SEAT Leon 2.0 TDi FR: light fantastic

  • Dark months reveals Leon's lighter side with optional front and rear lamps
  • LED headlights are not only more efficient, but give SEAT a distinctive face
  • Technology Pack proves its worth with its modern LED front and rear lights

Apologies to those who have been following the tales of Parkers' long term SEAT Leon FR for the radio silence. An accident has put me out of action for a few months, but the enforced recuperation has given me a chance to reflect on my time with the Spanish hatchback.

Back in June, when we took delivery of OU13 YCZ daylight here in the UK lasted for nearly 17 hours each day. With an Indian summer prevailing, thoughts of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) disappeared quicker than a Scotsman in a desert heatwave and life with the Leon was great.

Even though the average adult requires around eight hours of sleep every night, myself included, it still came as a shock when I discovered that over five months and nearly 5,000 miles later I’d never experienced the car in the dark.

I had, however, seen others on the road after the sun had gone down, and always took pleasure in spotting them. A task made all the easier by the car’s distinctive lights.

SEAT Leon FR

SEAT Leon packs distinctive headlights

Thanks to the trend for daytime running lamps, and LED technology, the Leon’s face is visible in sunlight too – helped by the sharp design, bright Nevada white paint and Performance 18-inch alloy wheels.

But it’s when that sun goes down, something that currently seems to happen in the middle of the afternoon rather than the middle of the night, that the Leon’s visual character really comes alive.

Our car came with the optional Technology pack (£500), which includes full LED headlights, while all FR models receive the LED tail lamps. Lights on and sun down I’d go so far as to wager there’s no car, and certainly no other mainstream family hatchback, that is as instantly recognisable as our SEAT.

Every time I look at it all I can think of is the movie Tron - though clearly this thoroughly modern family hatch is more akin to the 2010 Tron Legacy than the rather more ropey (at least in terms of visual effects) 1982 original. In my mind it’s got the coolest headlights so far seen on a sensibly-priced production car.

SEAT Leon FR

Easy to recognise rear lamps too

The rear lamps look ace as well, and the lightshow doesn’t stop on the outside; there’s even some LED strip-lighting in the doors. Pay SEAT £60 and you can have the LED interior illumination pack, which allows you to swap colours – though our white lighting also changes to red when selecting the car’s Sport mode.

SEAT Leon FR interior

Interior can even feature optional mood lighting

Even the instruments, with their light-bars for fuel and water temperature indicators look futuristic while the interior is bathed in a warm red glow from the ambient LED lighting. I wouldn’t go as far to dip into the cliché box of it feeling like a spaceship in there, but there is definitely a feeling of sci-fi from behind the wheel. 

Start the car with the headlights on and that feeling is reinforced; the lights perform a sweeping action to ensure correct operation, a little like the system is booting up and completing operational checks in preparation for a ‘launch’. The way the headlights move their beam angle, rather than simply turning high beam bulbs off like conventional units, when selecting dipped beam is a nice touch too.

And of course it’s not just about the looks, the LED headlights (with 20 LED bulbs in each unit) are far more efficient – not just in terms of energy consumption but output too. Admittedly my colleague James had questioned just how bright they were on their dipped beam setting, but I’ve had no such issues, recommending him a diet of carrots instead.

SEAT Leon FR

Leon is just as head turning in daylight

Now we’re well into winter the hours have all reversed; daylight lasts for just over eight and at least 15 are cloaked in darkness. With many other cars that could be depressing. But the moment I unlock the SEAT, its LED eyes ablaze and lighting my way to its door, I feel like I’m being welcomed by an old friend.

SAD thoughts quickly change to HAPPY ones, and despite the outlook outside it looks like, in the case of our Leon, the future’s bright, the future’s white.

Current mileage: 6,930 miles

Average economy: 49.2mpg (calculated)