A very polished performer indeed. In a straight-line, it really is rapid and there’s so much traction and such a wide torque band that you’ll often forget you’re in a diesel at all.
There is, however, the usual gruff diesel tone at start-up, but that’s where the stereotypes end. When you floor it in a current 2.0 TDI VW Group model, you’ll be greeted with a great slug of torque just below 2000rpm but it’ll soon drop off around 3000rpm and not sound particularly pleasant any higher up the rev range. Not so in the FR TDI.
That's because, first, FR Leons come with a selectable driving system with four modes – Normal, Eco, Sport and the customisable Individual – that alter parameters such as throttle response and steering feel, but also a speaker that alters the engine note being played into the cabin. Select Sport and really go for it and you’ll be met with a noise not dissimilar to a VW Golf GTI Mk6. It might be a bit of a dirty trick, but it works; you can enjoy the performance without your sense of sound reminding you you’re ‘only’ in a diesel the whole time.
Also, that drop off comes much higher in the rev range, at just over 4000rpm, where you’ll probably want to have changed into a higher gear through the slick six-speed manual gearbox (no DSG option on this engine, you might pleased to hear) just to keep the feeling of slick, linear progress going.
Where the engine falls down as a performance hatch tool is when you’re really going for it on a twisty section; should you drop below 1750rpm and that great big slug of maximum torque that greets you all the way to 3500rpm not be available, then you’ll find momentum can quickly be lost and you’ll be swapping quickly for a lower gear.
But, as a performance hatch in most other areas, the new Leon FR 2.0 TDI delivers. The FR Leons ride 15mm lower than normal models and they get MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension with stiffer springs and shock absorbers.
The result is a firm ride but not in the same way the old Leon’s ride was too firm; that car felt like it had been firmed up to be uncomfortable just to fit in within with Seat’s brand strategy of the time of being considered 'sporty' whatever the engine or situation.
This Leon FR 2.0 TDI is firm but still smooth and comfortable; it feels a more than able motorway companion and its rebound damping serves to inspire confidence that this is a car that can handle being pushed, rather than one that’s trying to be sporty just to fulfil the promises of some market literature.
When you do get on the twisties, there’s little body roll and a real reluctance to understeer should you stay within its boundaries, although we’re reluctant to pass a full judgement as the test condition on the roads around Malaga could be described as rather soggy at best.
Still, the conditions didn’t detract us from noticing just how nicely weighted and direct the new Leon’s steering is, and how vast an improvement in quality the interior is in looks and feel over the old model. And, although you have to drive one of the lighter petrol models to feel the full benefit, the lower weight of the new Leon, coupled with a longer wheelbase and wider tracks, gives the ultimate feeling of a car that’s more agile and more stable than before.