But it’s the Leon eHybrid that’s the biggest story. This mates a 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine with an electric motor, a 13kWh battery pack and a six-speed DSG. Making 201bhp (no torque figures are quoted), it’s claimed to have a 38-mile electric-only range, with a full charge taking just over three hours from an AC charger. This powertrain will be available in both the hatchback and estate.
The Leon will be offered in six trim levels, each with equipment upgrades over its predecessor. Prices are expected to start from around £20,000 – about the same as the equivalent Octavia.
Q&A, Marcus Keith, head of white vehicle development and chassis, Seat
Which cars did you benchmark as the dynamic target for the new Leon?
In regards to the chassis, we were benchmarking a sporty Ford [the Focus ST] and a sporty Hyundai [the i30 N] even for the standard Leon models. We don’t see them as competition, but also the Volkswagen Golf and Golf R and the Audi A3 and S3.
Does this mean the Leon will feel firmer and sportier than the Golf?
Absolutely: a sporty feeling is paramount. The behaviour of a Seat isn’t supposed to be comfortable, but still in among the sportiness we’ve made a very comfortable car. The FR model is 15mm lower and has adaptive dampers; if you want, you can take the needle from Comfort over to Sport.
What challenges were brought by engineering the plug-in hybrid?
Hybrid was a new area for us. We wanted the mild hybrids to offer behaviour you can feel as they regenerate and assist. In the plug-in hybrid, there was a big undertaking on tuning the behaviour of the car. Compared with the Golf GTE, we changed a couple of things in the DCC [Dynamic Chassis Control] to make it stiffer. Then we calibrated the powertrain differently at places like the Nürburgring.
Why no 12V mild hybrid and why does the 48V system come with only a DSG ’box?
The 12V system won’t make it into the Leon. There’s so much current that you need so many cables in the car, and it doesn’t bring enough benefit. To do a manual is more time-consuming, because you need to take into account the gearchanges of the customers. The product team said no, because we’re selling quite a lot of automatics now.
Have you made efficiency improvements elsewhere?
Yes: you feel it in all engine combinations. We’ve improved more than 60% of the variants compared with the old ones. We tried hard to get good CO2 emissions and good aerodynamics. The old car has [a drag coefficient of] 0.32 Cd; this one is 0.29 Cd.