I love a good hot hatch me. My car ownership history is littered with them – I started motoring life in a Fiesta XR2, then latterly a Citroen Saxo VTR and now have a Focus ST.
The thing is, I always thought a hot hatch had to have a few key ingredients: front wheel drive was important, decent handling a given, and my final must-have was a revvy petrol engine.
That was until today. Seat’s always been good at sporty diesels and the latest – the Leon FR TDI and Ibiza FR TDI – are staggeringly good.
So much so that, after a morning driving the Suffolk’s roads in them, I was pretty sure I’d been converted.
But before I pledged my allegiance to the black pumps, I decided to quiz Seat’s press chief on why drivers should make the switch.
What are the top selling points for dealers to use when trying to convert petrolheads – like me – into a performance diesel lover?
Probably an obvious one this, but Seat has crunched some numbers to help. With fuel prices at parity it’s easy to work out that with a combined fuel consumption in the Ibiza FR of 60mpg and with a similar petrol hot hatch averaging around 30mpg, buyers would save £900 in fuel costs over 10,000 miles.
And there’s that added bonus of huge gaps between fill ups – one of these new Ibizas can do 600 miles on a tank, compared to around 300 from their petrol-sipping rivals.
This is a vital part of hot hatches – they MUST be exciting to drive. Some people like their hatches to rev to the redline, but if you’re honest just how often do you do that? I know I do it rarely – so the mid-range torque of a performance diesel is more useful, more of the time, to more people.
Handling wise, the Seats are on a par with their petrol siblings – complete with hard suspension and sharp steering.
Performance diesels are invariably cheaper to tax. The Ibiza pumps out 123g/km – which puts it in the free for the first year tax bracket and £90 per year after that. Bonus.
Ok, so there are going to be some of those, but they’re small. The most obvious is cost – performance diesels cost more than their petrol rivals, but that difference is coming down.
Perception is the other problem – buyers just don’t think of diesels as ‘sporty’. Seat might be trying its hardest to change that, but still a lot of people associate diesels with dullness. Sad, but true.
So if all the above fails?
‘Get the buyer behind the wheel,’ added the Seat spokesman. ‘I’m pretty sure you’ll be preaching to the converted once a buyer has experienced an FR TDI for themselves.’
What about me? Well, I’m sold on them. If only because it would mean I have to visit fuel stations half as many times as I do now – and that, in my book, is reason enough to make the switch!