4.4.2021Seat Leon e-Hybrid FR review
The first plug-in hybrid from Seat comes in the shape of its latest Leon hatchback. The model shares much of its underpinnings and powertrain with the VW Golf GTE, but with Seat’s stamp on things. The Leon has proven a popular and characterful family car in the past, so just how does the plug-in set-up perform? We test the Seat Leon e-Hybrid to find out.
Review by Chris Lilly
SEAT LEON E-HYBRID: PERFORMANCE
Power comes from a 1.4 litre TSI petrol engine and 85 kW electric motor, producing a maximum combined 204 hp and 350 Nm of torque. This means the Leon e-Hybrid is capable of completing the standard 0-62mph sprint in 7.5 seconds, which is on the quick side of respectable. In fact, the Leon e-Hybrid will match just about all the performance needs you require in day-to-day driving, and some.
It’s a pacy thing, with oomph aided by the instant response from the electric motor, which fills in any gaps from the petrol engine’s power delivery. In electric-only mode, there are no issues with get-up-and-go, and the Seat will stay in electric mode for quite some time (as long as there’s charge), requiring a hefty shove of the right-hand pedal for the engine to kick in. Switching between petrol and electric systems, or blending the two, is smooth, and the six-speed DSG automatic gearbox helps matters here.
The Leon e-Hybrid’s handling was a bit of a let down for me, which is a result of Seat’s own high standards, I suspect, creating lofty expectations. In the past, I have found the Leon range to offer most of the benefits of the dependable VW Golf, but with added fun - something Seat is keen to emphasise with its marketing styles. Instead, I found the Leon a little Golf-like.
Now I realise that’s comparing it to a market leading car, but I would have hoped for some sparkle to the handling; perhaps the Cupra version will provide this. Instead, the Leon e-Hybrid handles very nicely, with a solid set-up that covers most bases. It’s comfortable, agile, offers plenty of grip, and refined - just not particularly exciting. Still excellent though.
This latest generation Leon is a stylish thing isn’t it? Again, comparing it to the Golf, the Leon certainly outshines VW’s hatch in the styling stakes. It’s clean but with enough detail to keep things interesting, eye-catching but not too much so. A well pitched and delivered design that demonstrates the Leon’s latin ‘soul’ but without becoming a niche model.
Most of the interior is the same as the rest of the Leon ranges, which is good news because the Seat hatchback’s cabin is a very good one. It’s stylish like the exterior, and can seat four adults in comfort. The boot space is a little smaller than ‘normal’ Leon models, losing 110 litres in seat-up capacity because of the electrical components. It remains practical however, and there is also an estate version should boot space be a priority.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
As mentioned, the interior looks good, and it works well too. It’s a tidy console and dashboard, and I really like the stubby gear selector. The large touchscreen system has a few shortcut settings, and has a lot of different options available to the driver. A digital instrument panel is available for the driver, which offers a good range of displays, and the general controls feel great to use. Materials are up to expectations for a Seat - very good - but the controls can be over complicated by the dependency on the Leon’s touchscreen system.
The driver needs to dive into the menus to switch between electric, hybrid, and battery-save modes, which have a good range of settings, but it’s too complicated to find them regularly. You can quickly get into the habit of finding the right pages, but there are a few button presses to find the each time, when a dedicated switch or ‘e-Hybrid’ button would be useful.
SEAT LEON E-HYBRID: RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
Seat’s official efficiency scores for the Leon e-Hybrid are strong within the PHEV class. Fuel economy is as good as 235.4 MPG if specified correctly, and even the least efficient versions still return 217.3 MPG. CO2 figures are recorded as 27 g/km, and the electric-only range is 40 miles. In real-world driving, I found that 32 miles on a charge is more likely, and that was in chilly weather without much focus on urban driving. Sticking to town work should see that up to around 35 miles by my calculations, but drop to around 25 miles on a charge if faster roads are covered.
The trip computer calculated an average fuel economy of 47.5 MPG after 376 miles, but 250 miles were covered on a single charge. It’s a good long-distance score, but the 59.2 MPG from a singe charge over almost 100 miles is a closer figure to what most will find. Even that is a long trip for most, and the Leon e-Hybrid’s electric range helps make excellent real-world efficiency easy.
The Leon e-Hybrid has a 12.8 kWh (net) battery for that long-for-a-PHEV electric driving range, and it’s a big bonus in this class. Seat also has a variable brake energy recuperation setting - though again, it’s deep in the menus - which allows the driver to pick between High, Low, or Automatic; the latter sees the Seat vary the region strength as it sees fit.
E-Mode will keep the car in electric mode as long as there’s charge, but there’s also the ability to put it into Hybrid mode, and also set the battery charge level for the engine or regeneration to top-up/hold.
There are six trim levels for the Leon E-Hybrid range, but all come well equipped. Entry-level SE trim includes the likes of 16-inch alloys, air conditioning, 8.25-inch touchscreen system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity, cruise control, keyless start, and rear parking brake.
FR trim tested adds 17-inch alloys, LED headlights, automatic wipers and lights, wireless phone charging, leather steering wheel, climate control, drive mode select, sports suspension, park assist with front and rear sensors, and 10-inch media system with navigation.
SEAT LEON E-HYBRID: MODEL SUMMARY
Seat’s Leon e-Hybrid is an excellent car, though it's not as engaging as I would have hoped. However, that’s off-set by the fact that the e-Hybrid is refined, stylish, nimble, and a great motorway cruiser despite long high-speed stints not playing to a PHEV’s strengths. The Leon e-Hybrid is a high-quality machine, and an efficient one too.
Model tested: Seat Leon e-Hybrid FR
Body-style: Family hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.4-litre petrol engine and 85 kW electric motor / 27 g/km
Trim grades: SE, SE Dynamic, FR, FR Sport, Xcellence, Xcellence Lux
On-road price: From £30,970
Warranty: Three Years / 60,000 Miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 3.5 Stars