If you're in the market for a roomy, five-door, economical family hatchback then you could do worse than the 2013 SEAT Leon FR, writes car reviewer Tim Barnes-Clay.
SEAT enjoyed a record-breaking year for sales in the UK in 2012 – its best since the brand was introduced into the country in 1985.
The Spanish automaker's popularity is likely to continue if the all-new SEAT Leon is anything to go by.
The hatchback, first launched in 1999, is unquestionably one of SEAT's most significant cars ever.
So what's so great about the latest Leon?
For a start, it's a pioneer in the hatchback category, being the first to offer full-LED headlights.
This is avant-garde technology, and until now only offered as a considerable cost option on luxury saloons and sports cars.
The full-LED headlights of the Leon are optional but at a considerably lower cost than those offered by other car manufacturers - up to two-thirds cheaper.
They're worth having: my demo car was fitted with them and looked absolutely stunning.
But, come on SEAT - go the whole hog and add them as standard.
Another tick in the box is that the car is underpinned by a technologically-advanced chassis.
This is shared with the hottest hatchbacks from Volkswagen Group manufacturers, including the most recent Audi A3, VW Golf and Skoda Octavia.
I drove SEAT's athletic version of the Leon - the FR.
Those letters stand for Formula Racing, so, predictably, the car comes with sporty features.
These sporty features include 17-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, and front sports seats.
The driver's seat is set lower than that of the previous Leon, but has a broad range of movement up and down, and fore and aft, as does the steering wheel.
This provides a confident driver set-up – and a fun one, especially when you hit the road after selecting "Sport" from the SEAT Drive Profile.
This is a menu of driving modes which allows you to change the character of the Leon.
On the list of options you can also choose Normal, Eco or Individual set-up. It's a cool bit of gadgetry and is accessed at the touch of a button.
SEAT Leon FR 2.0 TDi 150 PS: Spec
The SEAT Leon FR 2.0 TDi 150 will sprint from zero to 62mph in 8.4 seconds, and on to a top speed of 134mph.
It hugs the corners as though superglued to the road: body roll is virtually non-existent. It feels a million miles away from a standard, efficient, family hatch.
But it's not that far from one as far as fuel savings go.
In fact, fuel economy is startlingly efficient with the oil-burner averaging 68.9 miles per gallon.
Voluminous motor in the family hatchback class
The newest Leon comes in a package that's enormously practical too.
The motor is a full five-seater with a 380-litre boot.
The luggage compartment has increased by 39 litres, its rear knee room by 14 mm, and headroom by the same amount.
It's among the most voluminous motors in the family hatchback class.
Five-star safety rating
But, most importantly, the new SEAT Leon has been awarded the maximum five-star rating by Euro NCAP in its safety tests.
It scored 94 percent and 92 percent for the adult occupant and child occupant elements respectively.
What more could you ask for? Not a lot. If I had £21,385, I'd be buying a SEAT Leon FR now.
SEAT Leon FR 2.0 TDi 150 PS: Pros & cons
- Handling √
- Performance √
- Efficiency √
- Practicality √
- LED headlights should be standard X
SEAT Leon FR 2.0 TDi 150 PS: Fast facts
- Max speed: 134 mph
- 0-62 mph: 8.4 secs
- Combined mpg: 68.9
- Engine: 1968 cc 4 cylinder 16 valve turbo diesel
- Max. power (bhp): 148 at 3500 - 4000 rpm
- Max. torque (lb/ft): 236 at 1750 - 3000 rpm
- CO2: 106 g/km
- Price: £21,385 on the road
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