SEAT Leon SC FR 1.8 TSI: back in the driver's seat

  • After three months enforced absence, Graeme gets back behind the wheel
  • Love at first sight, rekindled on second outing with the SEAT Leon 1.8 TSI FR SC
  • Engine, chassis, interior and design continues to impress

Three months may not sound a lot, and in the grand scheme of things its not; it’s only 0.3 percent of the average British male’s lifetime. But for a petrolhead, not being able to drive for 91 days feels like a life sentence. Especially when there’s a car as good as our SEAT Leon 1.8 TSI SC to drive.

But some X-rays, flexion extension checks and a trim of the neck brace’s secret mullet cultivation later, my penance had been paid and I was allowed to slip into the Alcantara and leather seats of RJY once again. There was an advisory to wear a new neck collar when driving, but as this was little stiffer than an over-starched scarf I wasn’t worried.

SEAT Leon FR SC

So much so that while I didn’t exactly make up a reason to go for a drive, a “we’ve ran out of milk again” trip to the shops the afternoon I returned from hospital was subtly engineered.

And the result was just as I remembered. The neck collar did make things a little alien at first, and swapping from Naomi’s driving position to mine took some extra final adjustment, but I felt fully at home within just 150 metres.

As we’ve already alluded to the sporty FR suspension is expertly judged, and even with our car’s 18-inch alloy wheels the ride comfort is superb – and it’s perfectly matched to sharp responses. Somehow it’s the Leon that feels the lightest on its feet of the whole VW, Audi, SEAT and Skoda group’s excellent MQB platform. I’d even wager it’s the most fun to drive.

SEAT Leon FR Driving mode

Thanks to relatively slim A-pillars – for this day and age – visibility forwards is especially good too. When you can’t turn your neck quickly, or to the same degree as you could a few months previously, that’s an important and welcome quality. Of course the sleek looks and rakish tail means the same attributes can’t be applied when looking behind you.

But I was planning on putting the previous passenger-ride-only time well and truly behind me, so that mattered little. And what a way to do it; I’d forgotten just how good the 1.8-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine in the Leon really is.

Sure the diesel we had previously was ‘easier’ to drive quickly, thanks to a surplus of low down torque, but this high-revving petrol is a joy to extract the power from.

SEAT Leon SC FR

It’s properly quick as well, and I’d swear that the intervening three months and 3,000-miles since I’d last driven it had made it even faster. Could be just rose-tinted spectacles, but it feels healthier than ever in the under-bonnet department, and that 7.4 second official 0-62mph time is clearly achievable. Not only that, but for the last 500 miles it’s managed a credible 34.9mpg too.

As a re-introduction to driving, there’s no other car on the Parkers long term fleet that could have done the job better. Having watched others enjoying its attributes for the last few months as I looked jealously on, the bond between Road Tester and SEAT Leon have been properly rekindled.

SEAT Leon SC FR

But while I’m back to full health, and the Leon’s still going strong, it doesn’t have that long left with us here at Parkers. And since I’ve missed out on three months of new products, my time behind the wheel needs to be with new-metal, not faithful long termers.

Still it’s only another 0.15 percent of my life spent watching from the sidelines, again, as someone else enjoys our SEAT’s qualities. 

Mileage: 3,767

Economy: 33.1mpg (calculated)