From £14,700
The Leon FR is compellingly cheap, but you can tell where the corners were cut.

Our Verdict

Seat Leon 5dr hatch

Seat's third-generation Leon is attractive and capable, but it can't quite reach the benchmark set by the imperious Volkswagen Golf

2 August 2006

What is it? The hottest-yet version of Seat’s Leon to arrive in the UK. This one has two key features: a price tag of a fiver under £17,000 and the engine from the Golf GTi. That sounds promising. There are also mild exterior and interior changes including a honeycomb front grille.What’s it like? The engine is very much the star, with lots of progressive shove on offer from just over 2000rpm and a pleasing turbo whistle. Everything else has its compromises. The six-speed gearbox, manipulated by a rather strangely-shaped gearlever, is quick-shifting and has well-spaced ratios, though sixth could do with being longer and our 700-mile car had some slackness in the gate. Handling? The FR grips hard (though there’s too much road noise) and corners fast, but the poor steering feel tells. Placing the car accurately with the strangely-shaped wheel is easy, but reacting to under-tyre events is not – there is a worrying lack of information. The car is well-planted over large intrusions, but it doesn’t have so many answers to smaller ones, which makes progress somewhat unsettled. The brakes are effective enough, but no more, and the pedal feels spongy. The seats grip you well but feel cheap – as does the rest of the interior, quite strikingly so. That’s a shame, for the exterior FR tweaks and the Leon’s basic shape work well together.Should I buy one? It all depends on how much you think the more rounded spread of talents found in more expensive rivals is worth. The FR is £3000 less than a Golf GTi, but it's only £500 less than the more stimulating Ford Focus ST (albeit in three-door form).Richard Dilks

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