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Seat turns up the heat on its new SC range with a high-output 1.8-litre turbocharged FR model

Our Verdict

Seat Leon SC

New three-door version of the Leon gets more stylish looks and Golf-rivalling performance

10 April 2013

What is it?

This is the final production version of the Seat Leon SC, a new three-door derivative of the recently launched five-door hatch, here in FR sports trim and with a 1.8-litre TSI petrol engine and dual-clutch automatic transmission.

Despite its passing resemblance to the conventional five-door model, the SC is claimed by Seat to reflect a true ‘Sports Coupé' thanks to an exterior that’s redesigned from the A-pillars back.

Granting the SC a sleeker appearance is a more steeply raked rear windscreen, a lower roofline and a tweaked tailgate. The rear blisters are also larger than the five-door’s, giving the car a slightly lower and wider stance.

The changes aren’t purely cosmetic. The SC also has a 35mm shorter wheelbase, which gives a more sporting appearance and reputedly improved agility, but despite this interior space isn’t compromised excessively — there’s room for four adults and the 380-litre boot is the same size as the five-door's.

Seat's FR variants are further distinguished from the normal SC models by different front and rear bumpers with FR badging, 17-inch wheels, rear LED lights, rear privacy glass, red interior stitching and a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel.

What's it like?

Power comes from the Volkswagen Group's familiar 1.8-litre TSI petrol engine. Benefitting from direct injection and turbocharging, it outputs a useful 178bhp and 184lb ft across wide a tract of the rev range, making it quick both off the line and during in-gear acceleration. It's also the most powerful petrol engine in the SC range.

For a modern turbocharged four-cylinder engine it makes a satisfying noise, with a discreet yet notable burble at idle. At high engine speeds it does sound strained and harsh, but given the mid-range punch and the rapidity of the DSG gearbox there's rarely the need to extend it to the upper echolons of the rev range. At cruising speeds it's both smooth and quiet, which reduces driver fatigue, while the seven-speed transmission shifts quickly and cleanly. The gearbox doesn’t exhibit any annoying tendencies at low speed around town, while wheel-mounted paddles allow for quick manual selection of gears if necessary.

The 1.8-litre TSI Seat SC FR gets a MacPherson strut suspension system at the front and a multi-link set-up at the back – unlike the lower-powered models in the range which make do with a rear torsion beam. It sits 15mm lower too and further benefits from 20 per cent stiffer suspension and sports-tuned dampers. In combination with the FR’s relatively small 17-inch alloys, the ride quality is impressive; it delivers a slick combination of cosseting damping and minimal roll while retaining a sporting edge.

Around corners the electromechanical steering feels direct and accurate. It’s surprisingly light at low speed but not unpleasantly so; as speed increases, so does the steering weight. A little more resistance off-centre would make things a little more engaging and controllable, but there's plenty of grip and traction on offer and the FR is enjoyable to thread through sweeping corners. An electronic transverse differential lock further boosts the FR's cornering capabilities, applying braking input to the inside wheel to assist in keeping the car on the desired line.

Inside, the dash is laid out in a clear and concise fashion, with easily legible instruments and simple controls. Sports-style seats provide adequate bolstering to hold you in place around even tight corners, while remaining comfortable over longer distances. The materials used in the Seat’s cabin feel of a suitably high calibre and the cabin build quality and refinement is generally excellent with little wind or road noise. The three-door bodyshell is stiff, too, further reinforcing the quality feel and improving the Seat's sure-footed feeling in corners.

True to Seat’s claims of retaining a modicum of practicality, accessing the rear seats is a relatively painless affair and there’s plenty of room in the back. Visibility is good, with the Leon proving easy to manoeuvre in tight spaces and in city traffic, while the side windows offer a decent outwards view for rear passengers.

Equipment levels are generous, despite the FR’s relatively modest price tag. As standard it comes with a five-inch touchscreen media system, LED rear lights, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors, electric folding door mirrors, electric windows, Bluetooth connectivity, cruise control, hill hold assist and steering-wheel mounted audio and phone controls. Many will be pleased to note the presence of a conventional mechanical handbrake too.

FR models benefit further from Seat’s Drive Profile system, which adjusts the steering, throttle, ambient lighting and exhaust note at the press of a button. Four modes are offered: Comfort, Sport, Eco and Individual. In Leon SC FR models equipped with the DSG transmission, this function additionally adjusts the shift pattern. The different modes do offer some notable changes but, as with many of these systems, you tend to leave it in to Sport mode and move on.

Should I buy one?

If you’re looking for an involving, stylish and refined hatchback that won’t cost a fortune to buy or run, the new Seat Leon SC FR should definitely make its way on to your shortlist.

Costing £300 less across the range than the equivalent five-door model, and with the 1.8-litre TSI FR with DSG commanding a price tag of £21,535, it offers a solid combination of quality, comfort, equipment and pace for the money.

Those looking for the most engaging SC FR would probably be best to opt for the six-speed manual version, however. Besides the extra satisfaction that comes from driving a punchy small manual hatch, ticking the box for the manual ’box will save you £1250.

If outright performance isn't a major concern, then much the same experience can be found in the less costly – and slightly slower – 1.4-litre TSI petrol version of the FR. Alternatively, if maximum economy is a necessity, Seat also offers a 2.0-litre TDI version of the FR that's fairly quick and yet capable of a claimed 68.9mpg.

Lewis Kingston

Seat Leon FR 1.8 TSI 180PS DSG

Price £21,535; 0-62mph 7.2sec; Top speed 139mph; Economy 49.6mpg; CO2 132g/km; Kerb weight 1307kg; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1798cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 178bhp at 4000-6200rpm; Torque 184lb ft at 1500-3900rpm; Gearbox 7-spd dual-clutch automatic

Join the debate

Comments
23

Ant

10 April 2013

Best to wait for the Cupra, this 1.8 seems a bit of a halfway house.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Estoril M135i Manual

10 April 2013

Apart from the badge and the price, I am really struggling to see much difference between this and the A3 3-door. I do hope VAG learn from the history of BLs mistakes.

10 April 2013

A common comment but you will feel the difference if you ever decide to drive them.  They are all tuned differently, and use different components (The A3 will have the best seats and dampers for example).  I recently drove a Skoda Octavia, VW Golf, Audi A3.... they felt like different cars.

11 April 2013

winniethewoo wrote:

A common comment but you will feel the difference if you ever decide to drive them.  They are all tuned differently, and use different components (The A3 will have the best seats and dampers for example).  I recently drove a Skoda Octavia, VW Golf, Audi A3.... they felt like different cars.

Totally agree.  Armchair critics keep the world full of fury and sit there claiming BL was basically VW with a few mistakes.

11 April 2013

Jeremy wrote:

I do hope VAG learn from the history of BLs mistakes.

This made me laugh.....or were you being serious?!


10 April 2013

£20k for a manual 1.8 tsi fr seems great value given you'd normally pay that amount for a mid-range golf or focus these days

10 April 2013

1.8T 180bhp ----- High output???????

Is this an article from the 90's.

The 1.4 high power VAG petrol puts out more power than that.

 

10 April 2013

Not bad at all. Seat's new Leon may just have the potential to pull the Spanish marque out of the red.

10 April 2013

I am glad Seat continue produce a genuine warm hatch in their range, as well as their (yet to be announced) hotter versions.  The avaliability of a six speed box is also welcome too.

 

 

 

It's all about the twisties........

11 April 2013

If they are coat hooks in the boot you are very short, they are for shopping, they are useful too.

The Seat has my favourite Golf interior, I prefer the simpler styling, though was wondering if the grab handles are damped? ;o)

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