SEAT Leon SC FR 1.8 TSI: another perspective

  • Our Leon spends some time with a different driver
  • Fresh perspective reveals some so-far un-exposed traits
  • Overall it continues to impress everyone who sees, rides in or drives it

I remember as a kid hearing about a new book that was taking the world by storm; Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus. Now I’m beyond childhood I realise the title should have been Women are right, Men are wrong. In that order. Anyone in a relationship will know exactly what I’m talking about here.

But sometimes couples can agree. And with a period of enforced passenger-seat only action I thought it high time I let my partner Naomi behind the wheel of our SEAT Leon SC FR to see if we were singing from the same hymn sheet – or whether World War 3 was about to erupt.

Honda Civic Type R

And so it was that she swapped her 2005 Honda Civic for some wheel time with our 2013 Leon. Both cars are quite similar; each has three doors, a petrol engine with just under 200bhp, a six-speed manual gearbox, sports chassis and they even share paint shades. The Civic Type-R actually has 19bhp more, but is 54Nm down on torque, plus Naomi tells me you have to rev it beyond 5,800rpm to get the best from it. Maybe it’s this constant VTEC’ing that’s to blame for her heavy right foot.

By contrast the Leon delivers its 250Nm by 1,500rpm and peak 178bhp power just after 4,000rpm. According to she who knows best it’s an easier car to extract the performance from than the frenetic Honda, though it’s testament to the Leon’s refinement that the only complaint she could find about the drivetrain was how quiet it was.

SEAT Leon FR speedometer

One other thing was without question; our Leon FR may have sports suspension, but compared to the aftermarket Bilstein dampers on her Honda it was far more comfortable. Along her 20-mile commute she deals with plenty of potholes, speedbumps and even building site access roads and their associated debris – a comprehensive test worthy of a road testers route.

The touchscreen entertainment system added to her workaday delights too, the DAB radio picking up her favourite stations in crystal clear quality and the sat-nav helping her avoid any unforeseen traffic problems. If only the displayed navigation instructions were a little clearer – instead of arrows that change colour, a proper figurative countdown to junctions would have been ideal.

SEAT Leon FR Sat-nav

When the sun came out she also discovered the sunvisors were difficult to flip down, the awkwardly positioned dip in the headlining that allows you to get your fingers behind and grab the visor seemingly on the opposite side to expectation and intuition, slowing the process down. Before she mentioned it I found no issue, but ever since I keep using the ‘wrong’ hand and have the same problem. Every time the sun shines I’m now fully consumed in my frustration.

I also like the white on black instruments, and while Naomi agrees they look cool, she’d prefer it if more of the speedo face was devoted to the 0-70mph range. As it is the instrument encompasses everything from 0-160mph, with everything under the legal limit dealt with in less than half of its overall allocation. Clearly I’m more of a style over substance kind of guy.

SEAT Leon sunvisor

Still, the sports seats, which aren’t quite as extreme as the Recaros in her Honda, came in for praise once they’d been adjusted to suit her driving position.

And once again she proved herself right by telling me that apart from these tiny observations the Leon is a fantastic package. After all for her use, and her commute especially, the SEAT proved to be more comfortable, more economical, more relaxing and faster transport. So much so that while I’m now back behind the wheel, eager to spend some time with our Leon, that it seems I have a fight on my hands for the keys.

Still, yes, you’re right darling – it will be nice for me to drive an old Honda for a while…

Mileage: 3,379-miles

Economy: 31.9mpg - calculated (Thanks to Naomi’s VTEC calibrated right foot)