New Cupra Leon (sort of) plugs in

Published: 20 February 2020

► All-new Cupra Leon has arrived
► A PHEV, a 306bhp AWD one and an estate
► Based on Seat's 2020 Leon family car

SEAT’s performance/luxury arm – Cupra – has unveiled its latest model, the Leon. Like the larger Ateca that arrived in 2018 to debut the brand, changes are made up of lopping off the SEAT badges, throwing some new Cupra logos all over it, adding some big wheels, copper exterior detailing and putting a powerful engine under the bonnet.

But there’s a little more to it than that.

Ahead of Cupra-specific models like the Formentor and Tavascan, the Leon will grow Cupra’s range thanks to a choice of petrol and plug-in power, with no less than four different options across two body styles.

And with over 44,000 sales of the old Leon Cupra under its belt, a Cupra-badged Leon should be a promising way of continuing to build a brand.

What’s the styling about?

We’ve been here before trying to suss out Cupra’s tribal-style logo and copper bits. And now other companies have cottoned on, it’s not all that unusual. There are some more aggressive vents and grilles compared with the regular SEAT Leon, but it’s nowhere near as out-there as a Renault Megane RS or Honda Civic Type R.

But bigger wheels, those copper bits and some quad exhausts (on particular models) round off what’s quite a tame look. You do get matte paint and some interesting alloy options with an aero style, the reserve of plug-in hybrid models (more on that further down), though.

Inside there are a few changes over the regular car too. Some chunky sports seats should keep you in place, while a tweaked digi-dial setup has a sportier option for when you’re in Cupra or Sport modes. Which, incidentally, you can flick between via a Cupra button on the steering wheel. A prominent one at that.

Cupra Leon estate

Instead of somewhere on the centre console, the drive mode selector switch and the engine starter button are now on the steering wheel, taking influence from the Audi R8 (not a bad place to start), but cars like the Hyundai i30 N already have this for the drive mode selection.

Otherwise it’s business as usual with big screens, not many buttons and the new shift-by-wire gear selector that’ll also be found on the new Skoda Octavia vRS and Golf GTI. Throw in some copper trim and Cupra logos and it’s job done. It’s nice to see they haven’t gone completely overboard with the branding though, and the exterior add-ons are more tasteful than on the larger Ateca.

What’s under the bonnet?

Bear with us – this is about to get complicated. Kicking off the range will be a 2.0-litre TSI with 242bhp, using a DSG transmission driving the front wheels. Next up is a 296hp version of this engine with the same transmission arrangement. Both of these are available as a hatch or Sportstourer estate.

There’s also a 306bhp option with 4Drive all-wheel drive, the reserve of the estate body only. The previous model impressed (especially with Abt upgrades and a good dose of extra power), so this bodes well. Cupra promises a 0-62mph time of 4.8 seconds for this model, but there’s no info on the other engines just yet.

More importantly, Cupra’s introducing a plug-in hybrid option this time around, just like Skoda and VW equivalents. Using a 1.4 TSI petrol with electric motor, total output is 242bhp and 295lb/ft of torque.

Full performance figures for this model are yet to be revealed, but a 37-mile all-electric range will make you feel less guilty about driving a hot hatch around town at least. Charging at home on a regular socket should take around six hours (less with a wallbox).

Anything else I should know?

The usual choice of driving modes are available – controlled via that switch on the steering wheel. Comfort, Sport, Cupra and Individual options are your choices, and you can use a slider on the screen to adjust the sensitivity of particular parameters – including the DCC adaptive dampers.

 

Up front there’s MacPherson struts with multi-link setup at the rear, while standard-fit Brembo brakes help to stop the thing. It also sits lower than the regular Leon – 25mm at the front and 20mm at the back.

When can I buy one?

The regular Leon is due to arrive in the summer, so the Cupra version is likely to follow soon after. SEAT’s busy updating its showrooms, many of which have dedicated Cupra Corners (yes, really), meaning you sit among slightly different branded surroundings and might get a sportier cup of coffee. Or something like that.

By Tom Goodlad

Bauer Automotive's continuity editor and CAR contributor

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