SEAT Leon 2.0 TDI FR: Southbound

  • Leon embarks on a road trip to Cornwall
  • Comfy and quiet, it’s a great long distance car
  • Fiddly-to-use sat-nav a very minor complaint

The Leon has had yet more miles piled on it recently after a trip down to Cornwall for a wedding.

There’s an excellent stable of long-termers to choose from in the Parkers car park at the moment, including the Mercedes A-Class, Ford B-Max and Volvo V40, but I’m glad it was the Leon that ended up being available as transport for the Cornish trip.

It has all the qualities you need of a long-distance car: it’s frugal on fuel, its (optional) sports seats are supremely comfortable and it’s quiet and smooth-riding on the motorway.

The 2.0-litre diesel engine got through around half of the Leon’s 50-litre fuel tank over the 300 miles or so from a friend’s house in Luton to St Austell in Cornwall – not bad at all.

Travelling with a passenger often helps to highlight things about a car that you might not otherwise have noticed, and my friend uncovered a couple of minor niggles with the Leon.

I hadn’t previously realised that the seatbelt height is non-adjustable, for instance, meaning it’s not possible to set the upper anchor point to best suit taller or shorter occupants.

We’ve already noted the unusual position of the CD player in the glovebox but even with a passenger it’s hard work swapping discs as the glovebox lid bumps into their knees unless the seat is set a reasonable way back.

We were both impressed with how quiet and generally refined the car is at motorway speeds, though.

Seat Leon sat nav

Integrated sat-nav system can be fiddly to operate

The colour touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard is an important part of the Leon’s interior, given that it is standard equipment across the range. Although it has a few neat tricks up its sleeve, such as a proximity sensor that means certain menu controls only spring into view when your hand gets close to the screen, it’s not always the most intuitive system to use.

In particular the sat-nav function, which we used to get to the church, doesn’t have the most straightforward interface in the world and it seemed to have a penchant for sending us down the narrowest lanes in Cornwall – it’s a good job we set off in plenty of time.

On a random note, it also has quite a stern, slightly disapproving sounding voiceover and I generally felt a little like I was being told off whenever it gave me directions!

The trip home was more time consuming than the journey down, battling through endless streams of caravans and roofbox-clad holiday traffic. Although I did feel pretty shattered by the time we first stopped for a break, the Leon’s comfortable interior and easy-to-drive manners meant I felt far fresher than I have done after similar distances in other cars.

It was a busy weekend, and after another couple of long trips across the midlands the following day the Leon had an extra 944 miles on its dials by the time I returned it to the Bauer car park and its regular keeper Graeme. After that sort of mileage in most cars it’s easy for them to begin to lose some of their appeal but, barring a touchscreen interface I don’t entirely get on with, the Leon just seems to be getting better and better.

Seat Leon

The Leon at historic smuggler's hangout the Jamaica Inn on Bodmin Moor

Current mileage: 6,821 miles

Average economy: 48.9mpg (calculated)