The Leon Cupra was the first C-segment hatchback to roll off the production line following SEAT’s buy-out by Volkswagen. The Cupra has now acquired a similar build quality and performance to its German cousins, but with added versatility.
The previous Cupra model showed enough potential for drivers to get excited. And, with the release of SEAT’s new Leon Cupra variants (including five-door, estate and sports options) it is evident that many hopes have been met. But, how will it perform when set against our rigorous testing criteria?
Compared to the somewhat doughy SEATs of old, the new Leon Cupra has clearly been on a diet, with slim-line, sculpted bodywork and a chiselled face with large feature grille adding real bite to this latest model.
There’s also some variation between the 280 and 265 engine types, with the 280 being differentiated by a rear spoiler and 19-inch alloy wheels, while the 265 can be identified by its larger air intake and diffuser-effect rear skirt.
LED headlights – available only as an optional upgrade on Leon SE and FR models – come as standard on the Cupra (alongside a whole host of other advanced kit), bathing the road in enough light to let you make the most of the sporty engine at any time of day. The Driver Assist Pack also adds an automatic beam dipping function to spare other road users, although the LED set up is sufficiently subtle that it doesn’t dazzle.
While the three-door SC is the thoroughbred of the range, SEAT have kept things almost identical on the five-door version, which makes things a whole lot more practical for just £300 extra – especially with kids.
The interior of the standard model has a relatively simple layout in terms of features, with SEAT not straying too far from previous editions. However, the sporty incarnation features aluminium pedals, flat-bottomed steering wheel, different coloured dials and gloss-black trim across the dashboard.
Save for the enlarged transmission tunnel under the rear-centre seat, space is generously apportioned throughout the Cupra. In the front, there’s plenty of room to stretch out, however the racing bucket seats on the SC model tend to keep you securely fastened for the ride. SEATs official figures put boot space at a healthy but hardly ground-breaking 380-litres, but subsequent tests have revealed that it’s somewhere closer to a massive 483-litres (increasing to 587-litres on the estate).
The Cupra comes with a number of of technological features as standard, including dual-zone climate controls, front and rear parking sensors and integrated sat nav (in the 280 model). In terms of media, the standard offering includes Bluetooth, USB, SD and aux connectivity (designed by VW), as well as an audio device connector in the glovebox, all controlled using the 5.8-inch touchscreen/voice activated display in the central console.
On the road
The Cupra earned some major petrol-head kudos earlier this year, as it smashed the record for fastest front-wheel production car on a hot lap of the Nurburgring (previously held by the Renaultsport Megane RS Trophy) by a mammoth 10 seconds. With a time of under eight minutes, the Cupra beat the Alfa Romeo 4C by more than five seconds, as well as the likes of illustrious names such as the Aston Martin DBS, Audi R8 V8 and Porsche Cayman S.
Following massive investment from owners VW Group, the performance of all new SEATs has been improved exponentially. The Cupra is built on the ever-popular MQB platform, coupled with an EA888 turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with four cylinders. Buyers can choose between the ‘265’ and ‘280’ models, which generate 261bhp or 276bhp respectively, although the five-door option comes with the more powerful engine as standard.
One of the biggest advantages of the Cupra is its versatility. Equally adept as a practical family run-around, motorway mile muncher or track bully, the Cupra has adaptable electronic stability control, which (if turned off) gives you an impression of the natural grip, agility and straight-line speed that SEAT has woven in to its latest offering.
Switch to ‘Comfort’ mode and – despite pumping all 276bhp through the front wheels – the car softens up and becomes adaptable to the road’s surface, giving you a gloriously smooth and quiet ride. ‘Sport’ mode tightens everything back up again for greater responsiveness, while ‘Cupra’ mode is essentially short-hand for turning everything up to maximum.
In terms of flat out speed, the hot hatch can crank up to 62mph in just 5.7 seconds, with a top speed of 155mph. This isn’t too shabby for a car with a mid-range emissions rate of 149g/km and fuel economy of 31.9mpg.
The Cupra punches well above its weight in terms of driving dynamic and versatility, setting itself apart as an ideal candidate for a functional family car, durable and efficient company car or sporty little number for the weekends.
While the exterior aesthetic outshines the interior, its strong features will impress you for their sheer practicality. And, with so many new additions to the range, not only are a host of problems automatically solved, but there’s suddenly options to cater for every need. As such, this car is going to be a match (if not more) for the likes of the Ford Focus, Vauxhall Astra and the new Renault Megane come 2016.
For more information on the new Cupra or any of our other new cars, contact the experts at your local Perrys dealership today!