings.

Noticeable changes are the re-worked nose, with a bolder grille and more up-to-date look, as well as the edge-to-edge rear LED light cluster, running the full width of the more sculpted tailgate.

Less obvious to the naked eye is the fact that the new car is almost nine centimetres longer while the wheelbase has also increased by five centimetres, which translates to a similar improvement in legroom for rear occupants.

With six familiar SEAT trim levels available - SE, SE Dynamic, FR, FR Sport, Xcellence and Xcellence Lux - and prices starting from just under £20,000 there is plenty of choice to suit all tastes and budgets.

There's also a broad selection of engines available with petrol and diesel variants as well as those hybrid options - with the plug-in set to join the line-up this autumn - mated variously to six-speed manual or a seven-speed automatic transmissions.

The combination of FR trim and the 1.5-litre TSI EVO petrol power plant in our test car is likely to prove a popular option - FR grade cars offering styling enhancements while the engine pairs decent performance with good fuel economy.

Sporty front and rear bumpers, 17-inch alloy wheels, dual exhaust pipes and a unique suspension set-up - riding 15mm lower than other trims - ensure FR models stand out from the crowd.

The engine, kicking out 150ps, offers performance to match the dynamic looks, propelling the Leon from 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds and on to a top speed of 134mph, when mated to the compact six-speed manual gearbox.

Thanks to active cylinder management technology, which automatically deactivates two of the four cylinders when the engine load is low, it also offers up to 48.7 miles per gallon on average.

The sports suspension offers impressively agile and nimble handling too, which, coupled with accurate and well-weighted steering, makes this an entertaining and engaging car to drive when circumstances allow.

It corners keenly and with plenty of grip and throttle response is positive and prompt when you ask for a little extra pace. The pay-off for this dynamic ability is a slightly firm ride but, although you will certainly know when you hit a pothole, it rarely strays into uncomfortable territory.

The extra interior space means that four adults will travel in comfort and five will be fine on shorter trips, while the cabin quality also impresses with tactile, soft-touch plastics used widely.

At the heart of the Leon's interior, in all but entry-level cars, is the SEAT digital cockpit, which brings together a high-resolution 10.25-inch configurable driver instrument cluster and 10-inch touchscreen infotainment system.

Other standard kit in FR cars includes a leather multifunction sports steering wheel, three-zone air conditioning, wireless charging tray in the front and two additional USB points in the rear, Apple and Android smartphone connectivity, digital radio, navigation, keyless ignition, automatic emergency braking, cruise control and lane keep assist.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Leon FR 1.5 TSI EVO

Price: £24,805

Mechanical: 150ps, 1,498cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 134mph

0-62mph: 8.4 seconds

Combined MPG: 48.7

Insurance Group: 22

C02 emissions: 132g/km

Bik rating:29%

Warranty:3yrs/60,000 miles

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