In the world of hot hatchbacks the SEAT Leon Cupra has always been a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Underneath the plain wrapping lies one of the best hot hatchbacks money can buy. This car has been on sale since 2014 and just like the rest of the Leon range it’s been updated for 2017. There are some new front and rear bumpers as well as new headlamps and rear lights. There are some new LED indicators too but the real difference lies underneath the bonnet. This is because with the Leon Cupra in the past, the engine has developed as much as 260, 280 and even 290 PS (Pferdestärke). However, now there’s just one engine, a 2.0 litre four cylinder turbo charged petrol engine giving out 300 PS or 296 break horse power (BHP) to some. There’s also 380 newton meters of torque which is up by 30 newton meters on the previous car.
When you sit inside this car you’ll notice that it’s pretty much identical to the old Leon Cupra. In fact, the only big change is with the large infotainment screen. It’s an 8 inch screen whereas the old car had a slightly smaller one and had handy shortcut buttons but this one doesn’t. The only other change is the electronic parking break where in the old Cupra you had the conventional manual one. Other than this it’s pretty much the same so you get lots of soft-touch plastics across the top of the dashboard and some scratchy plastics lower down. Practicality-wise there are lots of decent seized cubbies dotted around the place and the glovebox is big enough too. However, the door-bins are a little on the small side. Overall the interior feels rather conservative and classy rather than sporty. You can make the interior feel that little sportier by adding on bucket seats but this will cost you around £1300! However, even if you add the sporty seats it will still feel too conservative and very much unlike cars such as the Honda Civic Type R.
The Cupra may be a little on the conservative side but this car really does come with a good haul of equipment. You get LED headlights, cruise control, DAB radio, Bluetooth, front and rear parking sensors and an 8 inch touchscreen with sat-nav. You also get a set of 19 inch alloys and some nice looking red callipers thrown in as well.
If you’re going to be carrying people in the back of your Leon Cupra then you’re going to want to opt for the 5-door model and not the 3-door SC. This is because it’ll give you a lot more space at the back with average sized adults having plenty of head and knee room. You can also fit just about three people across the back although the middle passenger will have to get their leg over the transmission hump on the floor. Elsewhere there are easily reachable iSoFix points which is quite handy and you’ve also got an arm rest with two cup holders. There’s even a ski-hatch as well!
One of the best things about the 5-door Cupra is that it shares its boot with the standard Leon 5-door hatchback. This means that you get 380 litres of space which is more than the Volkswagen Golf R but slightly less than the Honda Civic Type R. However, it’s still of a really good shape and size. You can make the space even larger by folding down the 60/40 rear seats. There is a small lip between the boot floor and the back of the seats but if you opt for the double boot floor then you’ll get an almost flat loading area.
Choosing your Cupra is easier than ever. There used to be the choice of a Cupra 265, 280 and 290 model but now there’s just one – the Cupra 300. The 300 is available as a 3-door or 5-door hatchback or as a 4-wheel-drive estate.
Under the “plane Jane” wrapping this car can only be described as an absolute hooligan. Some drivers will prefer the six-speed manual but what we’re reviewing is the DSG which just fires through gears like they’re not even there. As an added bonus, when you’re in “Cupra mode” the exhaust pushes out a lovely noise to accompany your drive. “Cupra” is just one of four modes in the SEAT driver profile. Each is a little harder than the other and there’s an individual mode so that you can tailor the car to your needs.
One key difference about the new Cupra is that it comes with adaptive suspension as standard. The old Cupra never rode particularly well but this car, in the most comfortable setting, actually does. Ok, you still thump through potholes but now there’s a nice little bounce to normal everyday driving. This adaptive suspension is in perfect keeping with the whole character of the Cupra. It’s certainly not a raw hot hatchback like the Civic Type R but it’s sensible, grown up and mature. However, this doesn’t mean that it can’t let its hair down once in a while and mix it with the best hot hatches on the market.
It’s not just in a straight line where this car absolutely flies, it’s also around corners - this car really does love bends. This is all due to the differential upfront which means that you can just plough into corners and you’ll find the car simply pulling you around them. When you factor in some really direct and feel-some steering a manual gearbox and really weighty pedals what you’ve got is a car that really is a delight to drive.
The SEAT Leon Cupra may not have all of the costume jewellery that you’ll find on the Honda Civic Type R or the Ford Focus RS but it has it where is matters and that’s in the handling and the grin department.
If we have to mention any negatives about the Cupra then we’d first have to mention the interior. We just wish is had a little more flair. Secondly, while there’s a bit more power in this car it isn’t a cheap car. For example, opt for a model which has a sunroof, leather seats, wireless phone charger and keyless entry and start and this will set you back a whopping £34,500! It’s clear that the facelift and power upgrades has improved what was already a very impressive hot hatchback. It’s a nice tonic to other crazy hat hatchbacks like the Ford Focus RS and Honda Civic Type R. If your money can’t quite stretch enough to buy the latest model then take a look at some used SEAT Leon Cupra cars for sale on DesperateSeller.co.uk.