Seat Leon plug-in hybrid long-term test: report 5

The Seat Leon, our favourite family hatchback, is now available as a plug-in hybrid. We're living with one to find out if it's the pick of the range...

Seat Leon hybrid long termer

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 2754 List price £32,835 Target price £31,196 Price as tested £31,115 Test economy 86.2mpg Official economy 235.4mpg 

6 May 2021 – Making the most of modes

One clever feature I’ve discovered on my Seat Leon is the battery manager in the fuel economy menu on the infotainment system. At the touch of a couple of buttons, it lets me choose whether to drive in hybrid mode – using the 1.4-litre petrol engine and the electric motor together for the best combination of fuel economy and battery life – or on pure electric power.

The Leon starts up in electric mode and runs that way until the batteries are flat (unless you really floor the accelerator or exceed 87mph), but hybrid mode overrides that. It proved really useful on a recent drive on a motorway then into London because it let me to do the high-speed miles in hybrid mode. That saved the car’s battery range for the last 10-15 miles of my journey in the city, when I wanted to use electric power alone. 

When the Leon is in hybrid mode, the transitions between electric and petrol power are seamless, and in both modes the engine will cut out quietly when you’re braking or coasting to improve fuel economy. 

Seat Leon hybrid long termer

Talking of economy, by using a mixture of hybrid mode and mostly doing shorter journeys where I can run on electric power, I’ve increase the car’s fuel economy by nearly 10mpg in the past month. While it's still way off the official claimed economy figure, it does demonstrate the fuel and money-saving benefits of a plug-in hybrid. 

Another pleasant surprise is that, unlike with a conventional hybrid, the Leon’s engine remains pretty subdued as long as it’s not revved too hard. The only time it sounds raucous is when I ask it to climb a particularly steep, winding local hill road.    

As befits the sporty FR trim, the Leon has gear-change paddles behind the steering wheel. I've tried using them, but found that it doesn’t really suit the gearbox, which responds too slowly to changes up or down. It’s better to leave the six-speed DSG gearbox to change gears itself, which it does almost imperceptibly thanks to the change-by-wire technology.   

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here