New Cupra Leon is a plug-in hybrid hot hatch

Cupra Leon revealed with hybrid option

Hot on the heels of the new fourth-generation Seat Leon comes the racy Cupra version, now sold under the separate Cupra sub-brand. And the big news is a fast and efficient plug-in hybrid version.

Firstly, a brief look back at the car it replaces. The last Leon Cupra – still a Seat – was highly rated by enthusiasts, offering Golf R-beating power and Renault Sport-rivalling lap times, plus value that was difficult to knock. The new car has big shoes to fill.

“The Leon Cupra has been a bestseller, with close to 44,000 units sold in the last generation”, said Wayne Griffiths, Cupra CEO.

“With the launch of the new Cupra Leon, we will strengthen the Cupra brand, by giving a new identity to a very emblematic car. The new Cupra Leon is the king of Leons.”

Cupra Leon: up to 310hp, no manual gearbox

Cupra Leon revealed with hybrid option

So, what do you want to know? How powerful and how fast, of course. Like the last Leon Cupra, the new car will be available with a number of power outputs. This time, though, that power range is much broader: from 245hp to 310hp.

For fans of the old-school, the 310hp variant runs a familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which is non-hybridised, but only offered in the Cupra Leon ST (estate). There, it’s combined with 4Drive all-wheel drive.

The estate, as well as the hatch, can also be had with 245hp and 300hp versions of that same engine, sending power to the front wheels exclusively. Happily, those who opt for the lower power level aren’t short-changed in terms of supporting hardware. Both also come with an electronic limited-slip diff.

Unfortunately for those who crave that little bit more interactivity, the manual gearbox is no more. Gone the way of the three-door body style, the manual leaves only the DSG twin-clutch paddle shift transmission.

Cupra Leon eHybrid: no, it’s not a Porsche

Cupra Leon revealed with hybrid option

Speaking of going digital, the plug-in hybrid eHybrid version comes complete with a name borrowed from Porsche.

Overall, it produces 245hp, combining a 150hp 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with a 115hp electric motor. The latter draws power from a 13kWh lithium-ion battery. That means 37 miles of all-electric range (WLTP) and a full charge in three-and-a-half hours from a 3.6kW wall box, or six hours from a 230v domestic socket. As a result, this has the potential to be a very eco-friendly hot hatch, with official CO2 emissions of 50g/km.

Keep it charged up and you could commute on EV power during the week, then tackle the finest Welsh B-roads at the weekend with all the petrol you saved.

There aren’t comprehensive acceleration figures yet. Cupra gives a solitary, yet impressive, 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds. It’s not clear which version this refers to, although the 300hp or 310hp AWD models are a safe bet. A 155mph top speed is achievable by all Cupra Leons.

Making the new Cupra Leon handle

Cupra Leon revealed with hybrid option

The last hot Leons weren’t one-trick ponies. Powerful though they were, they could put that muscle down well, and got you grinning in the corners. Happily, with the standard electronic diff, the new one is off to a good start.

The Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) allows the driver to tailor the new Leon’s road manners. Comfort, Sport and Cupra do as you’d expect, while Individual allows the driver to mix and match attitudes across various parts of the car. Day to day, for instance, we suspect we’d enjoy suspension in Comfort and the engine in Cupra.

The Cupra Leon is suspended on McPherson struts at the front, with a multi-link set-up at the rear. It’s also 25mm and 20mm lower than the standard Leon.

Giving the Cupra Leon attitude: styling and aero

Cupra Leon revealed with hybrid option

It’s all well and good going fast and handling well, but to a majority of customers, how it looks will matter most. The last hot Leon had most rivals licked for looks. It was sharp and aggressive, but not fussy or overdone. It had exceptional proportions and well-judged extrovert angles. It made the Golf R look boring, and the Focus RS look a bit much.

So what of the new car? Cupra is leaning on bronze as an identifier for its sportier models. This we saw back with the run-out Cupra R specials before the third-generation car’s production ended. The new Cupra badge takes the place of the old Seat logo.

Cupra Leon revealed with hybrid option

There are also bigger vents, bolder side skirts, darkened brightwork and a nice spoiler. At the rear, the exhaust exits are now integrated into the diffuser, for a touch of the high-class performance look. Big wheels are a must, with 19-inchers across the range, barring the 245hp petrol, which sits on 18s. Overall, the Cupra Leon’s aerodynamic performance is eight percent improved over the outgoing car.

Finally, the colours. Magnetic Tech is what you’ll want to flaunt the Cupra-ness. It’s available in both matte and metallic finishes. Metallics also include Candy White, Midnight Black and Urban Silver, while two special finishes are Desire Red and Graphene Grey. The other matte option is Petrol Blue. The wheels can be finished in black, copper and silver, while the Brembo brake calipers are copper.

Inside the Cupra Leon

Cupra Leon revealed with hybrid option

Drawn in by the performance and looks, all that’s left is the cabin. You’ll find special Cupra puddle lights, bucket seats and a Cupra steering wheel complete with drive-mode selection buttons.

The standard Leon’s digital displays are present and correct, in the middle and up ahead. Everywhere else, copper, dark chrome and brushed metal detailing add a sprinkling of sportiness.

When can I buy one, and how much?

Cupra Leon revealed with hybrid option

A price list and release date have yet to be revealed. Expect conventionally-powered versions to be slightly more expensive than their predecessors. The PHEV will likely cost more still.

We expect Cupra Leon buyers to be in their cars by the end of the year.

Seat Mii Electric available for £199 a month

Seat Mii Electric available to order

The Seat Mii Electric is now available to order in the UK. It’s Seat’s first all-electric car and first deliveries are expected early next year.

Priced from £19,300, the Seat Mii Electric is available for £199 per month on a PCP deal. This is after a £4,399 customer deposit, with Seat contributing £500 to the cost.

The first 300 retail customers who place an order before 31 December 2019 will also receive a free wall box charger fitted at their home, a three-pin charging cable, plus servicing and breakdown cover for three years.

It’s the first of a range of all-electric and plug-in hybrid Seats. The Mii Electric will be followed by the el-Born EV, plug-in hybrid versions of the Tarraco and Leon, along with performance plug-in models wearing a Cupra badge.

Seat Mii Electric city car

The Seat Mii Electric city car boasts a 36.8kWh battery pack to provide up to 161 miles of WLTP range. Rapid charging to 80 percent takes an hour, while using a home charger takes four hours to reach 80 percent charged.

Only one trim level is available, with the spec including 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, 5-inch colour screen, DAB digital radio, smartphone integration, rear parking sensors, hill hold control, lane assist and traffic sign recognition.

To help distinguish it from petrol versions of the Seat Mii, the EV features ‘electric’ lettering on the rear, plus stickers and cosmetic interior upgrades.

Seat Mii Electric in the UK

The Mii Electric is also the first model to get Seat Connect, giving remote access and management of the vehicle. Mii Electric owners can review driving data, parking position, vehicle status, and have the ability to control the air conditioning from their smartphone.

Five no-cost metallic colours are available: Deep Black, Candy White, Tornado Red, Chester Blue and Tungsten Silver.

Seat Mii electric production will begin in Slovakia by the end of the year. Orders can be placed now and first customer deliveries are projected for the end of the first quarter of 2020.

It will make its UK customer debut at the Seat store in Westfield White City between 28 October and 9 November.

Seat Arona

Best Way To Pack A Car For Your Holidays: Top Tips

Seat AronaWe don’t often think to hard about how we pack the boot of a car with luggage before we go on holiday. The sheer xcitement means the process isn’t completed with the precision it deserves.

Car maker Seat, however, is adamant more methodical packing could save you boot space – and could even save your life.

The KonMari Method (famously developed by Marie Kondo) utilises three steps to get the best out of your luggage space. They are as follows:

  1. De-clutter – remove any items you can do without.
  2. Pack smart – folding and rolling clothing cleverly can save you space. Box up all the loose bits, too.
  3. Categorise – put essentials within reach in the car, and maximise boot space by packing suitcases vertically.

The video above explains all. It certainly sounds like just about enough to save you a bit of space in the boot, but your life? Indeed.

An efficiently packed boot is a tightly packed boot, which shouldn’t feature any loose items that could go flailing around the cabin in the event of an accident. 

“Life, in general, is very cluttered in the modern world. We constantly have to go through a de-cluttering process in order to keep a peaceful mind,” said Europe’s first certified KonMari consultant, Aline Lau.

“Many people now adopt Marie Kondo’s mindset in their homes but this is the first time we have used it to pack a car.

“We will automatically try to take too much with us on vacation but, by separating each item and categorising what we really need, we can be more efficient instead of trying to take everything from our lives with us on holiday.”

Read more: 

Seat Tarraco 2019 review: a seven-seat SUV fit for family life

Seat TarracoOur Gav recently enjoyed three months and 3,000 miles driving a Seat Alhambra, a ‘practical and flexible’ seven-seat people carrier. He declared it a ‘prime example of a properly sorted MPV’ and ‘worthy of your attention’. Well, sorry Gav, people just aren’t listening.

Sport Utility Vehicles are where it’s at, you see. Most of us venture no further off-road than mounting a kerb, yet sales have skyrocketed in recent years – and that trend is forecast to continue. Buyers like the high driving position and perceived safety of SUVs, but mostly they love their tough, go-anywhere image. If an MPV is a sensible sandal, an SUV is an all-terrain trainer.

Seat has jumped wholeheartedly on the SUV gravy train. Its new seven-seat Tarraco sits above the (small) Arona and (medium) Ateca in a three-tier range. It’s the Barcelona brand’s new flagship – and the aspirational alternative to an Alhambra.

Two TSI petrol engines are offered – 150hp 1.5-litre and 190hp 2.0 – plus a 2.0 TDI diesel available in two outputs: 150hp or 190hp. You can opt for two- or four-wheel drive (‘4Drive’), plus six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG auto transmissions.

Tarraco prices start at £28,335 for a 1.5 TSI 150 SE and stretch to £38,055 for a fully-loaded 2.0 TDI 190 Xcellence Lux. I ventured to deepest Berkshire to sample 190hp petrol and diesel versions on UK roads.

First impressions

Seat Tarraco

‘Tarraco’ is the old word for Tarragona, following a longstanding tradition of naming Seats after Spanish cities. Underneath, however, its roots are resolutely Germanic. The Tarraco is based on the same Volkswagen Group MQB-A LWB platform as the Skoda Kodiaq, and the two cars are mechanically nigh-on identical.

The Seat has more aggressive SUV attitude, though. It rides 20mm lower than the Kodiaq, with a jutting grille, bonnet bulges, sculpted body-sides and swoopy LED light signatures. This year’s must-have styling feature – a full-width rear light bar – is also present and correct, although the central section is only a red reflector. Those ‘tailpipe’ slots either side of the rear bumper are fake, too.

Nonetheless, the Tarraco has car park kudos that no glorified minibus (sorry, Gav) can match. At 4,735mm long and 2,118mm wide, its footprint is on par with a Land Rover Discovery Sport. Few cars offer so much metal for your money

Inside the Seat Tarraco

Seat Tarraco

Here’s where Seat’s oh-so-sensible Alhambra plays its trump card. The old-guard MPV is a true seven-seater (“Whenever we’ve carried a full quota of five children, there’s been a scramble for the rear seats,” says Gav), while the young-gun Tarraco is effectively a five-plus-two. Its rearmost chairs are only really suitable for youngsters, yet have no Isofix mounting points. You do get three Isofix points in the middle row, though.

Five-up, the Tarraco feels very spacious. There’s ample headroom and shoulder width, and the optional panoramic sunroof bathes the cabin in light. The second-row seats also slide and flip forward individually. Boot space ranges from 2,005 litres in ‘van mode’ to 700 litres with five seats occupied – and just 230 litres when fully loaded with passengers. All figures, incidentally, are fractionally smaller than the Skoda.

As for the driver, you get digital dials, and a media system with Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity. Shame the eight-inch touchscreen, perched atop the dashboard, looks like an afterthought.

Overall, the effect is pleasingly premium, as befits the Tarraco’s range-topping status. I particularly liked the wool and Alcantara (man-made suede) upholstery of our Xcellence-spec test cars.

Standard kit on the entry-level SE includes 17-inch alloys, three-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, auto headlights and wipers, cruise control and ambient interior lighting. SE Technology adds 18-inch alloys and sat nav, while the Xcellence and Xcellence Lux push upwards into Audi territory. If you’re quick, launch-spec ‘First Edition’ cars are even better equipped.

Seat Tarraco: on the road

Seat Tarraco

If you’re expecting a lively drive to match that purposeful mien, prepare for mild disappointment. The Tarraco doesn’t transcend its SUV origins like a Porsche Macan, and unless Seat’s sporty sub-brand Cupra gets involved (as with the smaller Ateca), that’s likely to remain the case.

Refinement and long-distance comfort are more the Seat’s raison d’être. Its suspension soaks up potholes very effectively – particularly if you opt for smaller wheels – and both petrol and diesel engines are hushed. For maximum quietness, wait for the plug-in hybrid version, due in 2020.

On twisty roads, the Tarraco is planted and predictable. Its steering is nicely weighted, body-roll is kept in-check and the DSG ’box is smooth and intuitive. Its brakes also feel reassuringly robust, backed up by standard-fit Front Assist with pedestrian and cyclist detection.

The predicted best-seller – the 150hp 1.5 petrol – wasn’t available to drive at launch. However, the perky 190hp petrol would be my choice versus the slightly sluggish 190hp diesel. For starters, it costs around £1,500 less, while the quoted fuel economy is hardly leagues apart (29.7mph versus 37.2mpg). And the diesel was just 3mpg more efficient on my identical test-route.

Seat Tarraco verdict: 4 stars

Seat Tarraco

Seat has hit upon a winning formula. Its sales were up 12 percent in 2018, making it the UK’s fastest-growing car brand for the second year in a row. Given such success, it’s hardly surprising the Tarraco doesn’t break the mould.

No, it isn’t a mobile Tardis like the Alhambra, but that’s hardly the point. For better or worse, the sort of people who occasionally tackle a gravel track en route to a National Trust property want SUVs. And this is a pretty good one: comfortable, refined, well-equipped and inoffensive to drive.

The greatest threat to the Tarraco comes from within. The aforementioned Skoda Kodiaq starts from around £3,000 less, and is a cheaper option spec-for-spec. Not quite the ‘reign in Spain’, then – more like Czech mate.

Seat Tarraco

Five 2019 Seat Tarraco rivals

  • Skoda Kodiaq
  • Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport
  • Seat Alhambra

How much did our test car cost?

Seat Tarraco Xcellence First Edition Plus 2.0 TSI 4Drive 190 DSG: £38,605

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2019 Seat Alhambra review: a seven-up MPV with just enough fizz

Seat Alhambra Xcellence

Seat doesn’t want to sell you an Alhambra. It would much rather you opted for the Tarraco, a seven-seat SUV that’s bang on-brand and totally in-tune with current trends. MPVs are out of touch, out of step and very nearly outta here.

But I’m here to tell you that the Seat Alhambra is as relevant to families today as it was when the concept was unveiled at the 1995 Geneva Motor Show. SUVs might be sexy, but they’ll never be as practical and flexible as a properly sorted MPV.

And, after living with a Seat Alhambra for three months and 3,000 miles, I can confirm that it’s a prime example of a properly sorted MPV.

The car in question is a Seat Alhambra in top-spec Xcellence trim, powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine developing 150hp. It’s possible to get a more powerful diesel engine – the same unit is available with 184hp – but unless you raid the accessories catalogue, the Xcellence model is as good as it gets in Alhambra-land.

Taking the last Seat

Seat Alhambra review

Amazingly, the current Seat Alhambra is approaching its 10th birthday, which in automotive terms means that it should be drawing its pension and taking advantage of free bus travel.

It clings on for life partly because, until the arrival of the Tarraco, Seat hasn’t had another seven-seat SUV in its range, but also because Volkswagen hasn’t replaced the platform-sharing Sharan. The truth is, this could be the last Alhambra.

Few people will shed a tear. MPV purchases are driven through necessity rather than desire; their arrival on the driveway providing a very visual reminder that you’re no longer in the prime of your life.

What follows is 20 years of active parenthood, followed by years of providing financial and emotional support through uni and first-time-buyer schemes, then retirement, then… well, you can guess the rest.

You can understand why Mr and Mrs Two-Point-Four Family are attracted to a visually more attractive seven-seat SUV, seemingly happy to accept a little less practicality in exchange for more perceived glamour at the school gates. But before you fall for the SUV marketing twaddle, here are half a dozen reasons why the Seat Alhambra is worthy of your attention.

Sliding doors are ace

Seat Alhambra sliding doors

Sliding doors are good, but electric sliding doors are even better. Opt for the SE L or Xcellence trim levels and the doors can be operated at the touch of a button, giving joy to children everywhere.

Seriously, kids love sliding doors, while you can live out your A-Team fantasies by hanging out of the side like ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock. Warning: don’t try this at home, you crazy fools.

Aside from rekindling memories of Saturday night telly, the sliding doors are extremely useful in tight parking spaces and make getting into and out of the car very easy. The tailgate is also powered, so you can put on quite a display as you wander back to the Alhambra in a supermarket car park.

There are surprisingly few cars available with sliding doors, which is a shame because once you’ve lived with them, you’ll find it hard to live without them.

Third-row seats that aren’t third-class

Seat Alhambra third row

How often have you read a review of a seven-seat SUV only to find that the seats in the third row aren’t quite as billed in the glossy brochure? At best, many seven-seat SUVs are little more than 5+2 vehicles, with the third row designed for occasional use only.

Things are different in the Alhambra. Getting into the very back is easy, thanks to the sliding doors and the way in which the second row of seats tilt forward, but once there, there’s plenty of space even for taller children and adults.

Put it this way: whenever we’ve carried a full quota of five children, there’s been a scramble for the rear seats. There’s plenty of headroom and, thanks to the fact that the three middle seats slide forward independently, plenty of legroom, too. There’s even enough legroom if the middle row seats are slid all the way back.

Thanks to roof-mounted lights, a pair of cupholders on the left, a storage compartment on the right, and a pair of air vents, these don’t feel like the cheap seats. Remember when all the cool kids sat at the back of the bus? Things are no different in the Alhambra.

It has a boot the size of a Suzuki Swift

Seat Alhambra boot

Even with all seven seats folded up, the Seat Alhambra offers 267 litres of luggage space, which is two litres more than the Suzuki Swift. That’s pretty decent for a seven-seat bus, albeit far from ideal if you’re heading off for a family holiday with all five children in tow.

This rises to 658 litres in five-seat mode or 2,297 litres if you turn your Alhambra into a two-seater. While the Tarraco can muster 700 litres with the third row folded down, it can offer just 1,775 litres with the second row folded away. Once again, the Alhambra has its fashionable upstart well and truly licked.

And don’t think you’ll need a degree in origami to run through the various seating configurations. I’m about as handy as a chimp wearing boxing gloves, and even I managed to work it out without resorting to the manual. The seats are light, easy to operate and a doddle to fold away. You’re also presented with an entirely flat floor.

It feels like a posh bus

Seat Alhambra front seats

With the caveat that I’ve been reviewing an Alhambra in the plush Xcellence trim, there’s a distinctly premium feel to this MPV. Integrated sunblinds and aircraft-style folding tables on the front seat backrests are standard on SE and above, while 12-way electrically adjustable and heated leather front seats, DAB radio, sat-nav, rear-view camera and voice recognition are standard on SE L.

The Xcellence model boasts an opening panoramic sunroof with electric sunblind, sports-style front seats, chrome door sills, headlight washers, heated washer jets and keyless entry and go.

It’s actually pleasant to drive. No, really, it is

Seat Alhambra dashboard

I won’t pretend that the Alhambra is a great car to drive, but you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by its road manners. It might be old, but the Alhambra is based on an old Volkswagen car platform, rather than something with its roots in the commercial sector, so it’s surprisingly agile for a car of its size.

The steering has a nice weight to it, there’s a surprising lack of body-roll when cornering, and if anything, the ride is a little on the firm side, but this might have something to do with the ‘sport’ suspension found on the Xcellence model.

Even the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel engine offers just enough in the way of performance, with the Alhambra having a decent turn of pace, even with all seven seats occupied. I’m not sure you’d need the extra poke offered by the 184hp version.

It’s never what you’d class as ‘fun’, and no matter how many times Seat peppers its press pack with the ‘sport’ word, it still feels at odds with the brand proposition. However, if your only experience of driving MPVs stems from something with the underpinnings of a van, you’ll find much to like about the Alhambra.

You can coast through life

Seat Alhambra DSG

I’m not a huge fan of the six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission, although I’m not sure I could stomach a manual gearbox in a seven-seat MPV. Ninety percent of the time, the DSG is perfectly adequate, but it can feel flustered at junctions and when crawling in traffic, while it often selects the wrong gear for climbing or descending hills.

But there’s one aspect of DSG-equipped diesel engines I really like: coasting. When you lift off the throttle, the engine is de-clutched, helping to deliver better fuel economy. It’s why I rarely use the cruise control because even the gentlest of gradients can see you freewheeling like a kid on a skateboard.

I guess I shouldn’t get too carried away because the fuel savings are probably wiped out by the effort required to climb the hill, but it’s strangely satisfying trying to coast for as long as possible.

But… (because there’s always a ‘but’)

Seat Alhambra rear light

It’s not all chocolate and roses in the Alhambra, but what’s remarkable is the fact that I find myself nitpicking to find reasons for complaint. Many of its rivals will have been replaced, revised or refreshed in the decade since the Alhambra made its debut, and yet it remains one of the best MPVs you can buy.

Faults? Well, 36.4mpg isn’t a great return over the course of three months, and the interior harks back to Volkswagens of old, with a cabin that’s rather sombre and lacking in flair. Meanwhile, the 6.5-inch infotainment screen looks a little quaint in 2019, and there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Aside from these minor points, I’m struggling to find things to dislike about the Alhambra. It’s so refreshing to find a car that masters everything it sets out to do, rather than promising the earth and then failing to deliver.

When the world wakes up to the fact that the SUV isn’t the perfect family car, the MPV might have bitten the dust, and cars like the Seat Alhambra will be relics of the past. Which is a tragedy, because a full-size SUV with sliding doors is one of the most underappreciated body styles on the market, but not enough of you are buying them.

It might not be cool, but the Seat Alhambra is big and surprisingly clever.

Seat’s £185 in-car coffee maker ‘could save Brits £1,800 a year’

Seat in-car espresso coffee maker

Anyone for coffee? “Mii, please,” said somebody at Spanish car giant Seat, before muttering something about the wonderful Arona of fresh coffee. Terrible coffee-based puns aside, Seat reckons this in-car coffee machine could save motorists more than £1,800 a year in coffee shop bills.

We tested the Handpresso coffee-making device back in 2016 and we were mightily impressed. But with the benefit of hindsight, the “life-changing” claim may have been a little overblown – the machine has spent the past 18 months in a cupboard, wedged between a spiraliser and a bread-maker.

Coffee Homeground

Priced at £185, the Handpresso comes with two glasses and is powered via a 12v socket. Seat says it will fit neatly into the cupholders of any its models, but other cupholders are available. Power it up, and the Handpresso will dispense 50ml of fresh espresso in three minutes.

Drinking coffee in the car

Over the course of a year, the Handpresso will cost an estimated £405, which is a lot less than the £2,210 spent per year by the nation’s coffee lovers. There’s also the added benefit of not queuing up in your favourite coffee shop.

The Caffeine Kick Inside

The idea of an in-car coffee machine is nothing new. Indeed, the Handpresso in the Fiat 500L was a proper job (and one of the few things we liked about the car).

Fortunately, Seat’s range of cars is more convincing and includes the new Tarraco seven-seat SUV and hardcore Leon Cupra R ST. Buy the fastest ever Seat and you might not need the caffeine hit.

If you do, the Handpresso is available from any Seat dealer and comes with a 12-month warranty and 15 espresso pods. We’re off to give ourselves a roasting for all those shocking puns. 

The 370hp Leon Cupra R ST is the fastest ever Seat

Seat Leon Cupra R ST

If the ever-increasing range of performance SUVs leaves you a little cold, the hot new Seat Leon Cupra R ST estate should warm your heart. Put simply: this is the fastest Seat ever built.

In standard guise, the Leon Cupra R ST produces 300hp, but for an additional £500, customers can up the ante to a sports car-baiting 370hp. Still want that Cupra Ateca SUV?

The superfast wagon is powered by the ubiquitous 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine mated to a seven-speed DSG transmission. But in exchange for 500 notes, Seat will equip the Leon Cupra R ST with an ABT tuning pack, which sees the power increased to 370hp and the 0-62mph time fall to 4.5 seconds.

The top speed remains limited to 155mph, but the ABT-enhanced Leon is 0.4 seconds quicker to 62mph. Small margins are a big deal in the performance car world.

Leon Cupra R ST Brembo brakes

Throwing Copper

Crucially, unlike the front-wheel-drive Leon Cupra R hatchback, the ST is all-wheel-drive, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting that power down. The special edition also comes with quad exhausts, Brembo brakes, bucket seats and a panoramic sunroof, along with copper and carbon fibre detailing.

The 370hp versions will also feature ABT detailing on the rear badge – we suspect the majority of customers will opt for the upgrade. Well, if you’re spending £37,975 on the standard car, what’s another £500 – especially when it’s spread over a three-year PCP deal.

Blackness Grey is an exclusive colour for the Leon Cupra R ST, but buyers can also opt for Magnetic Tech, Midnight Black or Nevada White. Copper logos and badges and 19-inch alloy wheels complete the exterior makeover.

Seat Leon Cupra R ST seat

Selling The Drama

On the inside, you’ll find illuminated aluminium plaques, an eight-inch touchscreen, Digital Cockpit, carbon fibre and copper detailing, Alcantara steering wheel and gear knob, and bucket seats.

“The Leon Cupra R ST represents our ability to make unique, exciting cars with the most advanced technology ready for the most demanding and diverse of drivers. It’s the amalgamation of the brand’s experience in motor racing and the ability of our design and engineering teams to seamlessly mix performance and functionality,” said Antonino Labate, director of strategy, business development and operations of Cupra.

You can order the fastest-ever Seat from 9 April. While Cupra is now a standalone Seat sub-brand, it will continue to offer go-faster versions of Seat’s existing catalogue. If they’re all as potent as this wagon, long may Cupra continue to reign in Spain.

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Cupra Ateca 2019 review: the Porsche-baiting SUV from Spain

Cupra AtecaSeat has always felt like a square peg: a car company unsure of what it wants to be. Within the Volkswagen Group’s sprawling portfolio of brands, Skoda stands for value, VW represents the mainstream and Audi is premium. Seat, meanwhile, defies such straightforward categorisation: notionally sporty (‘the Spanish Alfa Romeo’), but frequently rather staid and sensible.

That’s where Cupra comes in. The badge has been affixed to Seat hot hatches since 1997, and boasts a proven pedigree in rallying and BTCC. Now it’s become a standalone sub-brand (think what Abarth is to Fiat) and the first fruit of this separation is the 300hp, 153mph Cupra Ateca.

Launching a performance-oriented marque with an SUV seems an odd move. After all, Cupras have traditionally been harder, faster alternatives to the Polo GTI or Golf GTI. However, Cupra the prefix is, we’re told, a different proposition to Cupra the suffix. Seat UK MD Richard Harrington stresses its “uniqueness and sophistication” – thus a family-sized 4×4 apparently fits the bill.

Cynical badge engineering or the start of something special? I spent three weeks with a Cupra Ateca to find out.

First impressions

The first thing you notice is that Transformers-style bronze logo. It’s supposed to resemble a tribal tattoo, reflecting the idea of Cupra owners as bit ‘alternative’. The sort of tattooed, 40-something rebels who’d shun a standard SUV, perhaps.

You’ll spot added visual muscle, too. The Ateca’s front bumper is peppered with air intakes and its new rear diffuser encloses four beefy tailpipes. A spoiler is perched atop the tailgate and 19-inch alloys (also available in copper-effect) sit within the squared-off wheelarches. The overall effect is sporty, yet still relatively subtle.

Fortunately, there’s nothing subtle about how the Cupra goes. The 2.0-litre turbocharged ‘EA888’ engine, also seen in the Leon Cupra and VW Golf R, offers 300hp at 5,300rpm and 295lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm. With a DSG semi-auto gearbox and four-wheel drive (both standard), this 1,632kg newcomer hits 62mph in 5.2 seconds – on par with a Porsche Macan S.

Yet while SUVs such as the Macan, BMW X3M and forthcoming Audi SQ2 rival the Cupra for pace, they don’t in terms of price. At £35,900, the Ateca exists in a curious sector of its own, beneath the bombastic Germans but above everyday SUV fodder such as the Kia Sportage, Peugeot 3008 and, well, Seat Ateca.

In theory that makes the Cupra the best car in its class. But as the standard-bearer for a new brand, it also needs to be a great car full-stop.

Inside the Cupra Ateca

Inside, the Cupra feels more special than its Seat sister. The seats are hip-hugging buckets, trimmed in Alcantara, while the analogue instruments are swapped for a configurable digital display. Select the navigation map between the dials around town, then – when you’re ‘on it’ – blank out everything except the oversized rev-counter.

A dial behind the gear lever offers a choice of six driving modes: Comfort, Sport, Cupra, Individual, Snow and Off-Road. Both Sport and Cupra stiffen the standard-fit adaptive dampers, sharpen throttle response and make the seven-speed ’box hold onto gears for longer.

All cars come with an eight-inch touchscreen media system, rear-view camera, keyless entry and wireless phone charging. Options are mostly bundled into two packages. Design (£3,345) comprises copper alloys, bigger Brembo brakes and black interior styling. Comfort and Sound (£1,930) includes a Beats audio system, adaptive cruise control, heated seats and an electric tailgate. Choose both and you’ll spend upwards of £41,000 (and pay the additional ‘showroom tax’ into the bargain).

One thing identical to the original Seat is the amount of interior space. The Cupra fits a family of five in comfort, and its 485-litre boot swallows enough luggage for a week away – not something you could say for a typical hot hatch.

Cupra Ateca: on the road

There’s no doubting the Cupra’s straight-line speed, but its composed chassis also means serious point-to-point pace. The taut suspension reins in body-roll, while four-wheel-drive traction helps it blast out of bends.

Cupra Ateca

The steering is pointy and direct, if hardly overflowing with feedback, and the DSG gearbox rarely finds itself in the wrong ratio. The growly turbocharged engine is always on-boost and eager, too.

Switching into one of the sportier modes amplifies this experience. The downside is a deterioration in ride quality; I found Cupra mode a little harsh for Surrey’s broken B-roads, usually settling on Sport as a best-of-both-worlds compromise.

Despite borrowing the car in the depths of winter, I never needed Snow or Off-Road modes, but the Ateca’s slimline 40-profile tyres would, frankly, be hopeless on rough terrain.

Cupra Ateca

Overall, the Cupra can’t match the measured composure of a Macan – there’s a point-and-squirt scrappiness to how it flows along a road – but it’s engaging and exciting. Try hard enough and you’ll even hear the exhausts popping on the over-run.

The rest of the time, though, this is just an easygoing 4×4: a car that ticks the requisite boxes for family life. Light steering and sensible dimensions make it straightforward to park, and official fuel economy of 38.2mpg (168g/km CO2) is achievable with a light right foot.

Verdict: 4 stars

The Cupra Ateca has much to commend it. It’s a mid-size SUV well suited to the school run and, when conditions allow, a high-riding hot hatch with a surprising turn of speed.

Cupra Ateca

A leader in a class of one, then? Well, yes and no. It’s true that premium alternatives cost upwards of £15,000 more, especially after you take options into account. But fast estate cars, not least the Seat Leon ST Cupra 300 4Drive and VW Golf R Estate, are similarly priced (£33,260 and £37,485 respectively), equally practical and better to drive. It depends how much you want the elevated driving position and status of an SUV.

As for the Cupra brand, there’s still a long way to go. Convincing buyers this isn’t simply a hotted-up Seat won’t be easy. However, if anyone can build a brand, it’s the Volkswagen Group. It transformed Audi from also-ran to premium powerhouse, and Skoda from the butt of a hundred jokes to the budget benchmark. Perhaps it’s Cupra, rather than Seat, that will become ‘the Spanish Alfa Romeo’ after all.

Five 2019 Cupra Ateca rivals

Porsche Macan 2.0
BMW X3M 40i
Mini Countryman JCW
Seat Leon ST Cupra
Volkswagen Golf R Estate

How much did our test car cost?

Cupra Ateca 2.0 TSI DSG (Comfort and Sound): £37,830

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Seat with Amazon Alexa

“Alexa, find the nearest Seat dealer” – Amazon Alexa now available in Seats

Seat with Amazon Alexa

Seat is the first automotive brand in Europe to launch Amazon Alexa in its cars. The cloud-based voice control system will give users the ability to change music, manage personal schedules, get directions and more.

Alexa, launched in 2014, has accrued more than 45,000 ‘skills’ via the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) with which developers have actively worked to grow Alexa’s range of abilities.

Seat claims the integration of Amazon Alexa should make using the car’s features safer, too. The usual multi-step navigation process of button-pressing and menu-jumping is reduced to a simple press of the control button followed by a vocal command for Alexa to follow. Great, if it works…

The availability of the service goes back to cars manufactured after May of 2018 (MY19 cars) and fitted with Sat Nav High, so if you’ve already taken delivery of your car but it’s still fresh out the box, there’s a chance you can get Alexa.


Finding a balance

Much like Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto, Amazon Alexa could serve as the purpose-made replacement for features that in-house development couldn’t fully realise. Voice control has been around in cars for years, as have multi-media interfaces. Only recently has the integration of systems from dedicated technology companies elevated in-car media experiences up to the standards we enjoy on our other devices.

Alexa will hopefully do the same thing for voice control as smart UIs did for in-car entertainment.

“As functionality and connectivity levels increase, we have to find a balance between usability and safety. Introducing Amazon Alexa helps us find that balance,” said Seat president Luca de Meo.

“With just a tap of the steering wheel, customers will be able to ask Alexa for music, points of interest and much more without taking eyes off the road.”

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Cupra Ateca

Seat’s sporty new Cupra sub-brand: 9 things we’ve learned

Cupra Ateca

The new Cupra sub-brand has made its official debut ahead of its public launch at next month’s Geneva Motor Show. From now on, all new sporty Cupra models will be badged solely as Cupras, without any Seat branding.

It comes as the sporty offshoot reveals its first new model in the form of the new Cupra Ateca SUV, which made an appearance at a glitzy event in Barcelona yesterday. The event – attended by media from across Europe and a number of senior executives from the Cupra brand, gave us an opportunity to find out more about what the firm stands for and how it’s going to work. Here’s what we learned.

1: Seat has an image problem

Would the Seat badge put you off buying a car? According to marketing chiefs, some people will never buy a Seat – no matter how good it is. “We could [make] the best product in the world, but for some people who are more image-sensitive, they will not take one of our cars,” Seat boss Luca de Meo told Motoring Research.

We’re not sure that’s entirely true in the UK. Sister brand Skoda hasn’t been the butt of jokes for years now, and Seat has never really been viewed as a brand to avoid. Indeed, our quick straw poll reveals that two thirds of people don’t think Seat has an image problem. Clearly, that’s not the case around the world.

“You still have, in some markets, a certain level of rejection of the Seat brand,” explained de Meo. “Starting from scratch with something new [means] we can attract customers who will not, in other cases, buy Seat.”

It’s a simple idea – some people won’t buy Seats, so removing the Seat badge and swapping it with a Cupra badge is one way of attracting new customers and charging them more money for cars. However…

2: Cupra isn’t premium

Cupra Ateca

You might think this smacks of Seat going upmarket, but doing so would tread on the toes of fellow VW Group brands Volkswagen and Audi.

“There are enough [premium brands] around and the traditional, prestigious, premium [market] is occupied,” said Seat’s sales and marketing vice president, Wayne Griffiths. “I don’t think these classical, prestigious, premium values speak to these young people.”

Cupra says it plans to attract customers from between the mainstream and premium segments, but it’s reluctant to name brands that it intends to rival. Seat already has a high level of conquest (new customers coming in from other manufacturers account for around 60 percent of sales in the UK), but the firm expects this will be even higher for Cupra.

Bosses predict around 80 percent of Cupra customers will come from other brands, moving from mainstream cars but not yet feeling ready to buy an old-fashioned premium car such as an Audi or Mercedes-Benz.

3: Cupra will be a money maker for Seat

Griffiths isn’t shy about his hopes for Cupra. “We want to double sales,” he says. “Within five years.”

That’s quite a target for a brand that’s only just separating itself from its parent company, but Griffiths points to the current figures.

“We did 10,000 [Cupra models] in 2017,” explains Griffiths. “We want to do much more than 20,000 when we have the Ateca and some other models later. But that’s in the short-term… we have to because this brand is only going to fly if it’s visible. And you’re invisible if you’re below 10 percent of the mix.

“It will be an important profit-driver but also volume for as well,” he adds.

Despite this, numbers will be deliberately limited to aid residual values and allow tempting finance and leasing deals to be offered. “The only way to make residual values better is not to build more cars than you can sell,” said Griffiths.

4: A Cupra Ibiza and Arona could be in the pipeline – but not a Mii

The brand is being launched with the 300hp Cupra Ateca SUV – but there are seven new cars planned within the next three years. An Arona and Ibiza are both being considered, but Cupra hasn’t decided whether they’ll reach production. We suspect both are likely.

“[The Ateca] will be a great opportunity for us to position the brand but we’re looking for more product as well – so, more Cupra models, because if this brand is to be sustainable in the future than it needs a product base,” said Griffiths.

“We have the Leon, we have the Ateca, we are looking at other cars in [Seat’s] range that we could do a Cupra car of – whether that’s Arona or Ibiza – or, in the future, even go as far as launching a car purely as a Cupra car. Somewhere in the future our product range will be suitable for doing that.”

When asked whether the affordable Mii city car could be on the horizon, Griffiths said: “It wouldn’t be something I’d focus on at the moment. I think there are other segments that are more profitable and more fitting with the Cupra values.”

5: Electrification will happen

Although Cupra insists there’s a future for the internal combustion engine, future models are likely to feature some sort of electrification in a bid to reach tightening emission targets.

This doesn’t mean they’ll be boring to drive, insists Cupra.

“[They’ll feature] electrification in a sporty way, not electrification in a driving fun limiting way,” said research and development chief Dr Rabe. “That means a plug-in hybrid. It’s going to be much more sporty [than current plug-in hybrids].”

Griffiths also touched on electrification – saying that Cupra will take inspiration from motorsport in a bid to lower its emissions.

“The whole issue of motorsport will move to a future where they’ll be ecological – whether that’s with electric motor sport cars you might see in the near future – or plug-in hybrid, performance hybrid or using CNG-powered cars.

“We are working in parallel to make sure this new brand is sustainable as a performance brand in an ecological environment where we have to fulfill CO2 requirements.”

6: The logo is meant to look like a tribal tattoo

Cupra Ateca

The logo, which was revealed last month, is intended to feature two back-to-back Cs while also looking like a tribal tattoo, explains Griffiths.

“It would be great to have a wonderful explanation about where [the logo] came from but it’s difficult, because it doesn’t really have a history. The brand is brand new, so there’s no heritage, it’s not trying to get something from the past which, when you look at Abarth or other brands do… all of them are trying to make their sports brands out of the past and heritage but we want to look to the future.

“It should stand for a tribal tattoo… for people who want to belong to something special without having to show off. It doesn’t have to be a star or a four rings or whatever, it’s something different. And we think this tribal thing could be a brand that attracts the younger target group.”

Although the brand goes short of insisting its customers get genuine Cupra tattoos, Griffiths hinted that all customers could be given a bracelet to make them instantly recognisable as Cupra tribe members.

“To be able to recognise these customers, we want to introduce a Cupra ID, perhaps with this bracelet, so we know who is part of this Cupra world and so that we know we can treat them properly and in a different way.”

7: One in five Seat dealers will become Cupra specialists

Although all UK Seat dealers will be able to sell new Cupra models, around 20 percent will become Cupra specialists. These will have the cars on display and available for test drive, while ‘Cupra masters’ will be on hand in the showroom and workshop to take care of customers.

“My dream is, in certain areas where there is a big Cupra demand, I can imagine having specific Cupra showrooms,” said Griffiths, adding that Cupras account for as much as 10 percent of Leon sales in areas such as Munich, which would be a sufficient demand for a Cupra-specialist dealer.

All Cupra models will come with a four-year warranty and a service and maintenance package included in the deal.

8: There’ll be a Cupra Line

Cupra Line

Can’t afford or don’t want a hardcore Cupra? The brand will also be used to sell parts for Seats. You’ll be able to buy Cupra accessories for your cooking-spec Seat.

“Why not offer [Cupra Line] to some of the Seat products?” asks Rabe. “That’s not so much performance – maybe a wheel package, maybe an interior package or something like that.

“But first of all we want to establish a brand. You will not see this spread to other cars within this year. It will come later.“

Cupra’s marketing chiefs also revealed that it’s working with fashion and sunglasses companies, meaning you’ll even be able to dress in Cupra-branded clothing.

9: You’ll be able to drive a Cupra every day

Anyone who’s driven the Cupra R will tell you that it feels a rather extreme hot hatch. Fortunately, for those of us who want to drive a Cupra every day, future cars from the brand will not be much more extreme.

“I don’t want to get rid of the daily drivability [of Seat’s Cupra models],” explains Rabe. “It is important to have that balance. The Cupra customer wants to be excited every day while driving, and therefore that balance should be there. That means on the comfort and daily-drive side, I want it to be at least the same as today, but why not go a little bit more on the edge of the sporty side?”

He adds that engineers were allowed to go a little more focussed with the Cupra R as it was a flagship model for the brand, but the Cupra Ateca will cater for a different market and won’t be as extreme. In the future, Rabe expects to offer Cupra and Cupra R versions of the same models to cater for different tastes.

In pictures: Cupra Ateca

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