What is it?
The Seat Leon needs no introduction, having transformed the Spanish brand almost 10 years ago by offering a brilliant package that many favoured over the trusty Volkswagen Golf, with which it shares a platform. Now in its fourth generation, the model has been the maker’s UK top-seller for the past few years.
The hatchback rules the roost but the estate still has its place, accounting for 10% of Leon sales - and the sporty FR trim, as driven, is easily the most popular, making up two-fifths of volume.
The FR’s aesthetic differences over lesser trims include FR Sport bumpers, LED headlights and 17in bi-spoke alloy wheels. The only technical change is a 15mm-lower ride height.
What's it like?
That sports suspension helps the Leon shine on country roads, turning keenly into corners with not much roll and ample grip. Evenly weighted, accurate steering further enhances driving enjoyment on twisty roads as well as daily urban journeys. This Leon FR does make another of its platform-sharing Volkswagen Group cousins, the standard Skoda Octavia Estate, feel a bit wallowy by comparison.
Swings and roundabouts, though: Even in vRS form, the Octavia’s ride comfort is impressive, but here the FR falls short. To be fair, the FR is perfectly comfortable most of the time, but the secondary ride can be wanting, the car fidgeting and crashing over potholes and road imperfections.
The 128bhp 1.5-litre engine is a little wanting, too. It is the sensible, middle-of-the-range powertrain choice, achieving 0-62mph in 9.7sec, and will cope with any on-road scenario. However, on faster roads, this tester found her foot to the floor a little too often in a bid to get the car up to speed. It’s also not the smoothest or quietest engine around, sounding gruff when worked hard.
Space, so renowned in the Octavia, is pleasingly similar in the Leon, be it front or rear passenger leg room or room in the boot. The Octavia estate’s has 640 litres, the Leon’s has 620 litres and the Golf estate’s falls slightly short of both.
Quality is also on a par with its Volkswagen Group rivals, with spongy materials and soft-to-touch finishes. Apple CarPlay is easy to use - still not a given on many cars - but trying to change the radio station on the infotainment elicited quite a few expletives. It should definitely be easier than that.