SEAT Leon hybrid
By Bill McCarthy
Sometimes its the little things the grab your attention when driving a new car. Yes, the Leon is typically SEAT; sleek profile with sharp styling and proud to be known as the sporty arm of the VW group.
But it was the puddle lights in the door mirror that caught my attention, reflecting the Spanish word ‘hola’ onto ground when activated by the key. A clever gimmick, but the new SEAT has so much more to offer.
A plug-in hybrid that offers economy and pace, low Benefit in Kind taxation benefits, starting at just six per cent for the baseline model. It’s also competitively priced, starting at just over £30k, even if this tested range topper will set you back more than £41k.
The power unit is a combination of a turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engine and an 85kW electric motor to offer 204PS of power, mated with 13.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack to deliver a claimed electric range of up to 38 miles and CO2 of 28g/km.
Official economy figures show between 217 and 235mpg, a figure theoretically possible, but real world figures are harder to determine. Keep it fully charged and there will be few trips to the petrol station, but running on petrol alone with the battery discharged, around 40mpg seemed possible.
‘The Leon offers a pleasing mixture of sharp angles and flowing curves’
It also delivers performance well into hot hatch territory, with rapid pace from a standing start and a top speed not nearly double what’s permitted on UK motorways. It races to 60mph in just 7.5 seconds and on to a theoretical top speed of 137mph.
Based on the Group’s MQB architecture it offers a pleasing mixture of sharp angles and flowing curves and low profile. The FR models feature sporty front and rear bumpers, dynamic, dual exhaust pipes and lowered suspension.
The interior is dominated by a 10-inch touchscreen which controls major functions like connectivity, infotainment and navigation and the now familiar customisable digital cockpit, seen on other VW brands.
Fixtures and fittings are high quality and the bland black interior is lifted by red stitching. Seats are comfortable and head and legroom good. Hatchbacks are practical by definition, but space in this hybrid is compromised by the position of the large battery to the rear, this eats up a substantial 100 litres of stowages space over the non-hybrid models, with 270 litres available, rather than 380.
On the road, the car is a fine performer, offering sporty performance, aided by MacPherson suspension at the front and a multilink system at the rear, together with the Dynamic Chassis Control deliver a composed but firm ride.
Even the entry level FR is packed with standard kit, while this range-topping First Edition model adds luxuries like 18-inch alloy wheels, panoramic sunroof, heated front seats and steering wheel, rear view camera and keyless entry.
All have excellent safety features including full complement of airbags. and this model included, Dynamic Chassis Control, Safety and Driving Pack consisting of dynamic road sign display; adaptive cruise control with follow to stop and speed limiter.
The car always starts in all-electric mode (when the battery is sufficiently charged). The drive switches to hybrid mode if the energy capability of the battery drops below a certain level or if the accelerator is pressed to such a point that the engine is required to assist with acceleration.
In Hybrid mode, the driver has the possibility of maintaining the charge status to a defined level. By doing so, the vehicle runs almost entirely on petrol power, using both the engine and regenerative braking to charge the battery. This makes it possible to drive into an urban destination area under electric power and with zero emissions.
Remotely, the SEAT Connect app can manage the charging process via the e-Manager, control the air conditioning – the vehicle can be pre-heated for up to 30 minutes between 15 and 22 degrees celsius – and manage departure times (to ensure vehicle is charged and ready) all from the smartphone app.
SEAT Leon e-HYBRID FR First Edition
Price: £ 41,745
Mechanical: Combined 204PS 1498cc, four-cylinder petrol engine and electric motor driving front wheels via six speed DSG auto gearbox
Maximum speed: 137mph
Acceleration: 0-60mph in 7.5 seconds
Economy: 217-235 mpg (WLTP)
Insurance group: 27E
CO2 emissions: 28g/km
BiK rating: 12 per cent
Warranty: three years, 60,000 miles