Seat's third-generation Leon is attractive and capable, but it can't quite match the best this class can offer
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What is it?
The Seat Leon TDI FR, which is the first Leon model to get a common-rail diesel engine. The new 168bhp turbodiesel joins the range above the venerable 138bhp 2.0 pumpe-duse turbodiesel.
The VW group’s six-speed twin-clutch DSG gearbox is available on the new range-topping diesel, but it’s the standard six-speed manual version of the Seat Leon TDI FR that we test here. Like the rest of the facelifted Leon range, The Leon TDI FR also gets a bigger rear window, ESP as standard, softer chassis settings and a new dash.
What’s it like?
The Seat Leon TDI FR is the vehicular equivalent of the bacon sandwich - practical, affordable and rarely disappointing. We expect a lot from a modern hot hatch, and the new Leon TDI FR is one of the most flexible real-world options around.
The new common-rail engine reduces the noise and vibration by 15 per cent over the old pumpe duse TDI FR, a point that’s evident as soon as you turn the key in the ignition
The Leon TDI FR is happy to rev to the redline, though the torquey power delivery means there’s not much point in pushing it past 3800rpm. The new common-rail unit is refined and punchy on more demanding roads, and is equally at home with motorway cruising or town driving.
The newly tweaked chassis setting also makes the Leon TDI FR a more supple drive than the pre-facelift model and, though the heavier diesel engine means that the TDI doesn’t quite have the quick-witted responses of the Leon TSI FR, it’s still an absorbing drive on the twisty stuff, living up to its hot hatch billing.
The updated cabin successfully modernises the Leon’s interior, with a new interface bringing USB iPod connectivity to the range and a better laid-out dash making it easier to use. There’s even some new seat colour options that break up the otherwise bland, but functional, cabin.
Should I buy one?
If you want a car that has the kind of pace and driveability that makes you actively choose to take the long way home while still being spacious, frugal and comfortable enough for the family holiday, then yes. The similarly priced TSI FR is the better driver’s choice, but the Seat Leon TDI FR isn’t far behind and makes an even better case for itself on the daily commute.