I went over to my local dealer David Cook Motors in Oldham this morning, and got the chance to test drive the sales managers 1.8TSI Leon FR SC for an hour or so. I'd more of less made up my mind I was up for a new Leon SC FR, but as the opportunity arose, its rude not to have a drive when offered. I am personally interested in a DSG for the fact I suffer with poor joints in my feet, and now find a clutch tough work on my daily commutes to work. The car I tested today was 1.8TSI with 6 speed manual, however as its a Saturday, traffic wouldn't be so much of an issue today so bring it on. I drove a 1.6TDI SE DSG 5 door last weekend and I enjoyed that test drive and it gave me a feel for the car, the seating position and the way the gearbox performed. It was smooth comfortable, yet despite that it didn't really thrill me..nor was I expecting it to but it was just a first impression of the Mk3. Coming from a 360HP Mk2 Leon Cupra most things can feel pedestrian, so I have to be fair in my comparisons. The SC I tested today is Alor Blue, not my personal taste but its certainly very eye-catching. Sporting the 18" performance alloys it looks the part, very nice road stance to it. I like what SEAT have done with the styling, its angular and purposeful but not too harsh, softened by its A pillar line to the sloping coupe-esque roof and purposeful wider shoulders of the rear quarters its reminiscent of the VW Scirocco in its appearance which is no bad thing. Its a very nice looking car, it has that aesthetic edge over the 5door in that sense, I'd of missed the hidden door handles from the Mk2 if it was a 5 door only this time. But I'm pleased SEAT have diversified the range and given consumers more choice. A 5 door wasn't essential for me, but its good for the brand that there is a greater choice available and the upcoming ST is sure to be popular too. I was shown a few of the tech pack functions before I headed off and how they worked, and the extra options that this particular car had fitted. It had the tech pack of course, led headlamps, convenience, sound pack, driver assist, alcantara sport trim. So not a bad little list of options for me to check out. The interior is a big improvement over the Mk2 Leon, the only cheapened parts in my opinion are probably the door cards and the lower parts of the dashboard. But certainly nothing I'd class as being terrible. The rest of the interior, dashboard, switchgear etc has a tougher and more refined appeal to it similar to its cousins in VW or Audi. The seating position on the SC feels just a little different to the 5door SE that I drove, a bit more laid back, a sportier seating position, but all for the better. The Alcantara trim and leatherette looks great, and the seats are strong and firm, yet comfortable and hold you in position well. The obvious drawback of the 3door is losing the convenience of the rear doors, but I don't often have rear passengers anyway and if thats a necessity you would choose a 5 door. The rear legroom is of course economic in a sport-coupe, but they are certainly not tight for space, 4 adults I think would be the SC's comfortable limit with adequate headroom for all except the tallest of passengers. The overall visibility is good, including through the rear hatch and a more conventional A pillar design and less rakish front windscreen means SEAT have instantly improved all round vision from the previous Leon model. But the new car is fitted with all round parking sensors too, so moving it around in tight spaces is effortless. So fire up the SC and off we go, I went into the driver profiles and selected Normal first, because I wanted an idea of where it was as a bench mark. Quick blast down the road, and I'm already smiling, its got a great engine sound in the cabin (albeit manufactured) which was delivering a great sound with the satisfying surge of power. However with the window open, in reality its got a nice little engine sound to it with a sporty exhaust note. It does start to sound a little strained towards the limiter, but its got plenty of mid range torque as you would expect from a VW Group turbo engine, so that your unlikely to find your pushing it that hard on a regular basis. Despite it being considerably less powerful than the car I've owned before, its no slouch, the new 1.8 performs very well delivering its 178hp to the road. As I've touched on above, the torque delivery is consistently strong across a wide area of the rev band, making it quick off the mark and quick to pick up the pace from in-gear acceleration. I can see the DSG performing even better for me, as my manual changes are woefully slow anyway with my achey joints. But the manual gearbox is perfectly adequate for most people, and unless DSG is really a requirement you'd save money sticking with the 6 speed box. Taking the car on the motorway was an opportunity to try out the lane assist function (driver assist pack), it simply uses the camera/sensor as part of the convenience pack (another requirement) to look at the lane lines. It sets itself momentarily once you have got into the lane and straightened up. If you drift (without indicating) the steering wheel gently vibrates to prompt you back into the centre of the lane. It works ok, but could be distracting if the lanes are narrow as can be on some sections of the highways, but it can be turned off. The headlight assist function I was unable to test today, but have been told it works very well, and as the nights start to draw in, I've been invited to come back and do a bit of night driving one evening to see the LED headlamps in action and test the assist functions. The ride was good on the motorway, the cabin is quiet and the engine is refined to make cruising along relaxing, and it soon picks up the pace when the loud pedal is pressed. I got back off the motorway and took the car around town and off onto some quiet lanes, to test it out on the twists and turns. The car is just under 100kg lighter than the Mk2 and a bit wider with it, and that diet makes it feel more nimble and being shorter than both the Mk2 and Mk3 5door the car is really well balanced and gives you the confidence to throw it about a bit into the corners like a much smaller hatchback, which it attacks and soaks up effortlessly. The 1.8TSI is multi-link at the back, I'm not 100% sure if the 1.6TDI i drove was rear beam (i think it was) but you can tell something more substantial was tying together the back end on the SC. It obviously sits lower to the road than the SE did, and despite the 18 inch optional wheels it never felt harsh or overly stiff and I purposely took it down some back roads with Everest height speed humps to bounce it over and it soaked these up well enough. My Mk2 Cupra ran on coil overs that were astounding on a nice smooth bit of tarmac, and even with its std Cupra shocks and springs it was always a tough ride on the potholes and sleeping policemen. I'd expect to save on visits to the chiropractor with a new FR. At this stage I thought I'd have a play with the profiles, and switched the car into sport and the door cards light up red. Driving the 6spd manual it doesn't do a great deal to the performance really, at a pinch it picks up the pace a bit quicker than normal with a keener throttle response and the manufactured engine note sounded more distinctive, but nothing I could really notice in the short time I drove the car. I think in general most people will stick in Sport and leave it there. With a manual gearbox it only suggests different change points to the driver, rather than conditioning any change to the box. In a DSG it changes the parameters of the gearbox to suit the mode. In sport mode the steering is firmed up and this gives good feedback when pushing on through the corners. Other modes are ECO (self explanatory) and Individual (which allows a mixture of mode settings to be applied). I wasn't doing much in the way of Economical driving today, so I can't comment on the effectiveness of ECO mode, but the settings alter the way air-conditioning draws on the engine too, so it appears there will be fuel savings to notice, and with DSG it activates an inertia function enabling consumption to be further reduced. Even with sporty driving though the car remained economical, Mid 50's mpg on the motorway and high 30's around town, only dipping into the teens under hard driving. The tech pack and media system is a gadget geeks dream however, and though I'm sure the novelty will wear off in time, you'll find yourself exploring all the options and settings on the touch screen interface. The in-dash display is full colour too, and can display optional information independent of the main screen, so for example Navigation can be linked to the main screen and radio/music/media info to the dash, or visa versa. Its a nice clear interface with a striking design, and very easy to use. The car I tested has the optional SEAT Sound Pack fitted, that increases the already generous FR standard 8 speaker sound system to 9 speakers and 1 subwoofer. The extra speaker is a centre speaker factory fitted inside the middle of the dashboard, the subwoofer is mounted inside the space saver rear tyre (which as an option must be ticked alongside the sound system). A 6 channel amplifier then boosts the overall system to 135 watts. So to test it out I sync'd up my iPhone over bluetooth, and played some of my favourite tunes, including some of The Prodigy's classics. It provides deep rich clear sound, the subwoofer is effective too, I could feel the hair on the back of my head being moved by the sound waves. The functions on the media system, allow fine tuning of the system, including a full equaliser. I had a top of the range Pioneer nav system in my Cupra, but the tech pack media system with the SEAT Sound system was every bit a match for it in terms of the quality of sound it reproduced. With practically every conceivable modern music media platform taken care of by the in glovebox EASY CONNECT system, you'll never be short on entertainment. So with that I headed back to the dealership. Summing up, I think the FR TSI is a fun, stylish and refined sporty hatchback that though it won't deliver the outright performance of the Cupra, that is sure to succeed it within the next 12 months it is a very capable, fast, yet economic and affordable alternative. Do I like it, well considering I've placed an order for one today, I think its succeeded in winning me over. I look forward to its arrival, and getting to grips with the car mated to the DSG box. Thanks to Gary at David Cook Motors for the test drive. If your local or even if your not, pay them a visit, they are a good dedicated crowd down there and a family run business which is getting rare to find these days.