Seat plots 296bhp AWD Leon ST Cupra

Published: 18 November 2016

 Next Leon Cupra to pack 296bhp
 ST variant to get all-wheel drive
 Due to arrive in early 2017

The next-generation Seat Leon Cupra will benefit from all-wheel drive and a power hike to 296bhp, although the former will only be available on the ST estate model.

Hatchback models will remain strictly front-wheel drive, although the Spanish manufacturer didn’t rule out an even hotter version with power to all four corners – like the Ford Focus RS – suggesting it could be on the cards if there was a market for it.

For now, though, those looking for extra cornering and standing-start traction will have to opt for the Leon Cupra wagon or off-road X-perience models.

European buyers will also be able to add AWD to the standard Leon ST with a 2.0-litre, 148bhp diesel engine from 2017, but this option won’t make it to the UK.

Wait, why no AWD Leon Cupra hatch?

Andrew Shepherd, an expert from Seat’s technical centre, suggested Cupra models had traditionally offered a front-wheel drive set-up and the lack of AWD was also down to ‘marketing reasons’.

It’s certainly not a packaging issue – the MQB platform has already spawned the Audi S3 and VW Golf R, both featuring AWD and around 300bhp from a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine. Perhaps cost and sales figures are a legitimate concern for Seat, but not offering an AWD derivative does also avoid competition with the Group’s other, more prominent products.

Currently, the VW Golf R Estate cracks 0-62mph in 5.1 seconds – while the front-driven Leon Cupra 290 hatchback takes 5.7 seconds. If Seat were to offer a similar ST version, with more power and AWD, it would likely perform in a similar fashion to the VW.

New tech on the horizon, too

The Leon will get digital instrumentation late in 2017, similar to Audi’s Virtual Cockpit but with greater personalisation.

We’ve seen this added to VW cars like the Passat – and it has been promised on Skoda models from early 2017 – so it’s a logical move to include it on SEATs too.

The new 296bhp Leon Cupra hatchback and ST will be rolling off the line in early 2017.

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By Adam Binnie

Bauer Automotive's commercial content editor; likes bikes and burgers, often over-tyred