The fourth and latest generation SEAT Leon is the first for the brand that integrates a plug-in hybrid system as well as mild hybrid technology. Continuing just-auto/AIC's review of interior design and technology trends, we take a closer look at this Spanish family hatchback.

Keeping trim

Five trim levels are offered in the Leon PHEV, starting with the FR, FR Sport, FR First Edition, Xcellence and top-drawer Xcellence Lux. FR models feature upholstered stitching that matches the exterior colour, a leather multifunction steering wheel, three-zone air con, wireless charging tray in the front, two additional USB points in the rear and illuminated front aluminium door plates with 'Hola' puddle lights.

The notable interior design and technology features of our FR First Edition press review car include sunroof, wraparound ambient lighting, heated front upholstered seats and a rearview camera.

Xcellence trim level brings a different aesthetic, with the key surfaces finished in microsuede cloth while the driver benefits from Predictive Adaptive Cruise Control technology as well as a Winter Pack.

The top-drawer Xcellence Lux adds front parking sensors, rearview camera, park assist, microsuede upholstery and SEAT Drive Profile with four driving modes.

Measuring 4.36 metres in length, Leon's deep, square-shaped boot holds 270 litres with the rear 60/40 split seats upright (that's 110 litres less than the non-plug-in version) and 1,191 with them folded flat.

Infotainment and connectivity

Once seated, the eye is drawn to the flashing engine start-stop button, partly because there are very few other buttons on the central console. The infotainment system, aka SEAT's Digital Cockpit, incorporates a 10.25 inch driver screen and a central display that stands proud of the dash, resembling a free-standing tablet. This arrangement allows for a slimmer fascia, incorporating a set of air vents and lighting controls. The automaker points out that its ergonomic and prominent position helps minimise intrusion into the cabin and is closer to the driver's eye-line, thereby making it easier to read.

Leon drivers and passengers can get Apple /Android connectivity through the car's infotainment system. As with most centre mount touchscreens, it is a little fiddly at first to work your way around, but you soon get used to it. There are, however, no chunky, intuitive dials on the centre stack beneath the touchscreen to operate the HVAC. Everything is controlled via the touchscreen (although recognition is available for certain functions), including touch-sensitive 'sliders' to adjust the climate function.

The driver's instrumentation displays seemingly endless amounts of information, all reconfigurable from classic information found on analogue dials, such as speedometer and tachometer, to full colour maps and navigation.

Drivers can also manage the charging process remotely via the e-Manager, control the air con – the vehicle can be pre-heated for up to 30 minutes between 15 and 22 degrees C – and manage departure times (to ensure vehicle is charged and ready) all from the smartphone app.

This is in addition to the standard remote access Connect app that grants users, including visibility of the vehicle's data such as parking position, vehicle's status including locking and unlocking the doors, set up speed alerts to be warned if someone using the vehicle is driving too quickly, area and anti-theft alerts, or remotely activate the horn and turn signals to find the car more easily.

Additional cabin features, depending on the trim, include a deep wireless charger for smartphones, GSM antenna, two USB ports, a pair of SD card slots and, for good measure, an Aux-in socket.

Advanced driver assistance system

The Leon PHEV bristles with ADAS technologies, including parking assistance, tiredness recognition system and front assist. The latter uses a radar sensor mounted on the front of the car to constantly monitor the distance between it and the vehicle ahead. If it calculates that there is risk of a collision, a warning light and sound will be triggered to alert the driver. If the driver then fails to apply the brakes firmly enough to avoid an impact, the system will generate the necessary extra braking force. In the event of the driver failing to take any action in response to the warnings, front assist will automatically apply emergency braking.

Leon is also equipped with autonomous emergency braking, predictive and adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot detection system.

On the road

The plug-in hybrid system mates to a perky 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with an 85kW electric engine, 13.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack to produce an overall output of 204PS (150kW ) of power and 350Nm of torque. It uses a six-speed DSG automatic transmission technology and can travel up to 36 miles on a single charge (that takes just over three hours from an AC charger). Utilising shift-by-wire technology designed so that the gear selector is not connected to the gearbox mechanically, instead using electronic signals to shift, it is useful for the automatic park assistance systems, where the mechanical parking lock was substituted for an electronically controlled parking lock.

Designed, developed and produced in Barcelona, at the brand's Martorell facilities, the C-segment Leon e-Hybrid is based on Volkswagen Group 's MQB Evo architecture. Its rivals include the Mazda 3, Ford Focus and Vauxhall Astra.

On balance, the Leon PHEV comes with a generous list of standard equipment and clever safety technology. Aside from there being few dials or buttons on the centre stack, there is very little else to criticise about the rest of the interior and its layout.