Tough love is the best way to describe how this Seat Leon FR TDI has been treated in the past month.
By Matt Joy
Its abilities have not waned or suffered as the months have rolled by and it is just as appealing if not more so than the first day I took it home, but the sheer diversity of weather and the hefty amount of ground it has had to cover has meant it clearly felt a bit sorry for itself. So do I.
The scariest part is that the Leon has been clocking up about 2,500 miles a month - that's more than twice the average. Scary because it's hard to remember where all those miles have gone, but more so because the Leon clearly does a fine job of massaging those miles away and avoids you feeling every single yard.
Crossing the 12,000-mile barrier has also meant the Leon politely asked for its first service. With variable servicing intervals it won't always come at this distance, but given the amount of ground it covered there's no shame - an average driver wouldn't see a dealer for 12 months or more. There was a reminder with 500 miles to go, but such has been the workload for this beast of burden that it was past that marker before it finally got to put its feet up.
Blade Seat in Bristol were the closest dealer to hand and once the booking was made, getting the Leon some TLC was as fuss-free as you would hope. Rather than loiter in the rather well-equipped waiting area (lots of hot drinks, satellite TV and a distracting driving game on the Xbox 360) I asked a colleague to run me back to the office. I didn't realise that Blade, like other Seat dealers, offer a collection service from your home or place of work or will give you a lift instead.
Later that afternoon the phone rang to tell me that the Leon was ready to go. Freshly washed and vacuumed, it was a pleasure to step back inside knowing it had been on the receiving end of some professional attention. Fluids were topped up, oil changed (with a top-up bottle of the high quality oil put in the boot) and a thorough checkover revealed no problems. I'd also mentioned to Blade that one of my CDs had got stuck in the slot, most likely because of its scored surface made it hard to read. They suggested that as it was still well within warranty, a new unit could be ordered and replaced free of charge. Sounded like the ideal situation to me.
And with that the Leon was back on the road and back to clocking up big distances in a single hit. With the 2.0-litre diesel unit properly loosened up, the balance between performance and economy was even more enjoyable to exploit. The regular commute of 33 miles could either be performed at a wallet-pleasing 51mpg or in 10 fewer minutes with a little more exercising of the right foot. Either way the Leon managed to bridge the gap between the two so neatly that it never felt compromised whether cruising or tearing up some challenging roads.
There was more guilt to come as it went through a run of bad luck. Firstly some inconsiderate moron left a smudge of blue paint and an inch-long crease in the driver's door in an airport car park without so much as a written apology, never mind a phone number. Then the front left tyre started to drop pressure on a regular basis (helpfully pointed out by the standard tyre pressure monitoring system). A visit to a local tyre fitter revealed a two-inch screw firmly embedded in the outer wall. Tempting though it was to go for a cheaper option, the remaining Pirelli P Zeros were all well within 5mm of tread so although it wasn't cheap at 125, keeping the sweet handling balance was worth a little extra.
And then a winter wash to remove road grime revealed a black mark on the back pillar and a scrape on the rear bumper, evidence of more inconsiderate and selfish parking. I don't think the Leon has become a target for envy, but the anguish it caused just proved how it had worked its way into my affections. A car that is so genuinely capable and seemingly suited to almost anything you can throw at it is hard not to love.
Facts at a glance
Model: Seat Leon FR TDI CR 5-door DSG, 20,990.
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel unit delivering 168bhp and 258lb.ft of torque.
Transmission: Six-speed dual clutch transmission driving the front wheels.
Performance: Top speed 133mph, 0-62mph 8 seconds.
Economy: Overall 41.9mpg, best 55.1mpg.
Costs: First service 145, replacement tyre 125.