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Driven: 2022 Cupra Leon 2.0 TSI VZ2 300 DSG. Image by Cupra.

Driven: 2022 Cupra Leon 2.0 TSI VZ2 300 DSG
Seat spin-off brand Cupra has put a 300hp petrol engine in a Leon hatchback. The results are fantastic.

   



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Cupra Leon 2.0 TSI VZ2 300 DSG

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The Cupra premise is an interesting one. Once merely a moniker by which Seat's high-performance models were known, it has grown to become its own brand, building sporty and futuristic models of its own (see the Formentor and Born). But it's still churning out go-faster versions of Seat models, and this is one of them. Now called the Cupra Leon (rather than Seat Leon Cupra), it's what happens when you take a standard Leon hatchback, then give it a 300hp kick up the backside.

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2022 Cupra Leon Hatch 2.0 TSI VZ2 300 DSG
Price: £37,705 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Transmission: seven-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Power: 300hp
Torque: 400Nm
Emissions: 171g/km
Economy: 35.8-37.2mpg
0-62mph: 5.7 seconds
Top speed: 155mph
Boot space: 380 litres

Styling

The Cupra Leon is essentially identical to the Seat Leon in terms of the basic shape, but there are some performance orientated changes. There's a more aggressive body kit with four exhausts, and of course there's Cupra's millennial-spec bronze badging. Add in some carbon-effect trim around the badge on the tailgate and some smart machined alloy wheels, and you've got Cupra's take on the Leon. It's an attractive car, but the Cupra logo is hardly the sexiest thing ever pinned on the nose of a hot hatchback. It won't be for everyone.

Interior

As with the exterior, the Cupra Leonís cabin is nigh on identical to that of the Seat Leon. Thereís the same basic dashboard architecture, the same gear selector and the same steering wheel, albeit with a Cupra badge in the middle. Of course, Cupra has jazzed it up a bit with some bespoke trim and more bronze, as well as a dark brushed metal-effect panel across the centre of the dashboard.

The advantage of the similarities is you get the same smart design, complete with central touchscreen and digital instrument display, as well as the same solidity and quality. The materials used are generally very good, aside from a few harder, cheaper plastics below knee level, and the way in which theyíre stitched together is highly impressive. The Cupra feels really solid.

That said, it uses the latest-generation Volkswagen Group technology, which has been hit-and-miss in our experience. We didnít have any issues in our time with the car, except for an intermittent problem with the cruise control, but we have had problems with VW Group touchscreens in the past. Perhaps those issues are sorted now Ė the group has certainly had long enough to work on it Ė but the screens are still needlessly complicated and difficult to navigate. And that, combined with the touch-sensitive heater and volume controls, is the biggest black mark against the Leonís name.

Practicality

The transition from Seat to Cupra has made no difference to the Leon's practicality, so you still get a 380-litre boot that's more than big enough for most people's needs. Sure, Top Trumps enthusiasts will notice it's one litre smaller than that of the Golf, but that's an infinitesimally small difference in the great scheme of things. Those worried about space can go for the roomier estate, but there's no great need to do so. The Leon will easily carry four adults and some luggage.

Performance

Although the Leon Cupra was once essentially a one-shot deal Ė a go-faster version of the Leon with little room for manoeuvre Ė the new Cupra Leon offers a little more choice. There are two 2.0-litre petrol engines on offer, with the basic car getting the 245hp engine from a Golf GTI, while the 300hp version tested here uses the engine from an Audi S3. And, if you ask nicely, Cupra will also sell you a 245hp plug-in hybrid version.

All three are quick, but this 300hp option is the one to have. With that power all going to the front wheels via a seven-speed automatic gearbox, itís capable of 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds, while the 245hp version takes 6.4 seconds to achieve the same feat. Neither is slow, but the 300hp version is properly fast.

Yet despite that speed, itís surprisingly efficient. On a long run, our test car was returning around 45mpg without trying, and thatís good going for something this fast. The plug-in hybrid is the efficiency champ, however, although achieving its quoted three-figure economy will take more than a little planning. Charge regularly, keep journeys short and only occasionally venture beyond the official 34-mile range and you might get somewhere near.

Ride & Handling

The Leon might have plenty of performance, but that isn't much use if the suspension and structure can't cope with it. Fortunately, the Cupra is good fun in a mature sort of way. It doesn't have the immediacy or the agility of a Ford Focus ST, but it's as good as the Golf R with which it shares so much. That's despite only having front-wheel drive, whereas the Golf drives all four wheels.

Even so, the Cupra has plenty of grip and adequate traction, with no real threat of spinning the front wheels unless it's wet. The steering doesn't have much feel, but the Cupra still darts into corners willingly, and it's happy to turn at pretty impressive speeds. But while the Leon handles tidily, the more impressive aspect is the ride. In its softest modes, the Cupra is very nearly as comfortable as the Seat-badged sibling, only really getting firm in Sport or Cupra modes. On a long drive at high speed, it's just as comfortable as a more conventional hatchback.

Value

Cupra Leon prices start at £33,100, which makes the go-faster hatchback about £10,000 cheaper than the entry-level Seat Leon. However, once you've got a posher Leon FR with a 190hp petrol engine, the Cupra costs a mere £800 more. Admittedly, basic Cupra Leon has 245hp, but it's still faster than the Seat equivalent and you won't want for toys. You get 18-inch alloys, satellite navigation and the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone tech, not to mention a rear-view camera, digital instrument display and three-zone climate control.

Verdict

We were already big fans of the Leon, and this Cupra version is a great way of sharpening up the family hatchback. We'd probably opt for the five-door estate version with all-wheel drive solely on the grounds of versatility, but this is a properly sorted hatchback. It's like a Golf GTI for people who don't want a Golf. It's just a shame about the badge and the millennial copper trim...



James Fossdyke - 24 Aug 2022



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