Caught on camera in development mule form and due for launch in 2019, the C-segment car will get a more advanced infotainment system — which can update maps, apps and functionality over the air — before any of its Volkswagen Group stablemates. Seat gets the tech first to appeal to its younger customer base.
Seat research and development boss Matthias Rabe told Autocar at the Mobile World Congress tech show in Barcelona earlier this year that the system is "fantastic technology" with a "fantastic user interface".
“For two years, we have been working on what will be the best infotainment system coming to market next year, starting with the Leon,” Seat CEO Luca de Meo said.
The user interface was highly praised in customer clinics, even above that of the Tesla Model X, Rabe said.
Seat is so confident about the usability of the tech that it will migrate much of the existing dash buttons over to the screen, including the heating controls. “It will have fewer buttons, more voice control and be much more coherent than today,” Rabe said. The Leon will also be available with the option of a second screen in place of the dials.
Along with the new cabin tech, the fourth-generation Leon will also be available with Seat's first plug-in hybrid powertrain to offer improved fuel economy as well as limited zero-emissions running. The plug-in Leon is billed as the model to kick-start Seat’s electrification ambitions, which will gain pace when a stand-alone EV is launched in 2020.
To signify its big stride forward, the upcoming Leon’s look has been described by brand design boss Alejandro Mesonero as taking “a bigger step” than the company has taken since the relaunch of the brand with the current Leon in 2012. “Sometimes you need to take a bigger step so as not to be obsolete. We’re ready very soon for the next, bolder step in design,” he said.
The latest spy pictures of a mule show a much sharper front end, although the rear of the car looks like it's taken from the current estate model.
Rabe has previously told Autocar that the design and packaging of the five-door car will “not be a typical hatch" and that “it will create some desire”.
The next Leon will use the VW Group’s MQB platform, shared with the Mk8 Golf, which is also due out in 2019.
The Leon will come in five-door hatch, estate and crossover forms. The latter, jacked-up version will sit below the Ateca SUV in the brand's range and be "more extreme" than the Allroad version of the Leon estate, according to Rabe. He added: “We talk about hatch and we talk about SUV. Why not make something in-between?”
Seat won’t drop diesels from the line-up, Rabe said, but the range will include one of the first mild-hybrid petrol options within the VW Group for those wanting near-diesel levels of economy. This is likely to use the 48V system mated to a 1.5-litre TSI engine, as used for this Golf prototype.
Sam Sheehan and Nick Gibbs