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A FROSTY RELATIONSHIP (Seat Leon SE Copa 1.2 TSI long term test month three) car review


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 you’re already warm and cosy inside the car and realise you can’t see it could be a disaster.

Okay, so it’s 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.

It’s 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 can’t 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 Leon’s powerful heater and the car’s 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 it’s journeys of the long and dull type that have dominated recently. Ordinarily this would be a bad thing but the Leon’s audio unit routinely comes to the rescue. Like the heated mirrors, it’s easy to become blasé about the SE Copa’s DAB radio. Offering access to a wider choice of stations beyond the modest number a regular radio can receive, if you don’t fancy the current station there’s 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 car’s large touchscreen, once connected the player’s content can be browsed quickly. There’s 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, it’s an intuitive system that’s 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 car’s 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 can’t hide the fact that in 105 horsepower trim it’s 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 you’re tackling a hill probably isn’t a good a idea. Still, the gearshift action is one of the slickest around, and the engine’s 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 won’t fit in the household wheelie bin. The Leon’s 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, it’s 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.? Economy: 52.3mpg.? CO2 Rating: 124g/km.

  • Enginespetrol
  • Power3 (average performance)
  • 0-60 mph
  • Economy3 (average fuel economy)
  • CO2g/km
  • Insurance groups3 (average costs)
  • Airbags
  • Seats5 value verdict:    stars

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