SEAT’s formula for racy cars
SEAT is a brand renowned for producing sporty and distinctive volume models and has taken a bold step by introducing a fresh new FR series for 2006.
FR is short for Formula Racing, and the performance and handling of the new cars are an eye-opener.
The FR Series comprises the new Altea FR, a revamped Ibiza FR, and the second generation of the top-selling Leon FR.
The Leon FR is the newest of the trio, launched in July in petrol and diesel guises, though the Altea is also very new – the petrol version was launched on the same day as its two Leon FR siblings, while the diesel has been on sale since June.
The Ibiza FR was thoroughly revamped in April this year, with a new look, improved equipment and greater value for money.
All three ranges feature a choice of powerful and efficient petrol or diesel engines.
This is an important aspect of their success, as SEAT has recognised that many performance-oriented customers no longer have a “petrol-only” mentality, with increasing numbers preferring the flexibility and economy of a diesel.
Having said that, the latest generation of petrol engines used in the FR Series, such as the two-litre T FSI, provide diesel-like pulling power with impressive fuel economy.
For the Ibiza, the petrol and diesel engines are a 1.8-litre 20V T 150bhp and 1.9-litre TDI 130bhp respectively, while the Leon and Altea share the same pair of sophisticated new powerplants: a two-litre T FSI 200bhp and two-litre TDI 170bhp.
Styling changes make all three are distinct from other models in the range, and share design touches that are exclusive to the FR Series.
All feature exclusive FR alloy wheel designs, silver-painted door mirrors, twin exhaust pipes, special front and rear bumpers, FR sports SEATs, white instrumentation, exclusive steering wheel and gearknob designs, plus a dose of ‘FR’ badging inside and out.
So, they look sporty, and they don’t disappoint when you get behind the wheel.
I spent a few hours driving the new FR range on a road route and under test track conditions.
All models have lowered suspensions, firmer dampers and a computer programme which adjusts power steering assistance depending on driving speed.
The overall result is more precise roadholding, sharper handling and quicker steering and better driver feedback.
Anti-lock brakes and traction control are standard on Ibiza FR, and Leon FR adds electronic stability control, emergency brake assist and other driving aids.
I am highly impressed with the range, especially the Leon 2.0 FSI with 200bhp under the bonnet.
Instant acceleration, superb pulling power even in higher gears, and a 7.3 second 0-62mph sprint time make the Leon a class act. And, according to SEAT, you will get close to 36mpg on a combined run.
All FR models, with the exception of the Ibiza 20V T petrol, come with slick six-speed manual gear changes and have a high level of standard safety and security equipment, including front and side airbags, remote central locking, immobiliser and alarm, climate control, CD/radio, electric front windows.
SEAT has made a name for itself by going out to target the younger buyer who as well as wanting a practical motor is also looking for sporty performance. The FR range really fits the bill.
Prices for the FR line up are: Ibiza 1.8 20V T FR £11,975; Ibiza TDI FR £13,120; Leon T FSI FR £16,995; Leon TDI FR £17,495; Altea T FSI FR £17,295; and Altea TDI FR £17,795.