Engine options, speed, acceleration and refinement

The Volkswagen Group’s 1.4-litre plug-in powertrain is by now fairly well known to us and its latest application in Seat’s mainstay hatch is, for the most part, successful.

Provided its 12.8kWh battery is sufficiently charged, the car will default to electric mode on startup. Throttle response in such use is precise and the electric motor is punchy enough to bring the Leon up to urban speeds swiftly, but not quite with the same sense of urgency as you’d find in a bona fide EV. Still, it feels markedly brawnier than the likes of the Kia Ceed PHEV does during zero-emissions running.

There isn’t the dynamic verve displayed by past Leons and the PHEV’s extra weight is noticeable, but it’s still a tidy, competent car in corners and rides decently enough.

Meanwhile, the regenerative braking system isn’t particularly intrusive, so while there isn’t much scope for one-pedal driving, you can at least come off the throttle to coast in a bid to further improve efficiency.

That said, the Leon will begin to ramp up its stopping power if it detects a slowing car in front of you, or if you’re approaching a junction. This feels a bit strange at first, but it’s easier to get used to than we found in the A250e. The brake pedal itself is nicely calibrated in its responses, too.

Seat claims a WLTP electric range of 36-40 miles, but it’s more likely to be closer to the high 20s or low 30s in real-world use. However, in early-morning rush hour, in a 12deg C chill and on London roads where speed limits vary from 20mph to 40mph (challenging conditions, for sure, but conditions where a PHEV really needs to show its mettle), our testers were able to extract just 26 miles from the Leon’s battery.

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That range is likely to be fine for a great many people, but it’s still a bit underwhelming given Seat’s claim. Nevertheless, the manner in which the car juggles its electric and petrol power sources when running in hybrid mode is impressively slick.

The combined performance that the power sources give the Seat is commendable, too. It hit 60mph from a standstill in 7.2sec, while the run from 30mph to 70mph was dispatched in 6.2sec. However, as effective as the 1.4-litre petrol engine might be in getting the Leon up to speed, it doesn’t seem quite as refined here as it does in some of the larger plug-in models in the VW Group portfolio. It’s fairly noisy even at lower revs, and if you really feel inclined to wring it out, its noise and vibration can become quite uncouth.