What is it?
The fastest and most powerful model in the new Seat Leon line-up. But, as you’ve probably worked out from the name of the car, the most potent Leon in the initial new third-generation range – the FR 2.0 TDI – gets its go from the black pump.
We’ve got used to the idea of front-drive diesel hot hatches with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf GTD and Skoda Octavia vRS, and indeed the previous Leon FR TDI, but none have ever really set the heart racing in the way a high-revving petrol hot hatch does, as pleasing as the blend of performance and economy can be.
The new Leon FR 2.0 TDI, on paper, boasts a set of numbers and spec that could change that. Power comes from a 2.0-litre turbodiesel unit with 181bhp and 280lb ft (13bhp and 22lb ft more than a Golf GTD Mk6), which gives the diesel FR a 0-62mph time of 7.5sec and a 142mph top speed. The 0-62mph performance is a match for the most potent petrol Leon in the launch line-up, the 178bhp 1.8 TSI, but top speed is up 2mph on that car.
First drive review: 2013 Seat Leon 1.4 TSI
And that performance comes not at the expense of economy: the oil-burning Leon hot hatch can return a claimed 65.7mpg on the combined cycle and has CO2 emissions of 112g/km.
Also of note is the fact Seat has got its hands on this new 2.0 TDI engine first; part of the new line-up for the vast MQB family of VW Group cars planned over the next few years, it is due to find a home next in the new VW Golf and Audi A3.
What's it like?
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.