Seat Leon plug-in hybrid long-term test review: report 1
The Seat Leon is our favourite family hatchback and it's now available as a plug-in hybrid. We're living with one to find out if it's the pick of the range...
The car Seat Leon e-Hybrid FR Run by Claire Evans, consumer editor
Why it’s here The petrol-engined Seat Leon fended off some serious rivals to become our Family Car of the Year 2021, but how good is the plug-in hybrid version? We’re living with one to find out
Needs to Prove itself comfortable and well appointed, but more importantly put up a convincing argument for plug-in hybrid technology
Mileage 2023 List price £30,970 Target price £30,942 Price as tested £31,115 Test economy 102.4mpg Official economy 235.4mpg Options fitted Mode 3 16 amp charging cable (Type 2) (£145)
11 February 2021 – Making the change
Like thousands of other UK motorists I’ve switched from a car powered solely by an internal combustion engine to one with added battery power. I’ve not gone the whole hog and got a pure electric car, instead I’ve opted for a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) version of the Seat Leon that can apparently do up to 40 miles before its battery runs out of puff and the 1.4-litre petrol engine kicks in.
It’s fitting that I’ve moved from an Audi A3 Sportback to a plug-in hybrid Seat Leon because the two cars share the same underpinnings, so they could be similar in many ways.
The Seat’s list price is nearly £3000 more than my A3, but that can be accounted for by the Leon’s more sophisticated technology. Thankfully, my chosen FR trim level is well equipped, providing rain sensing windscreen wipers, automatic headlights, wireless phone charging and three-zone climate control as standard. The only thing I had to pay extra for was the Type 2 charging lead, which is free on First Edition models, but costs £145 on other Leons; a shame because it’s a necessity for using public chargers.
Dubbed ‘the stylish one’ in Seat’s brochure, FR trim is, in my opinion, more attractive than lower spec Leons, with sportier exterior styling and full LED headlights with dynamic turn signals. On the inside, there’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel, diamond stitched seats and a spattering of FR logos. And just because I’ve gone hybrid, doesn’t mean I have to stop enjoying driving; I’m pleased to say my Leon has sports suspension and four driving modes, eco, normal, sport and individual, which alter the accelerator response and gear changes depending on the type of driving.
On the few longer journeys I've managed so far, the Leon has proven to be comfortable, but I didn't get the chance to appreciate its plug-in hybrid technology fully until I went back to my usual routine of mostly making short, local journeys. And that’s when the Leon came into its own, enabling me to do virtually every trip without needing to sip a splash of petrol.
I could make it to the nearest town and back for a supermarket run; I could collect hot meals prepared by a charity and distribute them to vulnerable people who were shielding, and I even made it just over 22 miles around the motorway to Bluewater shopping centre, and charged up there for free so I could get home again without using any petrol. I’m proud to say that I’ve not visited a fuel station with it for more than a month. With electricity costing me 14p per kWh, I reckon each charge is costing me less than £2, so my local driving is extremely cheap.
The transition to a PHEV has taken a bit of adjusting to, though. The Leon slows itself down as it approaches junctions and corners to improve efficiency, and it pops a sign onto the dash telling me to lift my foot off the accelerator. I don’t like the car taking control so much, and I definitely don’t appreciate it telling me what to do.
The lane keeping assistance system is also too forceful for my liking, frequently cutting in and guiding the car towards the kerb if I stray too close to the central white line. This is great on a motorway or dual carriageway, but on fast rural A-roads it can be aggravating.
The only other shortcoming is the temperature controls for the climate control. The four slim buttons on the centre console are easy to use in daylight, but they don’t light up so are impossible to see when you’re driving along an unlit country lane.
Aside from these niggles, the Leon’s plug-in technology has really won me over. I’m lucky enough to have off-street parking so it’s really easy to pop it on charge each time I get home, ensuring it’s ready for another fuel-free drive the following day.
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