SEAT Leon 2.0 TDI FR: Fuel Economy

  • Leon fails to achieve its claimed combined 68.9mpg
  • Still manages a credible 61.5mpg on our man’s daily commute
  • Eco mode helps SEAT operate at its most efficient

Expectations are often hard to live up to, but while the international launch of the SEAT Leon back at the tail end of 2012 set the bar pretty high, when our five door 2.0 TDI FR model arrived in June 2013 it was clear SEAT’s new family hatchback was batting in the right ballpark.

We still loved the way it looked, even without the soft tones of the Spanish sunshine picking out its creases and curves, and the interior felt better built than ever – especially with the optional Alcantara and leather sports seats. The more we used it the better it was to drive too, the engine clearly loosening up as the miles increased.

Leon engine

But there was one expectation, admittedly the seed of which planted by SEAT itself, that YCZ never quite lived up to – and that was fuel consumption.

The Spanish firm claimed that in the right hands, and the right conditions (which were clearly laboratory–based) our 148bhp diesel hatch could achieve 68.9mpg. With a mostly motorway commute of 56 miles each way, I was confident the Leon could at least tip over an average of 50mpg in its time with us.

Things started well, and with only 3,500 miles on the odometer the calculated figures revealed an average of 48.8mpg. Surely as the miles increased and the engine loosened up that could only get better?

It did, but not quickly enough, and by 6,137 miles that number had increased slightly to 49.1mpg. By 6,821 miles I decided I could take it no more, and just as Gareth had experienced highs of around 58.8mpg with his Mercedes A200CDI, I wanted to find out just how economical the Leon could be in my hands.

Thankfully SEAT has thought fit to make life a little easier, and within the Drive Select Profile there’s an ECO option alongside the Comfort, Sport and Individual modes. By selecting this the car changes the engine’s throttle response and even how hard the air conditioning is working – and therefore how much fuel it is using.

Leon ECO mode

There’s even the option to turn on the car’s Eco Tips; helpful hints such as ‘Close windows to reduce drag’ appear on the screen between the main instruments.

Setting off from my house in Bedfordshire with the trip meter zero’d and the average economy meter reset, my journey starts with some light town work followed by flowing open roads through the countryside. Normally it’s here I take full advantage of the SEAT’s talented chassis, strong brakes and torquey engine but that morning was all about light throttle pressure, measured steering input and using the brakes as little as possible.

Leon ECO tips

Onto the busy M1, praying that the traffic jam ahead wouldn’t last very long, and keeping my cruising speed above 65mph where the conditions allowed saw the average read out climb to above 50mpg very quickly – despite the car only just having finished its warm up cycle by this point.

Just over 55 miles later my sliproad for work appears, and by now the read out is suggesting an average of over 62mpg. Without resorting to coasting or any other sneaky eco tricks the average only drops by 0.7mpg by the time I hit the Bauer car park, and as I turn the engine off the Leon has managed a credible 61.5mpg.

Initially I’m a little crestfallen, not because the Leon hasn’t achieved what’s said to be possible – we all know that matching a car’s potential economy figures is nigh on impossible in the real world – but because I feel like I’ve failed to get the best from it. Disappointed, my mood is only lifted by my colleagues - whose expectations were obviously lower - proclaiming that 61.5mpg is bloody impressive.

Leon fuel economy screen

The more I think about it, the more I realise how right they are. Here’s a car that has around 150bhp, can accelerate from 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds, transport a family and their luggage, is packed with useful kit, looks great and can delight drivers with its special blend of dynamism and comfort and if you want, better 60mpg on a gentle commute.

If ever there was a case of unfair expectation then the SEAT Leon is definitely it. 

Mileage: 6,943 miles

Average mpg: 48.9mpg (calculated)