Seat’s first plug-in hybrid is not much of a looker and looks like the regular Leon


THIS is Seat’s first plug-in hybrid. Not very sexy, is it?

The e-Hybrid version looks like the regular Leon, bar the extra charge flap and a badge on the boot.

The e-Hybrid version looks like the regular Leon

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The e-Hybrid version looks like the regular Leon
The model includes an extra charge flap and a badge on the boot

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The model includes an extra charge flap and a badge on the boot

But you can count on one finger the number of eye-catching, non-premium, five-door family hatchbacks these days. So let’s not be too harsh on the Barcelona-based design team.

Its fancy electric-drive gubbins are tucked away somewhere you won’t notice – until you are packing four adults and luggage for a wet weekend in Wales.

Boot capacity, thanks to the plug-in hybrid stuff including the 13kW lithium-ion battery stowed there, is only two-thirds of what it needs to be for a car this size. But it drives better than you might expect.

Capable of nearly 40 miles on electricity alone – and fully charged in just over three and a half hours – most of your daily drives shouldn’t use a drop of petrol.

The Leon e-Hybrid will use its charge as a priority

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The Leon e-Hybrid will use its charge as a priority

You could save a lot if your needs meet the limited electric range.

By default, the Leon e-Hybrid starts up in 100 per cent electric mode and will use its charge as a priority unless told otherwise.

“Otherwise” is to select the hybrid setting via the big dash-mounted touchscreen. Here you can also pre-select the battery reserve.

After a longer drive on the motorway, you can maintain a precise portion of charge to use on request.

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The Leon e-Hybrid starts up in 100 per cent electric mode

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The Leon e-Hybrid starts up in 100 per cent electric mode

Even on longer runs, leaning more on the 1.4-litre petrol engine, this delivers decent fuel economy.

My 160-mile journey from London to Cardiff returned a pleasing 60mpg, with plenty left in the tank to drive through the Brecon Beacons the next day without plugging in overnight.

On shorter trips, the e-Hybrid is more fun. Its 201hp benefits from the instant torque delivery of the electric motor and feels more like 251hp. This is no hot hatch but you could consider it a warm one.

Those aesthetics, though. The cabin is comfy and roomy but fails to stir fiery Latin vibes. Material choices lack inspiration – a sombre essay in dark grey that red stitching and cute “hola!” puddle lights can’t give life to.

Most of your daily drives shouldn’t use a drop of petrol

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Most of your daily drives shouldn’t use a drop of petrol

And while the minimal use of physical buttons, large touchscreen and fully digital driver dials look cool, intuitive they are not.

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Starting from £30,970 for the FR spec – with wireless phone charging, lowered suspension and dual exhaust pipes – and rising to £34,315 for the Xcellence Lux spec featuring leather seats, 18in alloys and adaptive cruise control, this is positioned as a personal purchase.

But the Leon e-Hybrid will appeal in the business world. Its benefit-in-kind rating of six per cent stands out – while looks won’t matter.

Key facts

SEAT LEON E-HYBRID

Price: £30,970

Engine: 1.4-litre petrol with 85kW electric motor

Power: 201hp, 350Nm

0-62mph: 7.5 secs

Official economy: 235mpg

Real world: 60mpg

CO2: 27g/km

Out: Now

Santa Claus gets a tow from the new Seat Leon 4×4

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