The Leon is SEAT’s version of the Golf, a five door family hatchback with both a little of it’s own identity & some familiar VW traits. In reality, it’s a “younger brand,” with sportier ambitions than Volkswagen or Skoda & sits below the Golf in price & in quality.
Standard spec on all Leon’s is very good & includes parking sensors, 16″ alloys, cruise control, Apple CarPlay , Android Auto, DAB, an 8.25″ infotainment system & keyless start. SE Dynamic adds 17″ alloys, tinted rear windows, a Digital cockpit, a larger 10″ Media System “Plus” with Connected Navigation Park assist (including front & rear parking sensors.)
The less well equipped SE and SE Dynamic trim levels aren’t available with the e-Hybrid drivetrain, so we were testing the Leon e-Hybrid FR which costs from £30,970. This comes with 17″ alloys, electrically-adjusted & heated door mirrors with fold function, LED Headlights with dynamic turn signals, high beam assist, rain sensing wipers, daytime running lights with automatic headlight control, including a Coming Home feature & a wireless phone charger.
From the outside, there’s little to differentiate the e-Hybrid from the ICE Leon. The plug-in has a flap on the front wing covering its charging port & there’s a small ‘e-Hybrid’ badge on the boot under the FR logo & that really is it.
The e-Hybrid is powered by the VW Groups splendid 150ps 7-speed auto 1.4 TSI petrol engine, which is coupled to a lithium-ion battery with a maximum power of 85Kw & capacity of 12.8kWh. This gives the e-Hybrid a total of 204ps & a sprightly 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds, with a top speed of 137mph. The claimed WLTP electric range is 40 miles.
The latest Leon, has been updated & improved over the previous version & now features all of the tech & safety you’ll find across the VW Group range. Whilst the inside of a Golf definitely looks & feel more upmarket, the Leon’s cabin is still nice, with some decent quality finishes on the dash & on the doors. The seats are comfortable & the drivers seat multi adjustable.
The interior of the car is dominated by the 10″ central touchscreen, which is easy to reach from the drivers seat. I linked my iPhone to it quickly & also connected via Apple Car Play. The system in the Leon is similar to those found in both the Golf & Octavia, so throws up some challenges, notably that almost all the functions are controlled by the touchscreen. Luckily, there’s a climate control shortcut underneath for adjusting the temperature, although you do have to go into the screen menu to choose which direction you want the air to go.
As with many contemporary cars, the touchscreen menu allows you to adjust all of the cars functions & is fairly straightforward to work. Initially, mine was set up with an annoying loud click every time you choose something so I turned this off. I also turned off the lane departure warning, which frustratingly, you have to do every time you restart the engine. You can tri-split the screen to feature the cars driving data, the SatNav & the entertainment you’ve chosen, which is handy. The wireless phone charger is a bonus on FR models & above, so there’s no need for that pesky phone cable.
It’s important to note, that along with most current PHEV’s, you’ll need to understand the touchscreen & it’s machinations. The trend for ‘clutter free’ dashboards mean that more & more functions need to be accessed this way.
In the Leon e-Hybrid for example, there’s a clever battery save system, so that when you drive in petrol mode, for example, on the motorway, you can recharge the battery as you go & bank the charge for later. However, in order to utilise this, you need first to press the screen 3 times to get to the Battery Manager screen & then select Hybrid Mode, which allows you to do this. It’s certainly clever, but in order to really get the most out of your PHEV, you need to set the Hybrid Mode to 100% all of the time.
The Leon hatch comes with decent head & leg room both front & rear, with large door pockets & a number of handy storage spaces & cup-holders. Rear passenger’s get two C USB inputs & there’s one in the front located above the wireless phone charger.
As far as boot space goes, it’s compromised. With the battery hidden underneath the cars floor plan, the boot space is reduced over the standard Leon, to just 270 litres, or 1191 litres with the three rear seats folded. It’s sytil large enough for day to day user though.
Talking of the battery, whilst the 40 mile range is a bonus, charging your Leon e-Hybrid takes longer than many other plug-ins, because it only offers a maximum charging rate of 3.6kW. It takes 3 hours 42 minutes to get to a full charge using a typical 7kWh home charger, such as the one we have from Rolec. Other plug-ins do this in under 2 hours. You can of course use a domestic socket, but this increases the time to 5 hours 48 minutes.
As far as driving goes, the Leon e-Hybrid, it’s spot-on. The auto gearbox takes the pain out of city driving & on the motorway, cruise control allows for a relaxed longer journey. Like its 1.5-litre petrol-engined sibling, the e-Hybrid is nippy & fun. The extra battery weight means there’s little or no corner roll, handling is sharp & the suspension set up is on the firm side. The truth is, that with 204ps on tap, this engine is just too tempting to enjoy & a heavy right foot in Hybrid mode will increase your fun, but reduce fuel economy
Driving locally we utilised the pure Electric drive option & found that even on a cold January afternoon, could eek out 28 miles from the battery. On the motorway & in Hybrid mode, travelling 200 miles, our average fuel economy was only 38.7 mpg. As Seat claim a combined fuel economy of over 200 mpg, how can it be that we averaged just 38.7 mpg ? You have to factor in the electric range separately. The 200 motorway miles we drove, actually fully re charged the e-Hybrid battery three times from zero, so allowed us to get 75 miles of pure electric range & that really is the key. Of course you can plug-in when needed but by understanding the Battery Manager, you can as we discovered, drive a whole week in this Leon & not plug it in at all. Great news & a sure way tio ger that economy up over 60mpg.
For business users, the Leon e-Hybrid comes with just 27g/km of CO2 emissions, meaning a Year 1 BIK of just 10%, making it an extremely attractive proposition. We believe, that this Leon make’s a good interim choice for those company car drivers who aren’t yet ready to go full-on EV. Just use your noggin & save that charge !