A Cupra version of the latest Leon was inevitable. Less so was a choice of doors and power outputs which the all-new Leon flagship will offer. For the UK, the Cupra 280 will represent the most powerful production car SEAT has offered. So, just what do you get for your money?
- Choice of 265 or 280 PS 2.0 TSI engines,
- Standard six-speed manual, with optional DSG gearbox,
- 3-door Sport Coupe or 5-door hatchback options available,
- Prices from £25,960 OTR
In comparison to the two previous generations of Leon Cupra, the third iteration looks somewhat more restrained with less to differentiate it from its normal stable mates. Compared to the regular Leon FR, only the slightly deeper (Golf R mimicking) front bumper, unique cut-outs below the grille, and bespoke rear-diffuser set the Cupra apart as packing more heat. It’s certainly attractive, and pays credit to the good looks of the base car, but you can’t help but feel SEAT have played it a little safe. Perhaps the bodykit hijinks will be reserved for a Cupra R model?
Power comes, predictably, from a 2.0 litre turbocharged petrol engine with two flavours on offer for the SC three-door: 265 PS (261 BHP) or 280 PS (276 BHP) with both churning out 258 lb-ft of torque. As seen with the recent Golf GTI, the Volkswagen Group strategy seems to involve producing two versions with slightly varying power levels and charging a premium for the higher output.In this case, the SC Cupra 280 version will cost an extra £1,250 but does come with standard 19-inch alloy wheels, gloss black mirror caps, black exterior mouldings, black rear roof spoiler, red brake calipers with Cupra logo and black interior inserts. Satellite navigation comes as standard with the 280 version too, offsetting some of the additional amount. Strangely, the five-door Cupra only appears to be offered with the 280 PS engine.
Performance is estimated to be suitably rapid, and improves on the previous generation car, with the 265 PS Cupra hitting 0-62 mph in 5.9 seconds. The 280 PS version lowers this to 5.8, whilst ticking the DSG gearbox option reduces this further to 5.7 seconds. All versions have a limited top-speed of 155 mph placing them in the ‘suitably rapid’ column. Official combined fuel economy ranges from 44.1 mpg for the manual car, to 42.2 mpg for the DSG equipped model, with CO2 of 149 and 155 g/km respectively. Not bad for something with such grunt.
Suspension wise, expect stiffer and lower springs/dampers compared to the FR model. Steering is via a variable electric power steering system which SEAT claims to use a progressively variable rack to offer the optimum between low-speed manoeuvrability and high-speed agility. Whether this setup will limit feel and feedback remains to be seen. A locking-differential for the front axle comes as standard, as is able to send up to 100% of torque to just one wheel if necessary. This should quell concerns of torque-steer from such a high amount of twist going through just the front wheels.
Two-stage ESC stability control comes fitted to the Cupra from the factory. The first stage deactivates just the traction control, and places the car into sport mode which allows for greater yaw angles before the ESC intervenes. Ideal if you want some lift-off oversteer action but without the ‘dab of oppo’ required to catch it. Stage two completely deactivates the stability control, leaving you at the mercy of the raw chassis and your talent alone.
Inside, the Leon Cupra looks dark and foreboding, with gloss black interior trim and sport seats in dark grey Alcantara. Standard kit includes full-LED headlights, DAB digital radio, SEAT Media System Plus, aluminium front door sill trims with Cupra logo, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights. Aluminium pedals also come fitted to emphasis the sporty nature of the Cupra, and give some much-needed bling to an otherwise ominous cabin. Passengers in the rear may well feel like they’ve entered a cave, with an already dark black headlining emphasised further by tinted rear windows.
In short, the new Leon Cupra builds on the previous model’s values of strong performance and keen value for money. With a base 220 PS Golf GTI starting at £26,000 the Cupra is easily able to outgun the Wolfsburg hatchback in terms of power per pound. Whether performance or badge snobbery matters more is down to the individual buyer, but with a three-door Cupra now on offer there’s even less reason not to want one.
Order books are open now, with the first UK deliveries expected in early March 2014. Get down to your SEAT dealer now if you want one, or take a look here on the SEAT website for more information.
EngageSportMode looks forward to seeing the Cupra on the road, and expectations are high given the strong reckoning made by the regular FR Leon, when driven by The Tame Geek. Personally, we’d like to see if the rumoured Cupra version of the Leon ST estate happens; that could give the Ford Focus Mountune a run for its money.