Sometimes it is good to be pleasantly surprised when test driving a car. Take the Seat León, for example. I was expecting a competent hatchback that ticks all of the boxes and, being based on VW running gear, reasonable to drive compared to some of its cheaper rivals at least.

But when I picked up the car I was told this was the FR — fitted with the most powerful diesel engine in the range and a cut above the rest when it comes to performance.

I smiled and nodded and got in the car. Once out on the road I pushed the throttle and immediately realised what they were talking about.

The 184 bhp diesel is a real blast, transforming the car from the everyday into the exceptional.

You have to be careful — before you know it you are at 70mph and reeling it in but while it is fun, the Seat remains sensible when it comes to putting a dampener on the party with highly sensitive brakes that can stop the car on its nose in the blink of an eye.

The good news is that the rest of the car is up to the demands of the engine.

Handling is good and inspires confidence, even on uneven roads in bad weather, while the gearbox is slick and positive as you would expect from something out of the VW stable.

So it is a lot of fun but still has that practical edge to it.

As well as five doors and plenty of leg room in the back, the boot is large, even with the split folding rear seats up and should swallow most of a family’s needs.

But all this, perhaps surprisingly, does not come at a cost.

Official figures show even this sporty version of the León is capable of 67 mpg. You are unlikely to achieve that with day to day motoring but figures in excess of 50mpg should easily be achievable.

The car is also well equipped. The seats are firm and hug you tight in corners while air conditioning is standard along with automatic headlights.

The test model also came with a DAB digital radio and satellite navigation, both of which were much appreciated along with a Bluetooth connection for hands-free telephone calls which will be particularly appreciated by business users. Parking sensors completed the package.

So it may be possible to convince the boss that you want a highly practical diesel hatchback that offers good value for money when compared to its rivals including the VW Golf, on which it is based.

Once that argument is won, you can be sure of having the added advantage of the engine and lowered suspension of the FR and really start to enjoy yourself.

* Top speed: 142 mph 0-62 mph: 7.5 seconds Economy: 67.3 mpg (combined) CO2: 109g/km Price: £22,555

* Car supplied by Hartwell, Oxford Motor Park, Kidlington.