It looks like a normal car, it feels like a normal car but the new Seat Leon ST FR is not a normal car.
Not only is it a fast, head-turningly attractive sporty estate model, it’s also another step closer to a self driving car, with the help of the combined optional Lane Assist and adaptive cruise control systems.
Lane Assist should not be confused with the more common Lane Departure Warning. The latter beeps or vibrates when it feels the car veering out of its lane without the indicator being used.
However, Lane Assist works to keep the car within its lane – if you’re lightly holding the steering wheel, you can feel the car making minor steering corrections as you’re driving along. At this stage it doesn’t work on corners and you will hear a beep if your steering is getting too lax.
Adaptive Cruise Control, meanwhile, takes the fantastic cruise control system one step further, allowing the car to automatically keep pace with the car in front.
Put simply, if the vehicle in front slows down, your car will automatically slow down to maintain a set distance and likewise if the car in front speeds up, so will yours, within the set cruise control speed.
I was impressed that the system in the Leon even worked in very wet and windy conditions on the motorway.
The system was easy to use but I found that it got confused on narrower multi-lane city streets and followed the car in the lane beside you if there was nothing in front.
The test car also had front and rear parking sensors, which were handy as the car is very long, but narrower than it feels from inside.
Even without the optional high tech features, the Leon ST FR is a beautiful car. Sleek and elegant looking, our test car was a standout Apolo Blue colour.
Inside, the plush cabin is spacious with great legroom back and front and room in the back to comfortably seat two adults. There’s also a pull down armrest for extra relaxation – or to separate warring kids.
The front seats are of the very comfortable sports variety and sit very low down.
The test car also had a beautiful panoramic sunroof (an optional extra), which opens.
Storage in this car is also good, with a decent sized glove compartment, two cup holders and a covered storage box between the front seats, and another covered storage box for phones etc in the centre console. Door bins, however, don’t hold any kind of bottle upright.
The boot, as you’d expect from an estate, is huge and houses a spare wheel.
Infotainment is provided for via a radio/CD/USB/Aux with Bluetooth phone and music streaming. The sound system is very good.
The test model was an automatic with a manual handbrake. It also had hill start assist, which prevents the car from rolling backwards on an incline.
Our route took us all over the country, in the city, motorway, country back roads and city car parks – and we spotted quite a few people stopping to take a look at it.
The 2.0l 150hp Leon ST FR is fast, especially considering it’s a big estate, but you can slightly feel it working through the gears. There are three drive modes – Drive, Sport and manual. Needless to say, sport was my favourite.
It handles well and it’s nippy when you’re taking off at the lights, but it’s missing the fun element somehow, probably because, despite its sporty look and feel, it’s not actually a hot hatch. The automatic gearbox also plays a part in this.
I found it easy to park and, despite its size, it was also easy to manoeuver on the narrower city centre streets.
Overall, I liked it. It’s a beautiful car, it’s good to drive, it’s chock-a-block with tech and the Apolo Blue colour is a real draw. It’s a great choice for someone who’s looking for a fast car but with the practicality of a family vehicle.
The Seat Leon ST is available now in a range of engines, with prices starting from €20,545. Prices for the DSG automatic FR model I was driving start from €30,365, with optional extras in the test car bring it to just over €34,000.
Engine: 2.0litre 150hp diesel
Acceleration: 0-100kph in 8.4seconds
Maximum Speed: 211kph
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
Combined fuel economy: 4.5l/100km
Annual road tax: €200
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