The CUPRA Leon is a hatchback or estate car with attitude. Once the performance trim for SEAT models, CUPRA is now a marque in its own right and it’s certainly gaining momentum. The CUPRA Leon is testament to that with great performance stats, bags of technology and aggressive styling too.
The goodDynamic styling and impressive performance
The badUp against stiff opposition
CUPRA Leon Hatch – First Drive (2021)
CUPRA was once simply the trim level that sportier, more aggressive SEAT models carried, but these days it’s a brand in its own right and it’s making quite the impact.
If you need proof then the very latest CUPRA Leon is testament to that thanks to its bold, distinctive styling, generous levels of technology and performance stats that will make any driving purist sit up and listen. It would be fair to say this car is a hot hatch with attitude.
The CUPRA Leon is available in hatchback or estate body styles with a choice of three trim levels called VZ1, VZ2 and VZ3. Customers can select from a range of punchy petrol engines and there is also a new e-HYBRID model that introduces lots of tax savings to the mix and can complete 34 miles in EV-only mode.
We opted for the 2.0-litre TSI hatchback in range-topping VZ3 trim delivering 300PS of power and 400Nm of torque, costing £36,760. It could sprint to 62mph from a standstill in 5.7 seconds, maxed out at 155mph and, according to official WLTP figures, could deliver a combined 35.8-37.2mpg with carbon emissions of 172g/km.
When viewed from any approach, the CUPRA Leon is a real attention grabber with lots of copper-coloured detailing that is synonymous with CUPRA styling. The brand logo sits proudly in the centre of the main grille and there are large air intakes giving the car quite an aggressive look, along with quad tail pipes, a rear spoiler, black brake calipers and 19-inch aerodynamic machined black and silver alloy wheels.
When you open the doors, puddle lamps display the CUPRA logo onto the ground and the interior of the car is very sports-themed with black leather sport-style seats, a flat-bottomed steering wheel and some neat copper-coloured contrast stitching.
There is plenty of high-end technology to explore with a 10-inch touchscreen with navigation, full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, Bluetooth audio streaming and a DAB radio.
On the downside, the minimalist, clutter-free approach means there are very few physical buttons, so you tend to have to navigate the touchscreen for the simplest of tasks which can be a distraction on the move.
But that gripe aside, the CUPRA Leon is quite the complete package. And when it comes to performance, it certainly ticks all the right boxes.
The acceleration is blisteringly fast and the seven-speed direct shift automatic transmission is perfectly timed with steering wheel mounted paddles for added driver engagement.
The car sits lower on its axles than its SEAT stablemate and that results in a lower centre of gravity, and that in turn means assured grip and handling through tight bends.
It’s a car that cruises effortlessly at 70mph on motorways, is agile in busier town settings with a good turning circle, but is at its best when unleashed on the quieter country lanes.
The driver can switch through drive modes called Comfort, Sport, CUPRA and Individual that alter the car’s reactions quite considerably and, in addition, you can shift the gearstick back to engage a Sport mode for even more fun.
Comfort levels are good up front and there is room for a couple of adults to stretch out in the back provided the front seats are not pushed back too far. And back seat passengers get two Type C USB ports as well as two up front, so people can stay connected to their devices on the move.
The deep boot can swallow 380 litres of luggage – a limit that is increased further with the 60:40 split-folding rear seats dropped flat and there is a ski hatch to make carrying longer items possible without lowering the rear seats. There are also a number of handy storage options scattered throughout the car, including a glovebox, central cubby, front and rear cup holders, door bins and seat back pockets.
Only recently, the CUPRA Leon was awarded a maximum five-stars when tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating, scoring exceptionally well in the Adult Occupancy, Child Occupants, Vulnerable Road User and Safety Assist categories.
On-board safety systems on our test car included autonomous emergency braking, traffic sign recognition, high beam assist, traffic jam assist and pre-crash assist. There is front assist (with vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detection), emergency steering assist and junction assist, lane assist, emergency e-Call and seven airbags.
All in all, the CUPRA Leon is further proof that going it alone and separating from SEAT is not simply a case of rebadging existing models. These cars will be featuring their very own identity and further ventures into electrification are on the way too.