NEVER underestimate the power of heated exterior mirrors. Sure, it only takes a minute to manually de-ice them along with the rest of the car, but if youre already warm and cosy inside the car and realise you cant see it could be a disaster.
Okay, so its never really going to be a disaster, but it would be wrong to let all the heat out. Thankfully such a scenario will never happen in the Leon SE Copa; you just turn the electric mirror control one notch, sit back and wait for the mirrors to clear.
Its okay to be smug when talking about the Leon - I catch myself behaving this way quite a lot. Thankfully I have some understanding friends who have no problems bringing me back down to earth. It usually results in me catching a lift in lesser-equipped cars. See, I cant help myself.
Anyway, with temperatures dropping and the need to stay safe, the fuss-free way you can keep the mirrors clear is a welcome one yet still not a widespread feature on cars in this class. Factor in the Leons powerful heater and the cars windscreen can be cleared of condensation in a flash. Furthermore, the dual zone climate control has also proved invaluable.
The push button nature of the system makes it easy for anyone to operate, while the ability to split the temperature between driver and front seat passenger has diffused many a potential argument - a good thing on long journeys.
And its journeys of the long and dull type that have dominated recently. Ordinarily this would be a bad thing but the Leons audio unit routinely comes to the rescue. Like the heated mirrors, its easy to become blasé about the SE Copas DAB radio. Offering access to a wider choice of stations beyond the modest number a regular radio can receive, if you dont fancy the current station theres plenty more to choose from.
Thankfully DAB is appearing on an increasing number of cars, although unlike the Leon you often have to pay a few hundred pounds for the experience. One day all cars will be like this...
In contrast, a rapidly growing number of cars now come with inputs for MP3 players and the ubiquitous iPod and iPhone. In conjunction with the cars large touchscreen, once connected the players content can be browsed quickly. Theres the added bonus of displaying the current track on the trip computer screen, and navigation is possible via the
steering wheel controls. All in all, its an intuitive system thats hard to fault.
The same could be said of the car as a whole. Straight line action on the motorway requires little effort from the driver, although the cars tall sixth ratio geared for economy and refinement can sometimes prompt you to make a quick change to fifth for a long, drawn out overtake on an uphill section.
This particular Leon has spent more time than usual on motorways recently, and its modest economy figures cant hide the fact that in 105 horsepower trim its better suited to a more varied routine. Better results - mid to high 40s mpg - have been regularly seen on relaxed cross country jaunts. Sticking to the legal limit also helps, as does occasionally ignoring the often optimistic gear change indicator - suggesting a higher gear as youre tackling a hill probably isnt a good a idea. Still, the gearshift action is one of the slickest around, and the engines stop-start function performs faultlessly around town.
Post-festive season load carrying challenges include cramming the boot full of the rubbish associated with the holiday excesses and joining the queue at the local recycling centre - wrapping paper, bottles and anything else that wont fit in the household wheelie bin. The Leons split-fold rear seat has already seen plenty of action, while the boot carpet appears to to be standing up well to the rigours of the weekly shop and the occasional suitcase and furniture flatpack.
Against the backdrop of lots of welcome standard features, the short days and lack of sunlight have shown that there is something worth paying extra for: xenon headlights. For a few hundred pounds the ability to throw light further than a regular Leon is a real boon. The steerable function is no gimmick either, allowing you to see further into a bend. And, like the heated mirrors, its not long before you take the feature for granted. Slowly but surely the Leon is seamlessly integrating itself into my life.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Model: Seat Leon SE Copa 1.2 TSI, from £17,225 on the road. Cost options fitted: directional xenon headlights, custom paint.
?Engine: 1.2-litre petrol unit developing 105bhp.?
Transmission: 6-speed manual transmission as standard, driving the front wheels.?Performance: Maximum speed 115mph, 0-62mph 11.0 seconds.?
CO2 Rating: 124g/km.