The SEAT Leon 1.4 e-HYBRID FR is a family hatchback that offers plug-in hybrid electric driving capability and a sporty driving experience.
SEAT is part of the Volkswagen Group and therefore can utilise its plug-in hybrid technology. The Leon FR hatchback does this, so combining an electric driving capability with a sporty driving experience. So if you want a sporty plug-in hybrid family hatchback should the Leon be on your shortlist?
The SEAT Leon 1.4 e-HYBRID FR has a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine and a 116 PS electric motor powered by a 12.8 kWh lithium-ion battery, with the system producing 204PS in total. There’s a 6-speed DSG automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.
The latest styling is predictably an evolution of the previous Leon design rather than a revolution, with a fairly standard hatchback body style and a 270-litre boot. The interior is also a normal SEAT approach, although there’s slightly more visual appeal than was the case with some previous Leon models.
The SEAT Leon 1.4 e-HYBRID FR is a hatchback rather than an SUV so it has a decent driving position and a lower centre of gravity, resulting in it going round corners very nicely – and this is helped by the steering which has a responsive feel. If the road is smooth then the ride quality is also good. However if you hit a pothole you’ll certainly feel it through the suspension. And because the Leon is front-wheel drive, with lots of torque from the electric motor, there’s not much grip when accelerating quickly out of wet junctions. After the wheelspin, the power can get cut as the traction control system tries to regain control – not a good feeling.
There’s a small, stubby gear selector for the 6-speed DSG automatic transmission, with D or S modes, and steering wheel-mounted paddles to change gear manually.
Plug-in hybrids can be a useful stepping-stone between petrol cars and all-electric cars, and they can be efficient if it’s easy for drivers to control the hybrid system. Unfortunately this is very hard to do in the Leon. The controls for the hybrid system are hidden away in the touchscreen, with e-mode or hybrid having to be selected via the battery management setting, via the vehicle symbol. And when you’re driving, there’s only a very small ‘e’ in the instrument display to tell you that you’re driving on electric power – this needs to be more prominent. The result of all this is that the car is likely to spend too much time on petrol power and not enough time on electric power.
It’s a similar story for the heating and ventilation controls, which are also hidden away in the touchscreen (you have to press the fan symbol to change where the ventilation is coming from). All of the time spent looking at sub-menus in the touchscreen means a driver’s eyes are taken off the road, which isn’t a particularly safe idea. It’s much easier for the driver having separate heating and ventilation controls that aren’t hidden in the touchscreen. And yes, predictably, the lane departure warning system has to be switched off via the touchscreen. There’s no reversing camera, just a diagram.
One new feature is a blind sport indicator light on the interior trim rather than on the mirror.
The SEAT Leon 1.4 e-HYBRID FR has an official combined electric range of 36-40 miles, official combined fuel economy of 217.3-235.4mpg, and 27 g/km CO2 emissions. In the real-world the average range was 25 miles on a full charge (with a petrol range of 370 miles). After a week of mixed driving we averaged 61.8mpg.
Charging time using a 3.6kW home wall box is 3 hours 33 minutes, or 5 hours if using a 3-pin plug.
The SEAT Leon 1.4 e-HYBRID FR costs £32,835. Our test car had the options of a mode 2 charging cable (£160), Safety & Driving Pack (£790), and interior wrap-around lighting (£265), totalling £1,215, and taking the price as tested to £34,050.
Trim levels for the Leon range are SE, SE Dynamic, FR, FR Sport, Xcellence, Xcellence Lux and FR First Edition.
The SEAT Leon 1.4 e-HYBRID FR is basically good to drive, with the potential for some fun as well as all-electric driving capability, and our real-world economy figure of 61.8mpg is better than you’d get with a petrol engine. However the car is spoilt by having the controls for the hybrid system hidden away in the touchscreen, which will result in many owners not getting the best economy and emissions from the car. The heating and ventilation controls are also hidden away in the touchscreen. Trying to poke around at sub-menus in a touchscreen when driving isn’t a goof user experience, and is dangerous. Hopefully the trend for burying all controls in a touchscreen will end soon. The SEAT Leon 1.4 e-HYBRID FR ends up with a Green Car Guide rating of 7 out of 10.