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
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
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
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
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.
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
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?
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.