From £18,2356
Handsome, capacious and good to drive, but with some notable flaws

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 Estatefeel 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.

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The other gripe - the same as with the Octavia - is touch-sensitive pads rather than good old-fashioned buttons or dials. What’s worse is the temperature and volume controls aren’t lit so you scrabble around touching buttons at random until you get the desired outcome.

Should I buy one?

Overall, the FR holds its own against the Golf and Octavia wagons, with respectable dynamics, comfort and space. 

For fewer crashy landings and slightly more oomph, it’s worth considering a different trim that goes without the sports suspension and has the slightly more powerful and smoother 148bhp 1.5-litre engine.

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Comments
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jameshobiecat 17 October 2021
Since when did the fact that it has an automatic gearbox become so un-noteworthy that it isn't even mentioned?
I expect a car in this class to have a manual gearbox by default, if it's an auto please put that in the title and then I'll know it's not worth my time reading the article.
yvesferrer 14 October 2021

Why is the car not offered with the 148bhp engine? Or is that reserved for the Excellence?

I road-tested one FR 148 here in Portugal and it felt quite competent, certainly not short of oomph! Given the roads here, its comfort was no better or worse than many other cars.

The salesman was a bit of 'know-better-all-the-time' idiot and that cost him the sale...

Off-topic: these 'captcha' things when logging-in are a pain in the under-pass, aren't they? Sort it Autocar, please?

jason_recliner 14 October 2021
Awful looking appliance from awful organisation. Just awful.
Zeddy 14 October 2021
Come on. Most SUVs in the road are awful blocky lookalikes.

It's not a Lambo miura sure but awful??