PRICE: £22,555 (£34,992 as tested)
ENGINE CAPACITY: 2 litre diesel
POWER OUTPUT (PS @ rpm): 184 @ 4,000
TOP SPEED (MPH): 142
FUEL ECONOMY (MPG): 65.7
CO 2 EMISSIONS (g/km): 117
The Spanish really haven't had a great time of it lately. They've mislaid a king, been kicked out of the World Cup (5-1 to Holland, if you can recall it without wincing), no one wants to slaughter bulls for fun any more, and the economy is, well, a bit better than it was, which is to say not very well at all. C'est la vie, eh? Or asi es la vida as they say in Spain.
Never mind, they can still build nice cars in Martorell (Catalonia, in fact, but I'll leave that at that). Nice Volkswagens, if I wanted to be unkind-verging-on-offensive, their Seats being strongly influenced by their VW Group underpinnings. Take the Seat Leon FR diesel, a sort of Golf GTD (which, in turn, is a sort of Golf GTI in diesel guise), but in a much nicer suit of clothes. My test car was in a striking shade called "Alor Blue", and it made a refreshing change from all the white motors we see on the roads.
The latest generation Leon has lost some of the visual exuberance of its forebears, but it's still a sharp-looking thing, the pronounced swage lines running along its flanks setting it apart from the current generic styling trends.
Now it's been said to me that the Seat Leon "doesn't sound like the most exciting car ever". That would be right, but it is far from the dullest. I mean 142mph for a top speed? A sprint to 60mph in a bit over 7 seconds – less than one second slower than a standard Golf GTI? Assured handling, decent brakes and a rather firm ride complete the – exciting – performance package. Still more exciting is the combination of all that, yes, exciting driving with equally exciting fuel consumption – an official figure of 67.3mpg overall.
What else excites? Well, my example had a number of optional extras to add, ahem, excitement: rain-sensitive wipers, which work intelligently; a six-channel amplifier with 10 speakers including a boot-mounted sub-woofer, which I don't understand but liked the sound of, in both senses; and nice leather seats. Such exciting things come at a price however: £34,992 for our test car. Got that? £34,992 for a Seat Leon. That's because of some £12,000 worth of options and accessories. Even that lovely blue paintjob costs £695. Takes the edge off the excitement, I must say.