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The first SEAT to come with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, the Leon PHEV makes 201bhp with a claimed 38-mile electric-only range

Arguably the SEAT Leon is the car that 'made' the brand on these shores. Since joining the range in 1999 the C-segment hatch has been a cornerstone of SEAT's success, but now the all-new, fourth generation Leon is entering the electrified market with a PHEV powertrain option.

Such has been the Leon's success in the UK that more than 10 per cent of its total sales since launch have been here. Throughout its three previous iterations, SEAT has always played on its Spanishness – more emotion, added flair and dynamism compared to the Teutonic Volkswagens upon which its range is based.

Bringing brand slogan, 'auto emoción', bang up to date, the Mk4 Leon hatch and estate are based on a new platform, have an entirely reworked design language and – as the most connected car in Seat's history – have been future-proofed. The all-new Leon actually shares an awful lot with the Mk8 Golf, which, let's be honest, isn't a bad thing. So let's take a look at the details, beginning with that all-important PHEV powerplant.

Powertrain and performance

If you want a car that's ever-so-slightly more efficient in certain circumstances than a standard Leon, and comes with a 'hybrid' badge, a mild hybrid is available. Under the eTSI badge, it's available on the 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre petrol units and uses the 48-volt starter-generator tech that we're used to in other VW cars alongside a seven-speed DSG gearbox. But let's cut to the chase; it's the PHEV you – and we – are really interested in.

Available only with the six-speed DSG auto ’box, the all-new Leon and Leon estate PHEV pairs a 1.4-litre TSI petrol lump with an electric motor for electric-only duties as well as additional shove (and efficiency) in combo with the ICE unit. Total system output is 201bhp which should make the Leon brisk enough.

Electricity is stored by a 13kWh lithium-ion battery pack which can be charged from the wall at 3.6kW AC. Unfortunately there isn't a faster charging speed option, but with zero to full taking 3.5 hours, if you plug in at work in the morning, it'll be ready to roll by lunch. Speaking of rolling, under electric-only power the all-new SEAT Leon is rated for 38 miles in official tests, which even with 10 per cent knocked off for the rigours of real-world use, is perfectly usable for most people's commutes.

The Mk8 VW Golf is getting a 241bhp GTE version of its PHEV powertrain, so it'd be nice to think that at some point down the line, SEAT will introduce this option with the Leon; fast Leons of old have always had strong fan-bases, after all. And more to the point, speaking to Autocar, SEAT Head of Development and Chassis, Marcus Keith, said that “compared to the GTE the Leon's setup is slightly stiffer, with a recalibrated Dynamic Chassis Control and powertrain developed at where else, but the Nürburgring”.

Exterior styling

Confidence, elegance and sportiness are three of the buzzwords that SEAT is throwing around for the all-new Leon. More road presence, but with obvious evolution from its predecessor is how we'd put it. In fact, in profile, we reckon the car has more than a hint of Mazda 3 about it, and from the back just a touch of Alfa Guilietta – which are most definitely not criticisms by any stretch.

Under the skin the car is based on the VW Group's MBQ Evo platform. Compared to the previous-gen Leon hatch, it is 86mm longer (93mm estate) with a 50mm increase in wheelbase, the chief reason for which is to increase occupant legroom. Both the hatch and estate are actually 16mm narrower than the old car.

To look at, the all-new Leon retains some of the angularity that defined the last-gen car, but is slightly more curvaceous. Up front the car's face is very much new-gen SEAT, with LED headlights at the prow of an elongated bonnet. Adding to the raked-back look are A-pillars mounted further back and the lower (by 3mm) height of the car. At the back, a 'coast-to-coast' LED strip joins the lights and helps emphasise the sporty effect.

Interior and technology

Inside is an evolution rather than a revolution in design and functionality, with a de-clutter and reduction in the number of physical buttons helping to emphasise the minimalist, sleek effect. A digital cockpit takes over from the old dials, with a hi-res, fully configurable 10.25 inch digital dashboard taking over duties. This is supplemented by a 10 inch infotainment screen located centrally in the SE Dynamic, FR Sport, Xcellence and Xcellence Lux trim levels. The base-spec SE model makes do with an 8.25 inch touchscreen.

Attention has been paid to raising the quality of the interior materials, with soft-touch plastics combining with textiles and leathers to cover the seats, door panels and dash. Boot space is the same 380 litres for the hatch and 30 litres bigger than the Mk3 at 617 litres.

But let's park the seating situation to one side; connectivity is where the all-new Leon shines. From SE Dynamic level up, there is 3D connected nav, retina display and voice control, as well as gesture recognition. SEAT's Full Link system is the key to connectivity, offering seamless connection with a driver's smartphone – whether Apple (via CarPlay) or Android (via Android Auto).

Once hooked up, functions like contact lists, messaging, playlists and maps can be accessed and controlled via the central infotainment system or multifunction steering wheel. Wireless phone charging is available to juice compatible smartphones on the move. Another layer of connectivity comes in the form of an embedded SIM (eSIM) which means the car's constantly connected over the air – enabling it to be updated whenever new apps, products and services become available. The eSIM also works as a beacon in the event of an emergency.

A relatively new development in the connected car sphere, Car2X is built into the all-new Leon. Car2X effectively crowd-sources data from other connected cars to gain real-time information on traffic, accidents and incidents, and other hazards. This data is shared meaning navigation and driver information can be updated in real-time to avoid traffic.

In Plug-in Hybrid variants, the driver can review and manage the charging process via the e-Manager, prepare the cabin for a journey by controlling the electronic air conditioning, as well as manage departure times all from the smartphone app.

The number of in-car and online services will grow through the life of the vehicle as the digital eco-system expands, enhancing user experience.

On top of the connectivity tech, SEAT has updated the car's safety and collision avoidance. Including the latest version of its advanced driver assistance system (ADAS). This is supplemented by Emergency Assist 3.0 and predictive adaptive cruise control, which monitors all manner of aspects of driving, navigation and the road ahead to help mitigate risks. This is a hands-on, semi-autonomous system which, if used incorrectly, will bring the car to a safe halt.

Price and availability

We don't know what the UK-spec, all-new SEAT Leon PHEV and wider model range will be priced at just yet but we can speculate that the PHEV will be somewhere in the region of £30,000. You can already take a look at the Leon over on SEAT's website with pre-order already open. Given that the car will be making its motor show debut at Geneva, Q2 this year for the new registration plate would seem a likely time for deliveries to begin.

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