- Good choice of well-priced trim levels and available as a hatchback or estate
- Hybrid technology brings attractive tax savings
- Superb dynamics, performance and handling
- The hybrid technology impacts on boot space
- The touchscreen needs to be accessed to control all the systems - distracting
- Owners would need to make the most of EV miles to see the official figures pay off
Adding plug-in hybrid technology to the SEAT Leon model offers added efficiency to the car that has always been viewed as the core pillar of the Spanish carmaker’s line-up.
With an eye on the changing environment, the Leon e-HYBRID boasts all the dynamism associated with the hatchback model, along with clever powertrain technology with an EV-only driving range of up to 40 miles. This will be invaluable to anyone who frequently drives through Congestion Charge zones.
Customers can select from a range of well-equipped trim levels called FR, FR Sport, Xcellence and Xcellence Lux (there are no SE or SE Dynamic versions in PHEV format) and the car can be fully charged in as little as three hours and 42 minutes.
On The Road
Customers opting for the plug-in hybrid version of the SEAT Leon have a number of trim levels to choose from, but the engine choice is made simple as there is just one. It mates a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with an 85kW electric motor, plus a 13.1kWh battery pack to produce a combined output of 204PS of power and 350Nm of torque.
We opted for the entry-level FR version with a six-speed automatic DSG gearbox, which is standard across the line-up, with steering wheel-mounted paddles for added driver engagement.
The car can complete the 0-62mph sprint in a very respectable 7.5 seconds and tops out at 137mph.
With its dynamic styling and low centre of gravity, the Leon hatchback is beautifully poised and balanced on fast moving lanes with ample power on tap to overtake at short notice.
The gear changes are well timed using shift-by-wire technology for sharp responses delivering a dynamic performance that matches the car’s styling perfectly.
The road holding is ultra-grippy meaning bends can be attacked with complete confidence and there are also drive modes called Eco, Normal, Sport and Individual. Needless to say, the Sport option is great fun when faced with the open road.
The SEAT Leon e-HYBRID always starts up in electric mode (provided the battery has enough charge) and pulls away in complete silence. The car then automatically switches across to Hybrid mode when the petrol engine is required. This happens if the battery charge is low or the accelerator is pressed hard.
When driving in Hybrid mode, it is possible to save the battery charge for later. When this option is selected, the car runs entirely on petrol power and uses regenerative braking to charge the battery levels. The benefit of this is you can drive into low emission zones using just electric power and emitting zero carbon emission when needed.
When it comes to handling, the SEAT Leon hatch has always been at the forefront of the brand’s performance cars and this model keeps up that winning tradition.
The battery pack has been positioned beneath the rear seats which ensures the weight is well balanced between the front and rear of the car. This is most apparent when powering through tight and sweeping bends where there is next to no sign of body movement.
In addition, the car copes well with the additional weight thanks to the McPherson suspension at the front and a multilink system at the rear to help deliver a composed ride … even on our less than smooth roads.
The SEAT Leon has always been a great looking sports hatch that exudes confidence and adding plug-in hybrid technology to the mix has not had any impact on its striking design.
Eye-catching features on the dynamically-styled five-door hatch include a black grille housing the SEAT emblem, sweeping light clusters with LED headlights and dynamic turn signals, body-coloured bumpers and door handles, daytime running lights with automatic headlight control, fog lamps, tinted windows, an illuminated door sill, twin tailpipes and 17-inch bi-spoke alloy wheels.
The e-HYBRID badging at the right side of the tailgate and on the charging cover, which is located on the front left fender, are the only clues that this is in fact a PHEV model.
Moving inside, the Leon is clutter-free and relatively modern in its design and layout. The two-tone grey fabric upholstery looks smart enough and there is neat red stitching that finishes it off nicely. Flashes of chrome-effect trim around the air vents, gear lever and steering wheel help give the car quite a premium feel.
The flat-bottomed steering wheel is leather bound – again with red stitching – and also features the FR logo. The gear stick surround is also leather.
In The Car
Behind the Wheel
With ample manual seat and steering wheel adjustment, getting a comfortable driving position within the SEAT Leon hatch is a simple process. If you want powered seats, along with powered lumbar support, you need to upgrade to the FR Sport model or above.
However, the seats in the entry-level FR version are certainly supportive enough and there is a three-zone climate control system to keep all occupants happy, plus a heated steering wheel to fend off the winter chill.
The main focal point is the 10-inch multi-media infotainment system with navigation and Full Link smartphone integration via Mirror Link, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The compact gear selector lever looks really smart and frees up lots of space around the centre console too, plus the 10.25-inch digital driver cluster behind the steering wheel is data-rich and easy to read.
The only downside to the minimalist approach is the lack of physical buttons and switches. There are quick-access sliders beneath the touchscreen to adjust the climate control, but I found that a little fiddly and having to constantly navigate the screen was quite a distraction on the fly.
There is a SEAT Connect app allowing you to remotely lock or unlock the car, find your parking position, see what driving range is left or access driving data from previous journeys. You can even be alerted if someone is driving the car too fast or if the vehicle has been stolen.
And with the hybrid technology on this particular model, the app can be used to manage charging remotely via e-Manager and control the air conditioning to pre-heat the car – all from the comfort of your smartphone.
Space & Practicality
The five-door SEAT Leon boasts the same dimensions as the standard Leon model stretching 4,368mm in length, 1,799mm wide and 1,456mm in height. The wheelbase measures 2,686mm delivering a boot that can swallow 270 litres of kit – a limit that increases to 1,191 litres with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat. This is quite a reduction on the 380-1,301 litres offered in the non-hybrid Leon models.
If extra space is needed, the Leon Estate stretches to 4,642mm in length and has a boot capacity of 470 litres with all seats in an upright position. This increases to 1,391 litres with the back seats folded. But once again, the ICE versions offer more space with 620 litres increasing to 1,541 litres.
There is room in three back of the car for a couple of adults to sit comfortably enough, although the legroom does get a little restricted if the front seats are pushed well back. In addition, six footers will notice their curls brushing against the headlining as the dynamic styling of the car means the roofline tapers away.
There are plenty of convenient storage compartments scattered throughout the Leon, including a glovebox, door bins, a central cubby box, front and rear cupholders, a few non-slip trays and seat back pockets.
Charging the car takes three hours, 30 minutes from a 3.6kW charger and five hours from a 2.3kW outlet.
The SEAT Leon Hatchback e-HYBRID line-up costs from £32,945 for the entry-level FR model as tested, rising to £36,170 for the range-topping Xcellence Lux version.
Our car did feature a few optional extras such as a charging cable mode 3 priced at £145, a Safety and Driving Pack at £790 and interior wraparound lighting, costing and additional £265.
All models deliver combined fuel efficiency, under stricter WLTP testing, of 217.3-235.4mpg. This may sound a little too good to be true and, in all honesty, it is. The only way those figures could ever realistically be achieved is if the car was plugged in regularly to keep the battery fully charged and the daily commute was less than the 40 miles that the car can travel in EV-only mode.
However the carbon emissions figure of just 27g/km brings with it all manner of attractive financial savings. For the business driver, it has a Benefit in Kind rating of 6 per cent and the low CO2 figure would result in a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of just £10, increasing to the standard fee of £155 after 12 months.
The SEAT Leon hatchback FR model sits in insurance group 23.
Quality & Reliability
With Volkswagen as its parent company, the SEAT models have always boasted a good reputation when it comes to reliability and build quality. The Spanish marque frequently features towards the top end when it comes to customer satisfaction surveys which is reassuring for potential new buyers.
Beneath the bonnet is plenty of tried and tested VW technology and the all-round build quality seems high-end.
The cloth upholstery looks smart, but also feels durable and although there is quite a lot of hard-wearing plastic surfaces throughout the cabin, it should be strong enough to survive the test of time – even if it may show some signs of aging after a while.
As so many of the on-board systems are accessed and controlled via the touchscreen infotainment system, you will notice that it quickly gets covered in fingerprints, but these are easily wiped clean.
The SEAT Leon comes with a comprehensive three-year, 60,000-mile warranty to offer plenty of reassurance to customers.
Safety & Security
The latest SEAT Leon was awarded a maximum five stars when tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating scoring highly in all areas.
It received a safety score of 92 per cent for adult occupancy, 88 per cent for child occupants, 71 per cent in the vulnerable road user category and 80 per cent for safety assist.
There are seven airbags as standard, including a new front-central airbag that prevents possible head contact between the driver and front passenger in the event of a side collision.
In addition, the car features the latest active safety systems that use data from a variety of sensors and feeds to ensure the car sees the road ahead like never before and is ready to adapt to any changing scenarios.
Driver assist systems include the likes of lane keeping assist, forward collision warning, brake control, dynamic traction support, tyre pressure monitoring, driver tiredness monitor, a seatbelt reminder and lots more besides.
There is also an emergency e-Call system that works via a built-in eSIM. This will contact the emergency services in the event of an accident, delivering vital information such as the car’s GPS position, the engine type and the number of occupants.
An anti-theft alarm system will help keep the SEAT Leon protected from intruders.
With a string of financial savings and tax advantages, adding plug-in hybrid technology to the SEAT Leon mix will be a welcome addition especially to business drivers. It drives as dynamically as it looks and is generously kitted out too. Quite the all-round package if you can make the most of the EV driving range.