SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review – Super-Stylish Euro Hatch Will Tempt You

Cool exterior, well designed/made interior, lots of tech and high spec, diesel is frugal & torquey

Diesel engine noisy, interior lacks personality

Seat Leon?

SEAT Leon 2013 SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS

Released in 1998, the Seat Leon quickly gained a good reputation as a Volkswagen Golf alternative. It was cheaper than the Golf, had good looks and plenty of power to play with, and being VW owned, you were safe in the knowledge that it has reliable VW/Audi parts a-plenty. In 2012, Seat bought out their new and updated third generation Leon. We were sent their sporty 2013 SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS to review. Let’s have a drive then…

 

Exterior. Butt-ugly or beauty?

The Seat Leon SC (sports coupé) comes only in 3-door guise, and the FR we were sent tops the range. As I’ve said already, the Leon has always been a decent looker ever since its debut in the late nineties, and especially with the sporty coupe’s. The new 2013 Leon SC carries this along, with handsome, bold features and lines that are as European as they come.

SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

Sharp lines abound on the front, with pointed ridges in the bonnet, coming down to the modern, razor-edged lights, which are all-LED should you spec the £1,075 option. The daytime light strip around the outer edge of the front light clusters is an absolutely superb design, and so bright that it’ll light up a dark street for a long way. They’re maybe getting a tad too bright now, these LED running lights, as staring directly at them in the dark – even from a distance – makes your eyeballs ache.

The deep, wide grille in the bottom-half section of the front serves to further the Leon SC’s sport guise. Around the side, there are a couple of swage lines on the upper sections of the side that stick out so far they create shadow below them. They’re a great feature, and look especially appealing from a rear three-quarter view. The Leon SC FR sits on (optional) 18″ alloy wheels that fit almost perfectly into the arches, allowing the right amount of gap to be functional while giving the FR a low stance.

SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

The Leon’s narrow(ish) side windows and raked windscreen, alongside a low roof line, belie the headroom inside, which is actually quite decent (as I’ll talk about in the next section). One of my favourite parts of the Leon FR are its side mirrors, which are pointed and narrow, bringing speed to mind. For me, the Leon SC FR is as good, if not better from the rear than the front. Especially a rear three-quarter viewpoint. It’s a simple design, and you’ve again got that modern, highly-Euro look, with slim rear light clusters – and the same neat LED outer line as the fronts – plus a high boot-lid line, a roof spoiler, a bare plastic section where the registration plate sits – which looks better than it sounds – and dual chrome exhausts poking out.

SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

Overall, the Seat Leon SC FR is a very clean-cut car, and contemporary too. It is striking, stylish and appealing, with looks and lines that clearly mark it out as sporty car. From a design perspective, this Leon I very much like.

Interior. Neat or nothing special?

Following on from the exterior, the Leon FR’s interior cuts a fine jib too. It’s simple, but stylish and clean. Very German, in fact, but then it will be considering there are VW/Audi parts used all over it. The dash had strong, sweeping lines that come to a point much like the front of the Leon. While overall there’s not much colour, save for the highlights of chrome on the switchgear and vent surrounds, plus red stitching on the seats, steering wheel and gear gaiter, it somehow doesn’t need it. Because of this it’s not distracting, and kind of focusses you more on the drive.

SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review interior cabin

There’s lots of high quality plastics on the interior, with soft-touch rubbery stuff on the dash, and the whole thing feel very well put together and solid. You certainly feel like you get your money’s-worth with the Leon FR. There’s also plenty of storage space too, and the central driver/passenger armrest is a superb thing, being able to angle it notch by notch until it’s the right height for your want.

Aside from a few well laid-out buttons and dials for the heating, almost everything else is controlled via the Easy Connect touchscreen system. It’s a refreshingly simple thing to use, with a unique touch-scrolling system for going through menu’s – like you’d do on a tablet or smartphone. It’s very smooth too, and not jerky or slow and frustrating. From the Easy Connect system, there’s a ton of options for listening to music; MP3/Mp4 plug-in via an auxiliary port, Bluetooth, USB, SD-Card, CD and also DAB radio, which worked brilliantly and seamlessly.

SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

On that note, the sound from the £220 optional 135-watt SEAT Sound System – which has 9  speakers, a 6-channel amp and a subwoofer – is really very good. It’s clear, produces good bass and is fairly free from distortion until you’ve got it at its max. Definitely worth your cash if you like your music. I also liked the navigation system, which had clear instructions, decent graphics and an easy to use menu. The navigation takes up the full screen for maximum effect, and I liked that you only have to wave your hand in front of the screen to bring up a menu. Innovation right there.

The Leon FR comes with a flat-bottomed steering wheel, and as well as looking stylish, it’s also comfortable to use. Whilst the controls on the ‘wheel are a good call, there’s a problem. The scroller wheels sit near the edge of the ‘wheel, and as you pass it through your hands, the scrollers tend to be turned by your palms by accident, changing what you have on the little display screen between the dials. It’s annoying and need changing.

SEAT Leon 2013 SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

On that point though, the dials are a cool design. They’re sporty, and have a bit o’ class about them at the same time. The aforementioned little information screen is really neat too, and you’re presented with a scrolling menu, controlled from the steering wheel buttons. It’s a crisp screen with good, clear information provided on your music, fuel economy, engine fluid temp’s, sat nav instructions and lots more.

SEAT Leon 2013 SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

SEAT Leon SC FR touch screen

In the Leon FR I had were the standard ‘sport-style comfort seats [in] Techny cloth with leatherette bolsters’. While I found the driver’s seat to be comfortable and supportive for the most part, on a longer journey it started to feel a little less so and felt like the seat needed a little more padding for the derrière. There’s an option to have either leather or Alcantara seats too, and I think the leather ones would be better for a longer drive.

SEAT Leon 2013 SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review-7319

The rears seating is decent, and Seat have got the back rest angle just right. The sides are shaped and snug, while even the centre seat is comfortable for once, due to the lack of rear armrest. It’s a deceptive car the Leon, because from the outside it looks fairly small, and actually it’s two inches (50 mm) shorter on the exterior than the last model. However, the wheelbase is also 2.3 inches (53 mm) longer so there’s a bit more legroom than the Mk2 Leon. Even taller mates that sat in the back were happy with the head room and leg room, so no problem there.

SEAT Leon 2013 SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review rear seats seating space

The Leon’s deep boot has practicalities such as hooks on the sides -and even the inner boot lid – to hang shopping bags from, plus a net storage pocket, and its also really roomy at 380 litres capacity, and loads more once you drop the seats. The only drawback is its high loading point, which is pain if you’ve got something heavy to put in, and especially pull out later.

SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review boot space folding seats

In conclusion, the Seat Leon SC FR interior is smart, well designed and well-built, ultra-modern, roomy and comfortable but with two drawbacks; that high boot loading point, and the fact the cabin lacks any real character or soul.

Engine and gearbox

The FR version of the Seat comes with a couple of different petrol engines, namely a 1.4 TSI 140PS and a 1.8 TSI 180PS – the 180PS version also being available with the excellent VW-sourced 7-speed DSG-auto gearbox. There are also two power variants of the diesel engine for the FR, the 2.0 TDI 150PS and the 184PS. Weirdly, only the 150PS version has the option of the DSG, but not the 184.

Our test Leon SC FR came as a 2.0 TDI 150PS manual. This is a turbo-charged, common-rail direct-injection, 4-cylinder, 16-valve diesel producing 150PS (148 hp), and the all-important torque figure of 236 lb ft (320 Nm). Zero to sixty-two mph (0 – 100 kph) comes up in a respectable-enough time of 8.4 seconds, and it’ll go on to a maximum top speed of 134 mph – a few mph less for the DSG. The 184PS version hits 62 mph in a rather quick 7.5 seconds, so keep that in mind if you’re look at buying the diesel Leon FR.

SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

Fuel consumption is very good, but then it’s always been good with this engine. A few years ago I owned a 2000 Seat Toledo 1.9 TDI 110PS could easily attain 45 – 55 mpg on a bit of a run, and given that was thirteen years ago, there should rightfully be an improvement by now. Seat state consumption as (mpg) 56.5 urban, 78.5 extra urban and 68.9 combined. There’s very little difference in economy between the 150PS and 184PS versions surprisingly. These are, as usual, official government test figures though, and they are almost always higher compared to the ‘real-life’ driving we do.

A country road run through the North Yorkshire Moors, with a mix of relaxed and more intense driving styles saw a decent return of 48 mpg from the live readout, while short motorway runs with low-volume traffic around gave into the mid-50 mpg range. Realistically then, if you drive fairly smoothly you’ll probably get a miles-per-gallon return of high 40’s around town and in the country, while a flowing motorway journey will show mid-to-high 50’s. The start/stop system comes standard on all the Leon’s, no matter what you buy, so that certainly helps things.

Interior lighting on the SEAT Leon FR

The 6-speed manual is a good gearbox, and is tight and positive in changes with satisfactory travel between each gear. I’ll talk about the (long) ratio’s in the next section. I’ve been in cars featuring the DSG ‘box, and I can safely say it’s an absolutely brilliant thing – in fact I’d choose it over the manual any day.

One issue. Normally, I’m all for modern diesel-engined cars, but in all honesty I didn’t entirely love the Leon’s 2.0 TDI. Yes, it’s torquey and good on fuel, but there remains a problem – it is overly noisy. It’s fine once you’re above around 30 mph, but at a standstill and lower than 30 mph it doesn’t make a good sound. It clatters and chugs more than a modern diesel should – even after it has warmed up fully – reminding me of older-type diesels. Not a good thing when you’re driving a car as sporty-looking as the Leon. Whether this is down to a lack of sound-deadening under the bonnet, I don’t know, but it’s still off-putting – for me, to the point where I’d look at a petrol version. Personal opinion, of course, but worth mentioning.

Ready to roll? Let’s drive!

So I may not like the noise the diesel makes, but it’s all about the way the Leon drives, and here it is very enjoyable. While you can happily drive about town in a perfectly amiable manner, with a nice light steering and clutch action to make things easy on you, the FR provides much fun should you want to give the Leon a good caning.

Partly, this is thanks to the SEAT Drive Profile, which allows you to select from Sport, Comfort, Eco or Individual driving modes. Choose the obvious Sport setting, and immediately the engine loosens itself, the throttle gives lively response, while the steering is more weighted for better feedback.

It’s a good chassis, and the Leon FR is planted and sporty when you really get going. The fully-independant suspension (only available on the FR with 150PS +) soaks up the bumps well, while still allowing the car to feel very reassured and poised through tight bends at speed. Seat have done good with the set up, and you can be assured of a fun drive when you want it.

SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

What is very noticeable is the long ratio of the gears. To compare, the Subaru BRZ we reviewed needed to be in fifth at 30 mph, while the Leon FR is feels bogged-down should you even go into 4th at that speed. The good thing about the long ratio’s is that at higher cruising speeds, the rpm is kept lower, giving you a relaxed drive and good fuel economy. Should you want to wind the Leon FR TDI up from relaxed to raver, you’re going to have to drop it a couple of cogs to really get things moving.

Having said that, you’ve still got plenty of poke on tap from around 1,800 rpm, and the Leon FR 150PS will give a good wave of torque from there up to around 3,000 rpm. The maximum power band sits at 3,500 – 4,000 rpm, and there was a distinct lack of power once I hit 5,000 revs, when the FR simply ran out of puff. To be fair, the Leon FR I had on test wasn’t even run in fully with only around 900 miles on the clock, and the engine still felt tight, like it could give more that what it actually did.

SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

Once you’ve had a play/thrash of the Leon FR, it’ll happily settle back down into sedate mode. Select Eco or Comfort from the Drive Profile button, sit back and enjoy the drive. It’s a very pleasant cabin for both driver and passengers, with any exterior road or wind noise kept low enough inside to make the Leon feel more refined than the price tag suggests.

SEAT Leon 2013 SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

In summary, the Seat Leon FR 150 PS is a great all-rounder. However, even without having tested it, I’m still going to edge my bets that that the 1.8 TSI 180PS petrol model will be the better buy, as it still returns good economy and will sound sooo much nicer than the chuggy diesel.

Price and rivals

The Seat Leon SC FR 150PS starts at a snip over £21,000 currently (Oct. 2013). With a few optional extra’s, you’re looking at around £22,700. You really do get a lot of car for your money, and there’s a ton of gadgets and tech on the Leon, making the price extremely tempting if you’re in the market for a sporty hatchback. In comparison, the VW Golf GT BlueMotion 2.0 TDI 150PS 3-door manual starts at £23,000, but spec it up to a similar level as the Leon SC FR 150PS we had, and you’re looking at a whopping £26,500 – nearly £4,000 difference!

Another rival is the Mazda3 5-door Sport Nav 2.2D 185 PS Diesel manual, which again has a good amount of kit, and still only comes out at just under £22,000 with options.  There’s also the Honda Civic ES-T 2.2 i-DTEC diesel with 150PS – starting at £22.6k – £25k, so again more expensive than the Leon. Another of the Leon’s competitors it the Ford Focus Titanium X Navigator 1.6 EcoBoost 182PS, which starts at around £23,000.

2013 SEAT Leon SC FR TDI 150 PS manual verdict & score

SEAT Leon 2013 SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review

The sporty Seat Leon’s have always been a good choice if you want a well-priced hatchback with good performance, handling, and kit level. This SC FR not only carries that on, but takes it to another level with its ultra-sleek European design, good-quality, high-tech interior and sporty handling. It’s absolutely worth a test drive if you’re looking at buying a sporty hatch, but I would also recommend a drive in the 180PS petrol, as I suspect it’ll be more suited to the Leon FR than the diesel is.

Do you own a 2013 onwards Seat Leon FR? What are your views on it, and what are the best and worst points? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below!

Exterior  8.5
Interior  8
Engine (diesel)  7.5
Gearbox (man.)  8
Price  9
Drive  8
Overall Score  8.0 / 10 

  Specs

Model (as tested)  2013 SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS
Spec includes  17″ alloy wheels, cloth interior with sports seats, rear tinted windows, dual-zone climate control, LED rear lights, 5″ touchscreen with bluetooth, USB, Aux-in & SD-card reader See website for more info
Options you should spec  Technology Pack: £1,075
The Competition  VW Golf GT BlueMotion 2.0 TDI 150PS, Mazda3 5-door Sport Nav 2.2D 185, Honda Civic ES-T 2.2 i-DTEC, Ford Focus Titanium X Navigator 1.6 EcoBoost 182PS
Price  Standard Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS: £21,085 (price Oct. 2013)
Engine  Diesel, 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged, common-rail direct injection
Power, Torque, CO2  150 PS (148 bhp), 320 Nm (236 ft lbs) | CO2: 106 g/km
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Front wheel drive | 6-speed manual
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 134 mph | 0 – 60 mph: 8.4 seconds | 5-star Euro NCAP
Fuel economy (mpg)  (Manual) Urban: 58.5, Extra urban: 78.5, Combined: 68.9
Weight (kerb)  1,285 kg (2,832 lbs)
Websites  Seat UK, Seat Worldwide

Check out our other car reviews here

Words: Chris Davies | Tested by: Chris Davies | Photography: Chris Davies, Matthew Davies, Magloire Yumani

6 responses to “SEAT Leon SC FR 2.0 TDI 150 PS review – Super-Stylish Euro Hatch Will Tempt You”

  1. PeterH

    Have run TDI 184 with DSG for 2000 miles and agree with all the report. DSG is excellent and car is a stylish well equipped alternative to VW/Audi.

    I would agree about the engine though – sounds much more like a 90’s design at lower revs!

  2. PP

    Own a TDI 150 SC and its brilliant. Previously had a Mini Cooper D and that was a noisier engine and harsher ride than the Seat. The ride is quieter and smoother, and as mentioned the review is about spot on! Fabulous car to drive!

  3. red

    I have the leon fr 2.0 tdi 150 5dr mint car, i think its the most sensible choice for my circumstances ie cost fuel ecomany ,insurance and performance and looks , imo you’d be daft to get petrol version blows vw golf equivalent out of the water .

  4. STUART ROGERS

    Stuart Rogers November 11, 2014 at 10:57 pm | Permalink
    Hi Chris, an update on my SEAT Toledo 1.4 Tsi SE Dsg 2013, still cannot get over how many people have a good stare at me when driving or parked up. The colour is a big part of it Ocean blue, everyone loves it. Plus positive comments on design/looks and the interior and specification. I am well happy, Running around she is averaging 38 to 40 mpg and improving all the time. Last week I visited friends and family in the Midlands and over good A roads and dual carriageways she was returning 49 and 53 mpg and no doubt I can improve that even further. I find the seats very supportive and comfortable even after 3 hours driving. Good stereo, great sound easy to set up. USB is even better with the amount of tracks you can load onto it, a great variety of music at my disposal.
    I like the style of this Toledo, I think she looks good from all angles and with it’s enormous boot (hatchback) I am amazed at what I can get in it. The DSG auto box is superb, and mated to this 1.4 engine it works really well.. I was surprised with the power of this motor when pulling away and overtaking, a gentle kick down and she flys pushing you back into your seat. So, so far so good I fitted some Toledo sill protectors to protect the paintwork when getting in and out. A fiddly job but well worth it. and looks good too.
    My Toledo has everything on it spec wise, the advantage of buying an ex demo model, I just missed the Sat Nav version. But would prefer an external Sat Nav system I think they are better.
    The only things I would have liked were folding mirror’s, and my only real gripe is not having switches for the rear electric windows on the drivers door, it just has a locking switch, other than that I have the 17 inch alloys which are nice and adds to the looks the spare is a 15 inch full size steel wheel. I don’t feel that is right but SEAT tell me it is. So I would have to buy either a matching Alloy (silly money) or 17 inch steel.
    Well that is all for now, I hope any one who reads this finds it helpful and can contact me should they wish. Don’t believe all the reviews with regards to the Toledo. Just go to your nearest SEAT dealer and drive one, you will be surprised, honestly it is that good. Car Products Tested for me provide the best and fairest reviews, tks, bye for now.

  5. Stuart Rogers

    A quick update on my 2013 SEAT Toledo SE 1.4 TSI DSG 7 speed auto in Ocean blue.
    Still love my motor, still gets people staring at it, some think its a Subaru!!! Others a Skoda Octavia VRs!!!, must be the colour, surprised when told it’s a SEAT, but positive comments so that is good.
    I had the second service done last year at Garaj Raymond Pontyberem my local family dealer, I thought a bit expensive at first, but it included 12 months SEAT Breakdown cover, Europe home start etc top notch, so for me a good offer. (As long as you want Breakdown cover). Economy is good 50 to 55 more on a long steady run, great Auto Box, best I’ve ever driven, with my back neck and left knee problems a godsend. Regular trips up to the Midlands keeps the Toledo in fine fettle. Arriving at our destination totally chilled and ready for a cuppa.
    A joy to drive, comfortable, handles well, loads of room, the boot is amazing unbelievable what you can get in it. 1st MOT due end of March 2016, should fly through it hopefully. Thinking of extending the Warranty but can’t do it until this one ends! Bit weird. Also one of the service plans may be a good
    option so will check that out too, anything to save some down.
    Now my first problem, Friday 15th January 1100, shopping day, she wouldn’t start, tried again no joy, rang SEAT Breakdown once through arranged for AA to come out, just over the hour, Roy, nice guy tried the usual same a me no joy, now no lights on display dead nothing took dash out to reset numerous times no joy. Attached car to tow, front raised and taken to Garaj Raymond, to be assessed etc. I was kept informed by SEAT and Roger at Garaj Raymond. Seemed the display was gone and the alarm and immobiliser had activated which was no doubt the reason for not start and running. At least I know the immobiliser works. Arranged a car for yesterday Saturday 16th as I was in no rush. Collected by driver and taken to collect my replacement a 64 Toledo diesel manual which is fine short term, any probe and will change for an auto. Ordering parts Monday so could take a while 4 days or 2 weeks plus, will have to see. Is this a common fault? Not sure but will find out, also checking battery as stated low battery on radio screen, so this 64 model in Gun metal grey or whatever it’s called is nice, don’t like interior, no place for my clutch foot on rest, so I wouldn’t buy a manual version. Sat Nav DAB radio, not liking it yet, 1.6 diesel seems sluggish, so will have to drive more before passing comment. Bye for now. Stuart Rogers

  6. David Heaton

    I bought a new FR 2.0 TDI in October 2015 and have driven about 23k so far. I love the car and agree with most of the review, especially the comment about the driver’s seat needing a bit more support. The only let-down for me is the absolutely awful satnav. It’s impossible to pre-programme POIs, or edit your POIs once you’ve reached your destination and stored it. The zoom function works, but when you unzoom you get a static display rather than one that scrolls as you drive. At this point, there’s no ‘back’ button to get you to a functioning display. I fortunately still have a portable Garmin, which does all the obvious things, like tell you what to look for at the next junction, whereas the SEAT software needs you to split the screen manually, which obscures rather than shrinks the map, and lists the turns in reverse order for some inexplicable reason. Add another £25 to the price of the car and licence the Garmin software, SEAT!

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