This Leon doesn’t quite feel like the zesty, slightly more fun-friendly member of the VW Group family hatch line-up that we’ve encountered in previous generations. It’s neat and tidy enough in its responses, with good front-end grip and intuitively paced and weighted steering that lets you guide its nose through bends with precision.

You get a pretty clear sense through the thin, firm steering wheel of how the car’s outside tyres are loading up beneath you and there’s even some scope for throttle-induced mid-corner line trimming if such things take your fancy.

FR-spec Leon eHybrid wears 17in two-spoke wheels and tyres with generous 45-section sidewalls. FR Sport ups to ante with 19in Performance alloys, although we’d be wary of the implications for the ride quality

But the experience is all only averagely dynamically flavoursome for the hatchback market, and past its undoubtedly well-rounded handling manners the Leon doesn’t offer much additional flare or panache to really distinguish it from its platform-mates. The eHybrid’s shunning of Seat’s lowered and stiffened spring rates is no doubt a factor here; likewise Volkswagen’s decision to sharpen up the latest Volkswagen Golf for handling appeal, and thereby arguably inject a degree more homogeneity into the group’s hatchback portfolio. So, too, frankly, is the added weight that this car carries, as a result of its electrified powertrain, of which you remain conscious through particularly quick directional changes and over larger vertical inputs.

For all the Leon’s competency and worthiness, in plug-in eHybrid guise it doesn’t feel quite as able to trade on a heightened sense of vim and vigour as its predecessors have. The current Ford Focus may not yet be offered with a plug socket, but on this evidence its claim to the title of being the driver’s choice in the mainstream hatchback market isn’t under any threat from the Spaniard.

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The Leon dealt with Millbrook’s Hill Route pretty matter-of-factly. Grip levels are by no means unlimited, but once reached and then exceeded, the car can be brought back under control without much need for dramatic inputs. A slight lift of the throttle will tuck its nose back in after understeer sets in, while a larger lift can bring its rear axle into play for a short-lived and easily controlled slither of cornering attitude.

During particularly quick directional changes, the chassis is guilty of some momentary hesitation, but for the most part it follows your inputs without any pause. The car’s weight is at its most noticeable here. Sharper bends unearth a fair amount of body roll and dips make the car compress on its springs quite markedly.

The transmission can be frustrating during hard driving, with early upshifts leaving you in a higher gear than you’d ideally like on corner exit and slow manually selected downshifts annoying a little.

Comfort and isolation

For the most part, the Leon eHybrid conducts itself with reasonable civility on the road. Run it over a drain cover or expansion joint and the resulting impact is soaked up effectively, if not quite with the same rubber-footed pliancy of its Golf stablemate. Suspension noise remains pretty well muffled, however, and the car keeps enough wheel travel in reserve to ensure it can resist being bucked off course by mid-corner bumps.

That said, the car’s ride can succumb to a certain level of fussiness on particularly rough surfaces. At lower speeds, this mild pitter-patter seems to concentrate around the rear axle, while greater pace will unearth a head-toss-inducing lateral stiffness likely caused by the car’s sheer mass once it’s disturbed. And although it’s far less conspicuous, this subtle fidgeting is nonetheless detectable out on the motorway, too.

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Meanwhile, faster, more undulating sections of road can uncover a notable degree of float, but it’s a credit to the Leon that it never seems to struggle to rein in these vertical movements. In fact, this willingness to let its body rise and fall in step with the road under wheel only adds to its comfort levels at everyday cross-country speeds.

Unfortunately, we were unable to measure with our sound meter how loud the cabin was at speed. While the level of road roar generated by the car’s Goodyear tyres was certainly noticeable, it wasn’t so vocal as to seem worse than the class average.