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Our second encounter with the new Seat Leon is much more positive than our first.
17in alloy wheels, electrically adjustable and heated door mirrors with fold function, LED headlights with dynamic indicator lights and high-beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, automatic headlights, wireless phone charger, leather-covered steering wheel and gear knob, front centre armrest, front seat lumbar support adjustment, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, three-zone climate control, drive profile selection, sports suspension
Petrol electric hybrid:
204hp 1.4 with electric motor
FR, FR Sport, First Edition, Xcellence
Seven-speed DSG auto
The growth of plug-in hybrid models continues with the launch of perhaps the most eagerly anticipated version of the Seat Leon for fleets.
The Leon E-Hybrid is the first of the new generation of Volkswagen Group lower-medium cars to arrive in the UK with plug-in hybrid power. The Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia will soon follow, but the Leon gives us the first insight into what's possible.
There are currently few plug-in hybrids in this sector. In mainstream models there's the Kia Ceed and Renault Megane E-Tech, both of which are only available in estate versions.
The launch of the Audi A3 TFSI e will give the Mercedes-Benz A 250e some competition in the premium car sector, but for a while at least the Leon, Golf and Octavia offer similar products from a technical point of view, although drivers and fleets will choose their preferred interpretation of the theme.
The Leon has much to recommend it, however, and if you choose carefully it's possible to fall into the 6% BIK tax band for the current tax year.
The FR grade, which we spent a week with, offers CO2 emissions of 27g/km and an EV range of 40 miles. This is what enables it to fall into the 6% bracket for BIK tax, as larger-wheeled examples have a slightly shorter EV range and take them into the 10% band.
Look at the data in the fact file to the right, and the monthly BIK tax of £31 for a standard-rate taxpayer would surely have anyone who opted out of a company car scheme to take a cash alternative questioning their sanity.
The Leon is an attractive car, with its long, low bonnet - as well as its wide, slim headlights and broad radiator grille - emphasising its sporty appeal.
The dashboard design is clean and uncluttered, while the instrument panel has the Virtual Cockpit configurable digital display as standard on E-Hybrid variants.
The dashboard touchscreen has a lot going on, which is unsurprising given the number of functions it contains, and the default display offers a trio of segments giving information. Many people will prefer to have one of these hosted in the display, and this is possible by touching your preferred information set, whether it's data about the car, the navigation screen or audio source.
The main ventilation controls are also in there, although at the base of the screen there are physical buttons for adjusting temperature on either side, as well as a volume control.
Having spent several hundred miles in VW Group cars with various iterations of this multimedia system in recent months, I can say I'm still learning a great deal about how to use it, and anyone choosing one as a company car would most likely spend weeks getting to grips with all the functions. This is fine when the car's parked, but in the early days it will be a distraction when on the move.
The other drawback, this time relating to the hybrid system, is the sacrificing of quite a bit of boot space. It's much shallower than on the standard petrol and diesel versions of the Leon, but there is the option of folding the seats forward, or choosing the estate version, which has an extra 300 litres available with the rear seats in place.
The combination of the electric motor and petrol engine delivers a maximum of 204hp, which is more than adequate for the Leon and most of its drivers. It makes for safer overtaking of slow traffic than with a petrol or diesel version with less power, thanks to the instantaneous torque of the electric motor.
Sports suspension is standard on the FR too, which makes the vehicle feel sure-footed, but perhaps with the extra weight of the hybrid system not as engaging for the driver as a standard petrol or diesel version.
Overall, the Leon E-Hybrid has much to recommend it, particularly for those seeking to minimise their tax liability while having a great-looking hatch on their driveway.