I didn’t get to drive my sleek little SEAT Leon FR test car very much – my girlfriend fell instantly in love with it and took control of the key at every opportunity.
Alright, in profile this sporty rendition of the car that won the 2013 Auto Express Car of the Year Award is barely distinguishable from a number of its hottest competitors but that’s where the similarities end for, under its skin, the Spanish built Leon is very much its own beast.
A smooth and commendably quiet running 2.0-litre diesel, with bags of mid-range torque to take you through the gears, whisks this sporting little number from standstill past the 62 mph marker in a brisk 7.5 seconds, with a sizzling potential top speed of 142 mph and an impressive 181 bhp – yet it is also good for 65 mpg fuel consumption when driven diligently and making best use of the smooth six-speed gearbox’s neatly spaced ratios.
Till now, SEAT has tended to be the Cinderella marque of the Audi Volkswagen group but with this latest Leon the brand leapfrogs over its Golf GTi and Audi S3 cousins – though both these are soon to be available with that same classy engine.
This particular version sits on sports suspension that has been lowered by 15 mm over the standard Leon but still showed itself to have enough pliancy to cope with this winter’s storm ravaged road surfaces.
The steering is pin-sharp responsive too while standard kit includes neat 18-inch alloys, cruise control, climate control, full LED headlamps, very supportive heated leather seats and a touch-screen sat-nav
The killer punch though is a £22,555 purchase price that comes in well below the tags attached to its principal rivals.
But hold on a mo’, if it's the sportiness that attracts you to this superb machine then hold on until March when the Leon Cupra will burst on to the market with a stunning 276 bhp on tap.