Practically every new compact car produced by the Volkswagen Group seems to be bestowed with the same basic handling traits at the moment.
A recipe for stimulating individuality this isn’t, but it’s hard to quibble with the clean, tidy dynamics that come as part and parcel of every MQB-based car. Those dynamics make the cars accessible and easy to drive for the novice and capable enough to satisfy in more experienced hands.
In that respect, the Leon has fallen close to the tree. From start-up, every control surface that you’re going to need to interact with – steering, gearbox, pedals – feels light and precise and, once on the move, the car’s easy-going demeanour chimes instantly with their delicately judged tune.
Sports suspension comes as part of FR trim, and despite knocking 15mm off the ride height, it doesn’t particularly corrupt the Leon’s ability to manage deteriorating road surfaces. The emphasis remains on an even-tempered compromise between comfort and control, and with this Leon’s rolling refinement helped along by the more sophisticated multi-link suspension at the rear end, that compromise never feels less than cleverly managed.
Keen drivers, implicitly targeted by the FR’s power and premium, are catered for, too, if not outright rewarded. There’s plenty of benign grip to lean into, and if the steering can’t manage much feedback, it at least proves credibly weighted and suitably quick.
Despite the heavy engine over the nose in diesel versions – and the surfeit of torque often emanating from it – the front end makes a decent fist of tucking in true, and thereafter the Leon continues the MQB’s established theme of servile and competent agility.
However, for those expecting cut-price hot hatch thrills, the FR doesn’t quite step up. It’s short on revelations, then, but big on proficiency and relaxed usability, much like the conventional models.