Car Reviews Motoring

Cupra Leon Hatch Review

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Yes, this is still a Leon, and, technically, it is still a Seat, too. But you won’t find a Seat badge anywhere near it, let alone on it.

And the separated Cupra brand is only too happy to distance itself from its roots if it means shifting more cars off the production line.

Copper-coloured styling is everywhere, which is part of Cupra’s design signature. At the same time, the bodywork is beefed up, with a roof spoiler overhanging the rear windows, a diffuser underneath the car, and quad-exhaust tailpipes at the back.

The model has also been lowered by a couple of centimetres over a standard Seat, with stiffer springs. This is aimed at improving the handling.

Another thing to consider, is that Seat (and therefore Cupra) is part of the VW group – so that means the Leon shares an awful lot of its makeup with the king of the hot hatches, the Volkswagen Golf GTi.

Our test car is the VZ3 trim with the 300PS engine – and that’s a good thing, as it’s the best lump, in our view. If you’re buying a hot hatch, you may as well have the top-spec mill to maximise the performance.

Unsurprisingly, with such muscle, its performance is as copious as you would expect, with zero to 62mph dealt with in sub-six seconds. Power is available across the rev range, while the car always feels like it’s got something in reserve, which it delivers with much aplomb.

A limited-slip differential sends the clout to whichever wheel has the most grip, improving the car’s cornering ability and overall handling. When you take a turn fast, you can feel the diff gripping at the front end to pull itself around the bend. The Leon also has excellent steering, which automatically adjusts its weight depending on the driving situation, making it feel very responsive.

The firmer ride resulting from the sports suspension is fine. This is thanks to the bucket sports seats, which support your back over bumps in the road, despite the low-profile tyres. It rides as flat as possible through the corners with minimal body roll, and it’s a contender, rather than a pretender, for the king of the hot hatches.

The Cupra Leon’s interior looks classy – it’s not up to the premium standards you’ll find in an Audi, for example, but it’s nicer than anything Ford has produced.

A sports steering wheel gives you something pleasant to hold, the sports seats provide you with something nice to sit in, and the aluminium pedals give you something attractive to put your feet on.

The driving position is good, and on the steering wheel, there is a start button to turn on the engine and another to select the driving mode. If you’re feeling brave, you can also turn off stability control from a switch.

The large touchscreen included with the infotainment system is sharp, and the interface is clear. Touch-sensitive sliders allow you to adjust settings, such as the temperature. Meanwhile, the digital instrument cluster gives you plenty of information and has several different display styles to choose from.

There is a surprising amount of headroom in the front, and even taller drivers will be impressed with the space. The back is similarly well-designed, with headroom and legroom both remarkably plentiful when you consider this is a relatively small car.

The Cupra Leon was put through its paces by Euro NCAP and earned a five-star safety rating. It scored 91% for adult occupants, 88% for children and 80% for safety assists.

There is plenty of kit on board aimed at protecting you in an accident or even preventing one in the first place. Automatic emergency braking will detect objects ahead and bring you to a stop, while lane-keep assist will ensure you don’t stray out of your lane on motorways.

Overall, the Cupra Leon is great. It is superb fun to drive, handles very well, and is a serious rival for the Golf GTi – a big claim! Plus, it’s practical for a car of its size.

Regardless of the trim you choose, the Leon packs in a lot as standard. And when you see the kit you get compared with the Golf GTi, it looks excellent value for money. On that note, the Cupra driven for this review was a model from 2023, so it’s even better value for money now if you’re after a used Cupra Leon!

A newer version has been launched this year (2024) – so watch this space for a review of the updated Cupra Leon soon!

Fast Facts – CUPRA Leon Hatch 2.0 TSI VZ3 – as tested:

  • Max speed: 155 mph
  • 0-62 mph: 5.5 secs
  • Fuel economy: 35.8 – 37.2 mpg
  • Engine layout: 1984cc four-cylinder turbo petrol
  • Max. power (PS): 300
  • CO2: 172 g/km
  • Price: £42,090

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