The aim of allowing drivers here to keep a car for several months at time is to enable a more thorough individual assessment, often to the point of reappraising something that had either been written-off or applauded on first impressions.
The latter is the case with my weeks in the Leon. I have discovered a number of ticks and twitches in its outwardly cool demeanour.
To begin with the sport seats have over time become a pain in that place that Renault has been encouraging us to shake in its Megane advertising campaign.
I put it down to the raised side squab which presses into my left thigh. A journey from Peterborough to Hull was a nightmare and I needed a couple of stops to walk around the car for relief. My partner has complained of the same ‘malade a derriere’ to the point of having to stop driving on one journey to Birmingham.
Adjusting the seat has not made any difference – perhaps it’s no coincidence that we are both tall.
Again relating to the driving experience, the combination of the driving position, seat and steering wheel means the lower section of the speedo is obstructed from view. I cannot see when I am doing 30mph – critical for safety and for avoiding fines.
So I either listen very closely to the revs to gauge speed or squeeze my (aching) buns a little to take a peek over the steering wheel.
Next! The Leon is a beautiful collection of curves, but it comes with a drawback. The front numberplate has been stuck down with double-sided tape on the front bumper, which has only the slightest curve to it, but it’s enough to mean the tape has lost the battle to keep the rather rigid plate in place at both ends, resulting in it looking untidy.
I’ve also found the passenger seatbelt sensor to be overly sensitive. If your front passenger is not wearing the belt an alarm sounds. It must be weight-sensitive – a four pack of Guinness was enough to set it off.
And last of all, why has SEAT made the oil dipstick black? It doesn’t make it very easy checking the oil level.
OK, this isn’t a fault, but you wonder what the thought process was behind it.
This reads like the Magna Carta of Moans. But I’ve collected together all the problems I’ve encountered with the Leon as I prepare to hand it on.
I would still choose the car over a Ford Focus, Renault Megane and probably the Volkswagen Golf for reasons such as performance (it’s got a gutsy yet frugal engine) and handling, its capacity to carry people and luggage, its scarcity and value when compared to its sister car the Golf.
SEAT’s designers should also take heart. It’s been a long time since a car I’ve driven has drawn so many admiring glances.
Price (OTR): £16,495
CO2 emissions (g/km): 154
Company car tax bill (2006) 22% tax-payer: £60 a month
Insurance group: 9
Combined mpg: 50.4
Test mpg: 40.1
CAP Monitor RV: £6,400/39%
Contract hire rate: £339
Expenditure to date: Nil
Figures based on three years/60,000 miles.