YOU’VE got to feel a bit sorry for the Spanish at the moment, because yet again their top sporting hero has been blown into the gravel traps by a precociously talented blond haired German in a car built in a factory in Milton Keynes.
Fernando’s not been hearing the drums (or the national anthem) of late, so thank goodness for SEAT, who of course are a Spanish firm (owned by the Germans) who are starting to put together a decent portfolio of motor cars for us to buy.
The company that got Pedro and his mates off their donkeys and behind the wheel of a car some 60 years ago is reaping the rewards of being part of the VW Group.
For the first time ever Leon has become a complete family of models, with a five-door hatchback, three-door SC coupé sampled here, and five-door ST estate.
It will give the Leon a broader appeal and thus is expected to reach a much wider customer base.
SC has a very sporty looking rear end, and comes with good sized rear side windows that give the rear passengers a better view out than its similar but smaller Ibiza SC.
There’s room for five, and bags of room up front for the driver with good seat adjustment. Any passenger accepting a lift will get the short straw if it’s for the seat behind a tall driver, but in truth there’s enough adjustment in the seat to keep everyone happy.
Neat ambient lighting on the doors – red here – gives the interior a warm and cosy feel on a damp autumn night, and sits nicely with the red accent of the instrumentation and switchgear. White numerals on black dials for the main dials makes for a good clear view of what you want to know.
There’s a well balanced feel and greater stability out on the road, which is good because the UK is the biggest export market for Leon and if any roads are going to show up serious imperfections in the way a car is set up, it’s ours.
The FR version is not slow, being nippy and responsive, and working the steering on a twisty road shows it up to be more responsive than initial impressions.
Push it and you could see 140mph on the speedo, but not here, please. The run to 62mph is despatched in 7.5 seconds but the combined mpg figure is a useful 47.9 if you can attain it.
But it does have that vagueness to the steering that we encountered with the Leon hatch back in the summer. I’d prefer a bit more positivity, given a choice.
So often you get into a car these days and the lights seem to be set lower than is preferable. It’s all the more noticeable at this time of year. Full beam is obviously fine, unless you’re in a car coming the other way, and on undulating roads you can end up with the beam falling short of where you want it to shine. Just something that’s more noticeable the more night time driving you do.
The focus has been on making it a class leader in every respect, from design and dynamic ‘feel’, to passenger and luggage space, interior quality, fuel economy, CO2 emissions, safety and equipment levels.
It’s certainly a car that has the ability to set the tone for a successful future for SEAT and it certainly showcases a new level in quality for SEAT interiors.
And it’s not bad on the outside either…
FASTFACTS: SEAT Leon SC FR 1.8TSI; £20,470; 1798cc 4 cylinder turbocharged, 180ps, 250Nm; six speed manual gearbox; top speed 140mph, 0-62mph 7.5 secs; fuel – urban 36.7, extra urban 57.6, combined 47.9; CO2 137g/km; will it fit the garage? 4236/1810/1446 (l/w/h).