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SEAT Leon SC 1.4 ACT 150 FR First Drive

By raccars Published

SEAT Leon SC 1.4 ACT 150 FR Car Review

SEAT Leon Factsheet:

Price: £19,700

Gearbox: Six-speed manual

0-62mph: 7.9 seconds

Top speed: 134mph

Fuel economy: 58.9mpg

CO2: 109g/km

On sale: Now

What Is It?

The latest SEAT Leon is a car that’s been transformed over earlier versions. With crisp styling, a practical and high quality interior plus contemporary Volkswagen underpinnings, it’s a highly regarded alternative to the popular VW Golf that has price firmly on its side.

The SC three-door has a coupe-like style that differentiates it from the regular five-door; this is winning it many fans in hot hatch Cupra guise but the ‘warm hatch’ FR trim is not to be overlooked either. At a glance, it’s hard to split Cupra and FR – and the FR has a much greener range of engines, including diesels.

SEAT Leon SC 1.4 ACT FR Fact 1

SEAT sells three types of Leon in the UK – regular five-door, ‘Sport Coupe’ SC three-door and ‘Sport Tourer’ ST estate

New for 2015 is a super-eco petrol turbo version. Called 1.4 ACT, it’s a 1.4-litre turbo engine that has cutting-edge cylinder deactivation technology – when you’re taking things steady, it will shut off half the cylinders, leaving it running as a two-cylinder to save fuel.

It does this automatically and imperceptibly – until you glance at the average fuel readout on the dash: the Leon SC ACT can officially average 58.9mpg and combines this with 109g/km CO2. Does this make it the thinking man’s sporty hot hatch, then? RAC Cars decided to find out.

Styling And Interior

The shapely SEAT Leon SC is a striking machine in the metal. The creases in the side panels are sharp and stark, emphasising the muscular haunches and rakish roofline. The five-door Leon looks a little upright and mature – this is a bold contrast to it, particularly with the racy bodykit FR trim brings.

Inside, SEAT has given it a sporty feel with a spot-on driving position, flat-bottomed steering wheel and big round dials. Bolstered seats are firm and supportive, while the dashboard itself is made of good quality plastics. The feeling of integrity is absolute – it’s the same sort of feel you get in a Golf, no less.

SEAT Leon SC 1.4 ACT FR Fact 2

ACT stands for Active Cylinder Technology

Controls in particular have Germanic clarity and features such as the touchscreen sat nav are easy to use once you’ve understood the menu structure. We also liked the display in the dash that told you when the engine was running on two cylinders – more on that in a moment.

The SC is not the most practical of cars though, due to the three-door layout. Getting into the back is awkward and the high-backed front seats and shallow windows mean there’s not a lot of light for those in the rear. The boot, although the same 380-litre capacity as the five-door on paper, has a high sill so isn’t the easiest to load either.

Performance

The 1.4-litre ACT 150 engine is superb. Smooth, quiet and serene, it’s near-inaudible in normal use and emits a sporty hum when revved hard without resorting to any sort of harshness or vibration.

It’s eager too, with diesel-like pulling power low down and no let-up in power even when you spin the revs round to 6000rpm. The linearity of power delivery is impressive once you get used to the abruptness with which it can sometimes come on song when you press the throttle – having so much power so easily on tap will take you by surprise at first.

The two-cylinder running model comes in when you are cruising gently and when power demands on the engine are low. You don’t even notice it most of the time as the engine note doesn’t change and there’s no more vibration through the wheel – you’ll only notice it from the ‘eco’ symbol on the dash.

Press the accelerator suddenly when it’s in 2-cylinder mode and there will be a small hiccup, but otherwise the blend in and out of modes is similarly imperceptible. It’s an ingenious and brilliantly executed way to save fuel – and as the fuel computer was often reading in excess of 50mpg when it was operating as a two-cylinder, a very effective one too.

Handling

The grippy, sportily-sprung SEAT Leon FR handles with the verve of a fun hot hatch, darting into corners with strong front end grip and plenty of agility. But it also feels grown up and confident, with lots of integrity – again, the feeling is of Germanic quality.

It rides with a sporty edge but it’s not crashy, even on the optional 18-inch wheels of the test car. And at speed, it’s free-running and composed, refusing to be upset by bad weather or strong sidewinds.

The only grumble, if you’re really picky, is that it can sometimes judder a little if you encounter stiff mid-corner bumps: this version of the Leon doesn’t have the higher-tech rear suspension of more powerful models, so its breadth of ability when encountering really challenging surfaces isn’t as great. Otherwise, though, it’s impressive.

Price And Value

A list price of just under £20,000 for a 150hp hot hatch with an engine as technologically advanced as this strikes us as impressive value. Particularly when you factor in the strong level of standard equipment – for the foreseeable future, all Leons even have an optional Technology Pack as standard, which includes sat nav and DAB radio.

This Technology Pack also includes advanced LED headlights, which are little short of brilliant. They’re some of the brightest and best headlights on the market and transform the clarity of night-time vision, particularly on full beam.

SEAT Leon SC 1.4 ACT FR Fact 3

The ACT-engined Leons are only offered with a six-speed manual gearbox – the DCT automatic is not yet available

Company car drivers will be particularly impressed by the Leon FR ACT as its 150hp output is combined with a sub-110g/km CO2 figure – great for Benefit in Kind tax advantages that will be further reinforced by the sub-£20,000 list price.

Fuel Economy

The Leon FR ACT boasts a strong 58.9mpg official combined figure. That’s as good as many diesels producing this power – it’s not often a petrol car can match them like this, particularly one capable of reaching 62mph from rest in 7.9 seconds.

Ah, but it doesn’t bear out in practice, you may say. Well, in our experience, you may be surprised. So eager is the engine to use the two-cylinder model whenever it can, everyday use may well see you average 50mpg-plus according to the fuel computer.

Even during more energetic use, it was still reading into the 40s – there seems to be an inherent efficiency with this engine despite all its effervescent enthusiasm. It has the added benefit of cleaner tailpipe emissions than many diesels, too – and unleaded is cheaper than diesel at the pumps.

Verdict: SEAT Leon SC 1.4 ACT FR

The SEAT Leon SC ACT FR is a bit of a mouthful but the car itself is a real treat. It looks good, is fun yet refined to drive and the engine’s two-cylinder running is clever while also saving fuel in everyday use. Add in competitive prices and it’s certainly a car worth finding out more about.

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