As with the standard Seat Leon hatchback, Seat offers a wide range of engines and transmissions.

The entry-level engine is a 1.2-litre TSI petrol, coupled to either a six-speed manual transmission or a DSG dual-clutch automatic. It's a smooth and flexible engine, despite what its small displacement might suggest, and it delivers a fairly energetic experience.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
As with most MQB-based models, a range of modern petrol and diesel engines are offered

A larger 1.4-litre petrol is also offered. Topping the petrol range is Seat's 1.8-litre TSI petrol, which produces 178bhp and 184lb ft. Coupled to a dual-clutch transmission it'll fire the SC from 0-62mph in a snappy 7.2sec, but while smooth for the most part it can be a little harsh when driven hard.

Diesel options consist of the ever-familiar 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre TDIs, again both offered with manual or DSG gearboxes, but it's the range-topping 181bhp oil-burner that's likely to get most people's attention. It's only available in FR trim, in order to emphasise its sporting intentions.

Make no mistake, it's a quick diesel compact hatch – not the first that we’ve seen and certainly not the last – but it’s no game-changer. It’s a sensible alternative to a hot hatch, yes, but it would be stretching the description (and the imagination) to term the FR a true hot hatch.

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Sure, there’s an 8.0sec 0-60mph time. There is 280lb ft of torque – almost 100lb ft more than the 1.4 TSI-engined version manages, and from lower down, too. There’s also a manual six-speed ’box as standard rather than the slightly disenfranchising seven-speed DSG.

But the 2.0 TDI unit still revs like an oil-burner, still hits a revolution wall early, and still massages your guts with mid-range twist rather than yanking at the neck muscles with top-end power.

Thus, it is driven like a diesel: smoothly and with brisk, relaxed satisfaction, yet without any of the excited frenzy that marks out a hatchback as hot. Accept this and there is much to appreciate. Not least the fuel economy, which is one of the primary reasons for choosing this model over a petrol-powered alternative. Seat claims 67.3mpg for a combined run.

We managed just over 53mpg on our touring route, but this is the sort of car that can be driven energetically without ever seeing worse than 40mpg on the trip computer.

Like most burly oil-burners, the Leon’s on-the-move energy comes on strong when you need it, and that translates into real zip from 30-50mph in third (3.4sec) or 20-40mph in second (2.4sec).

Where it really counts, though, is in lean and leggy high-gear overtaking; 50-70mph in fifth takes just 6.8sec, almost two seconds quicker than the 148bhp 2.0 TDI Audi A3 we tried previously. It’s that effortless motorway flexibility that best characterises the Seat Leon FR’s performance and earns it so many points in the real world.

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