First Drive

First Drive: Seat Leon PHEV

The story:
Seat’s first plug-in hybrid is a version of its new Leon, coming in five-door hatch or Estate form, and in lower trim levels capable of 40 miles of EV running, and therefore the 6% BiK Holy Grail for company car drivers not ready to go full electric
Category:Lower medium
Key rival:Hyundai Ioniq PHEV
SEAT LEON E-HYBRID FR FIRST EDITION 204HP
Price:£36,115
MPG:217.3mpg
Emissions:28g/km
On sale:Now

Seat has been quick to enhance its new Leon with not only the usual petrol and diesel engines, but also mild hybrid and now plug-in hybrid powertrains.

And the PHEV contains some good news for company car drivers, because two of the five trim levels – those that don’t get the upgrade to 18-inch wheels – offer a 40-mile official electric range figure that means the car sits in the 6% company car Benefit-in-Kind band, rather than 10%. This makes the monthly tax bill for a 40% taxpayer £62 on an FR, rather than the £108 a month on the FR Sport.

First Drive- January 2021- Seat Leon e-Hybrid- Image 4That’s a lot of money to pay for some nicer alloys, heated seats and a couple of interior style upgrades. The same is true with the step from Xcellence to Xcellence Lux, just the one additional g/km, but the range drops to just below 40 miles so the BiK shoots up.

The PHEV system mates a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with 85kW electrical motor and 13.1kWh battery to produce an overall 204hp, with the drive mode engaged using the stubby gear lever in the centre console. It pulls well on battery power alone, and adding the engine makes it a genuinely a quick car in a straight line. It isn’t a complete hot hatch, because the comfortable ride and handling set-up are more mainstream-mile-muncher than performance-hatchback.

It’s a shame there is no adjustment to the regeneration levels, which are very mild by the standards of a car with electrification. Still, the shift between powertrains is seamless when in hybrid mode, which is the best setting unless drivers want to save energy for urban driving later in a journey; this can be set in 10% increments.

The new Leon’s 10-inch touchscreen system isn’t the most approachable, and isn’t quite intuitive enough to easily flick between screens until you’re used to the workings. The 10.25-inch driver dash information layout is neater, with an attractive graphic design and plenty of information available.

The boot is notably smaller thanks to battery packaging, although the hatchback doesn’t feel quite as tight as the 270-litre official figure states – down from the regular hatch’s 380 litres. The Estate drops by 107 litres to 470.

paul barker

The verdict

The lower trim levels make the most sense for corporate drivers, thanks to the big BiK advantage of the extra mile or two of range as well as the lower price tag for a decent level of equipment. It’s also an attractive car, to look at and from behind the wheel.