Small cars and automatic gearboxes are not a marriage made in heaven. At least, that’s what I thought until I got behind the wheel of the popular Seat Leon’s latest incarnation.
The answer for the sporty FR+ 2.0 CR DSG I tested has been to install a six-speed slush-box that also has a clutchless sequential manual function, which operates via ‘flappy’ paddles mounted on each side of the steering wheel.
In the event, I found myself happily letting the auto do its own thing. Changes were slick, smooth and in the right places, both up and down the box. I never felt I was in less than full control, even on slippery, mud-spattered country lanes.
0-62 mph acceleration takes a brisk eight seconds, promising a 133 mph potential top speed, with a two-litre diesel laying down oodles of power right through the rev band yet able to provide frugal 50.4 mpg fuel consumption in the combined cycle.
Sports suspension, traction control, electronic differential lock and an electronic stabilisation programme, with ABS and emergency brake assist, help ensure impeccable roadholding and handling.
The interior trim is appropriately performance orientated, with exclusive fully adjustable FR sport seats and leather-clad steering wheel and gear knob.
Other kit includes chrome double exhaust pipes, dual-zone climate control, touch-screen sat-nav, front and rear parking sensors, tinted windows, rain-sensing windscreen wipers, trip computer, cruise control, electric windows all round, front, side and curtain air bags, and front fog lights with a cornering function.
The second generation Leon is a spacious, comfortable car – ideal for family motoring. The looks are clean and uncluttered, following SEAT’s much lauded Dynamic Line design principles. Hidden in the rear window trim, the rear door handles’ clever design helps give the car the looks of a sporting coupé.
Thoughtful design makes the most of the generous 341 litres boot capacity.
No fewer than five petrol engines and three turbodiesel units are available in the Leon range and for those owners fro whom sporting pretensions are not key, the 105 PS TDi CR has a 1.6 litre engine that is among the industry’s most fuel efficient, also offering the environmental improvements that stem from the standard fitment of a diesel particulate filter.
At £22,955 the Leon FR is keenly priced in a highly competitive marketplace. SEAT expects to sell around 15,000 cars across the Leon range over the next year. Usefully, the package includes the first year’s road tax, a three year or 12 month mechanical warranty, a 12 year body warranty and two years of breakdown cover valid in more than 30 countries in and around Europe.