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SEAT Leon Cupra Review

heycar editorial team

Written by

heycar editorial team

SEAT Leon
SEAT Leon

1/10

1 / 10

00/10
heycar rating
"Subtle Spaniard swift but pricey "
  • Launched: 2014
  • Hot hatch
  • Petrol

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Quick overview

Pros

  • Searing pace of Estate
  • Enormous fun to drive
  • Restrained appearance

Cons

  • More expensive than many rivals
  • Small infotainment icons
  • Less steering feel than is ideal

Read by

SEAT Leon Cupra Front View

Overall verdict

SEAT Leon Cupra Front Interior

On the inside

SEAT Leon Cupra Front Side View

Driving

SEAT Leon Cupra Side Rear View

Cost to run

SEAT Leon Cupra Right Side View

Prices and Specs

Common questions

Common questions

Overall verdict

"The 2014 SEAT Leon Cupra has acted as a barometer of how much power was required to be considered among the top tier of hot hatches."

SEAT Leon Cupra Front View

Throughout its lifespan, this Leon Cupra’s engine output steadily grew in line with what was needed to fend off lesser rivals and keep the Spaniard very much in the running with the best in class such as the Ford Focus ST, Honda Civic Type R and, of course, the Volkswagen Golf GTI.


So, the Leon Cupra began with 265PS when it was unveiled in 2014. That seemed like a lot of poke back then, especially for a front-wheel drive hot hatch and only the likes of Vauxhall Astra VXR could outdo the Leon. To sort that, the Spanish firm introduced a 280PS version of the 2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder motor in 2015. That gave way in short order to a 290PS iteration of the engine and that’s what we have in the later five-door hatch models.


SEAT still wasn’t quite done with upping the ante, though, and for the Leon Cupra Estate power was increased to 300PS. This also comes with four-wheel drive and the same seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic gearbox as the hatch.


Even then, SEAT offered a limited edition Cupra R model with 310PS. Finding one will be the trickiest part as only 799 in total were produced. You’ll have similar problems tracking down the earlier Sub8 models built to mark the Leon Cupra lapping the Nürburgring in less than eight minutes, which is quite an achievement for any car.


Whichever Leon Cupra you choose, the brash wheel arches and colour schemes have been replaced with a toned down design and from a distance you’d be hard pressed to tell the Cupra apart from the standard SEAT Leon. Indeed, alongside the hatchback version, it's also available as an estate based on the SEAT Leon ST. Yet, under the bonnet, the new Cupra is still highly potent and tremendous fun.


The Leon is also renowned for its impressive handling and the Cupra builds on that. It may be one of the older members of the hot hatch brigade and has now been replaced by the Cupra Leon, which is part of a standalone sub-brand of SEAT, but it’s still a very entertaining, enjoyable car to drive.


All models get a limited slip front differential to help deal with the power of the engine and transmit it to the road without the wheels scrabbling for grip. Use the full force of the Leon Cupra and the 290PS hatch will dispense with 0-62mph in six seconds, which is on a par with the class best.


However, it’s the four-wheel drive estate model that steals the show and stands out as possibly the most practical fast wagon money can buy. It dashes off 0-62mph in just 4.9 seconds, making it quicker than Honda Civic Type R.


It may not be the most obvious choice of hot hatch, but you ignore the SEAT Leon Cupra at your peril if you’re in the market for this type of car.


Is the SEAT Leon Cupra right for you?

If you like hot hatches that are refined, civilised and honed to easy-living perfection, the SEAT Leon Cupra is possibly not the one for you. It’s not because the SEAT is difficult to live with, rowdy or unruly, it’s more that it has a nature that calls for it to be driven enthusiastically.


With 290PS from the front-drive hatch or 300PS in the all-wheel drive estate, both are right on the pace with the best in the sector. In fact, the wagon puts itself among the likes of the Mercedes-AMG A35 and Audi S3, yet it’s also able to carry big loads and all the family.


For this reason, we’d have the estate for its quicker pace, more versatile and spacious cabin and the fact that fast wagons always fly that little bit further under the radar of all but the keenest of hot hatch fans. It’s the fast car that your neighbours won’t notice, letting you get on with enjoying the car whenever the opportunity arises. The only caveat is the Cupra is a bit more expensive than rivals such as the Ford Focus, but then the estate is also quicker and comes with four-wheel drive as standard.


What’s the best SEAT Leon Cupra model/engine to choose?

There are two engine variants in the SEAT Leon Cupra, comprising a 290PS 2.0-litre turbo petrol in the five-door hatch and a 300PS version in the Estate. Both use a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic gearbox, but the wagon couples this to an all-wheel drive system whereas the hatch sticks with front-drive.


For the added sure-footedness of four-wheel drive, we’d err towards the Estate, and it has the happy side benefit of being quicker to accelerate thanks to better traction off the line. That’s a win-win.


You’ll also find the Estate has a big boot to make it handily versatile, though the hatch is far from cramped.


You can pick between standard Cupra spec or the Lux model that gains adaptive cruise control, heated front bucket seats, wireless phone charging, keyless entry and a driver fatigue warning. 


What other cars are similar to the SEAT Leon Cupra?

Anyone considering a SEAT Leon Cupra has several other options to think about. Not least among these is the Ford Focus ST that also comes in hatch or estate body shapes, though without the Leon Cupra Estate’s all-wheel drive. The Ford is quick and invigorating to drive, and also a bit cheaper than the SEAT.


The Honda Civic Type R is a more in-yer-face option to the subtle SEAT. Honda backs up the looks with superb performance and very crisp handling. Alternatively, Renault Megane R.S. models offer serious pace with practicality in a five-door hatch body shell, although some bits need to be added as options on the French machine.

Learn more

SEAT Leon Cupra Front Interior

On the inside

SEAT Leon Cupra Front Side View

Driving

SEAT Leon Cupra Side Rear View

Cost to run

SEAT Leon Cupra Right Side View

Prices and Specs

Common questions

Common questions

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