This is purportedly the new Seat Leon – and it's coming sooner than you might think. Although hiding under a very heavy disguise, this is a test hack for the new Leon which we hear is being readied for launch in 2011.
It's hard to see much under the sack cloth rags worn by this prototype, as it boards a lorry after a hard day's testing.Right, so you're showing us a car in fancy dress. So what?
Allow us to fill in the gaps. Remember the Seat IB E concept car earlier this year? Revealed at the 2010 Geneva motor show, the IB E was a technological showcase to display the Spanish firm's electrical ambitions in partnership with a host of 16 tech specialists and research partners. But it also allowed the designers to play with the style of the proposed new Leon.
Look at the two cars side by side and you get a sense that the spirit of the IB E could indeed be alive and kicking under that camouflage. Either that, or they're playing a funny joke and leading us down the garden path...The new Seat Leon: the timetable
We hear that the first Leon iteration will be shown in 2011. This time, the range is tipped to expand to include a three-door coupé. The IB E was certainly a hint of that, a sort of Spanish take on the Alfa Brera silhouette. The car caught in our spy photos looks more like the five-door, which will make up the bulk of sales.
The Leon will be bigger than the IB E concept car, though – it was a scant 3780mm long, making it shorter than the Ibiza supermini. Look at the details rather than the whole: the IB E's restyled grille is more rectangular and wider rather than oval; the recontoured strakes along the flanks now run more parallel than diverging; and the neater bumper integrations. All are said to feature on the new Leon.Seat's electric car plans
There will be a Twin-Drive Ecomotive version of the new Leon, too. Seat's first hybrid car will go on sale in 2014 (what's that you say? They've missed the boat?) and uses a lithium-ion powered electric motor with a conventional combustion engine. The zero-emissions EV mode will last 30 miles, according to the latest tests, although that could jump with the advances in battery tech.
Predictably, the bulk of Seat Leons will remain powered by petrol and diesel engines. Look at the VW Golf for a tip on the likely mix of engines, transmissions (including twin-clutch autos) and other gadgets which will rapidly filter down to Volkswagen's Spanish outpost.