What’s it like?
Press the start button and the Leon defaults to the motor, with the engine not kicking in until the battery is sufficiently depleted or when you floor the accelerator.
Power arrives gradually and remaining in EV mode is easy enough with a light right foot. That’s handy, seeing as the battery modes are buried three menus down in the infotainment system. The regenerative braking is also fairly subtle, encouraging coasting rather than single-pedal driving.
The engine restarts smoothly enough when called upon and is reasonably well isolated at moderate speeds, plus the handover between the two power sources is handled fluidly. When they combine, though, things rarely feel as rapid as the numbers (0-62mph in 7.5sec) suggest, and the engine sounds particularly harsh at higher revs. The six-speed automatic gearbox is a little too keen to hold onto gears under heavy acceleration, especially in Sport mode, to the point that peak torque has long since passed.
Despite its associated weight penalty, which is most noticeable through tighter corners, the plug-in hybrid powertrain doesn’t appear to have significantly diluted the Leon’s dynamism. The car still turns in with precision, largely resists understeer and steers keenly in a way that gives it an edge over its Volkswagen Golf relation, although not the Ford Focus.
The addition of multi-link rear suspension, present here but absent from the 1.5-litre turbo petrol we drove back in June, only improves the Leon’s ride. Even with FR trim’s sports suspension, it copes well over most surfaces and deals with even badly rutted roads with little drama.
Inside, the biggest change is to the boot capacity, which is knocked by 100 litres down to 270 litres to accommodate the drive battery.
The Leon’s interior is just as tech-focused as its Volkswagen Group siblings’, with five display modes for the digital instruments and touch-sensitive panels having replaced the majority of buttons. Each one chimes loudly whenever you press it, which quickly gets annoying. The volume and temperature sliders below the touchscreen are a devil to see at night, too. You will find only USB-C ports in the centre console, but wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto mean you won’t need a dongle to get connected.