Saturday 24 February 2018

Postman Pat in a new guise

The van-like Ford Tourneo has its uses but the very classy Seat Leon ST ticks all the boxes

The Ford Tourneo Connect has its uses but is basically a converted Transit van
The Ford Tourneo Connect has its uses but is basically a converted Transit van
It is hard to argue with the conclusion that the Seat Leon ST is the best of the small family estate cars currently on the market in terms of price, space and looks
Campbell Spray

Campbell Spray

IT WAS the name that did for me. I had been reminiscing about great Fords with a colleague and then said that my test car was to be the Ford Tourneo. He looked puzzled but I pointed out that it was probably a distant descendant of the rather stylish Taunus saloon that was sold as a bigger brother to the Cortina and was eventually replaced by the Sierra.

What I didn't expect when picking it up – but should have if I had read the press releases – was basically a converted small Transit van. That it was red, square and distinctly more trade than class made me feel like Postman Pat. That it didn't have air-conditioning or rear side windows that opened, but possessed massive and rather useless sun-visors, industrial-sized front doors and side mirrors and a frightening width didn't help the Ford Tourneo Connect's attempts to bond with me.

However, it would be mean to be blind to its attributes. There are five very full and comfortable seats on board (there is also a seven-seater version), the load area is massive and the sliding rear-doors make access very easy.

It would make sense for a small business that needs to ferry people and their luggage around or for somebody needing disability transport. However, even they would probably want a bit more spec than was on the Ford Tourneo Connect Kombi Style.

This short-wheel-base model was powered by the 1.6- litre 75BHP diesel which was just about fine for me, the partner and Sam the dog. There is a lot of gear work involved but even so, the dog went to sleep before we were able to reach a decent speed on the way to his favourite walk. However, with five on board and a load of luggage, wheelbarrows or cement in the boot, it wouldn't be torturous. The vehicle in 'Race Red' (which was a bit rich) was priced at €24,100 before p&p.

The driving dynamics weren't as good as it should be for sharing the same platform that underpins the Focus and Kuga, but that is probably down to all the extra metal. Body roll is noticeable on country roads but around town, the Tourneo was more agile than I expected. It is a noisy car on the motorway and gets a bit thirsty at speed (a relative word) too. I thought the Tourneo had its uses, and probably I would be begging for one if I was moving or doing a lot of DIY but other than that, it wasn't for me.

More appealing was the estate version of the Seat Leon which contrasted with the ugly-as-a-garden-shed Tourneo by being low, sleek and rather attractive, with quite sporty credentials. The Leon ST (sports tourer) range starts at little more than €20k before p&p and there is a very full offering of models leading up to the sporty FR option with automatic box that will be around €31k all in.

I really enjoyed the latter although the sports seats emphasised that the gym and diet regimes need to be fine-tuned. By contrast to the Tourneo, the dynamics were spot on. It is a real load carrier, too, as long as you remember the car's height. The available space is far more than a V60, which is also a fine looking car.

In Britain, where they really love their estates, the Daily Telegraph reckoned the Leon ST was the best of the small family estate cars in terms of price, space and looks. I wouldn't argue with that. The Leon ST is a very classy car with a refined air. I totally enjoyed my experience with it and it could easily become a permanent Sam-mover but probably in the all-wheel drive version which is coming.

Sunday Independent

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