2014 Seat Leon Cupra review

  • Rival to the Golf GTI
  • 261bhp or 276bhp versions available
  • On sale now, priced from £25,690

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The 2014 Seat Leon Cupra is a new hot hatch designed to hit the middle ground between the race-bred brilliance of the Renaultsport Megane and the fast, but easygoing nature of the Volkswagen Golf GTI.

The Cupra is based on the same underpinnings as the GTI and comes in two states of tune – with 261bhp or 276bhp. It also gets a Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) system that alters the steering, accelerator responses, suspension and even the noise. There are three standard modes (Comfort, Sport and Cupra) and an Individual setting that you can tailor to your own desires.

Prices kick off from £25,690 for the 261bhp three-door Leon SC Cupra and rise to £28,525 for the full-fat 276bhp five-door Leon, which means the Leon Cupra is no bargain option. It’ll have to be good.

What’s the 2014 Seat Leon Cupra like to drive?

We drove the 261bhp Leon SC Cupra and the five-door Leon Cupra 280 with a manual gearbox and a DSG automatic.

Both engines pull strongly from low revs and sing right the way up to the redline, although the higher-powered model does have a slightly harder hit at medium and high revs. You’d rarely notice this extra punch in everyday driving conditions, though, because all Cupras will get to 62mph from rest in less than six seconds.

In each version the manual gearbox is light and accurate, so there’s little chance of you grabbing the wrong gear at an inopportune moment. The DSG auto will suit those who spend much of their time driving in town, but it genuinely saps much of the car’s character when you want your Leon Cupra to entertain; we’d save the cash and stick with the manual.

The steering is meaty and accurate, and conveys a reasonable amount of sensation to your palms. A standard front differential means traction out of corners is strong and there’s none of the to-and-fro steering tug that afflicts rivals such as the Ford Focus ST, either.

The 261bhp Cupra comes with 18-inch alloys as standard, fitted with Continental tyres, whereas the 276bhp version gets 19-inch wheels and Bridgestone rubber. The difference is immediately noticeable, no matter which setting the DCC system is in.

Admittedly, we drove the cars on fairly unsullied Spanish roads, but nonetheless the way the 261bhp car rides is great; it smooths away bumps and is unfazed by ruts, ripples or potholes. It also grips well and changes direction crisply.

The more powerful version is still comfortable, but more of the road’s imperfections make it through to your backside. There’s also more road noise. However, the upside is that it grips even more strongly through corners and traction is even more resolute when you accelerate hard. Of the two, the more powerful car is undeniably the more capable, but its little brother is actually the more enjoyable.

What’s the 2014 Seat Leon Cupra like inside?

There’s not that much to differentiate the Cupra from lesser models in the range. It has the same, clear, efficient dashboard and the same slightly questionable plastics lower down. 

However, you do grip a thick-rimmed, sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel, and the grey dials ahead certainly have some fairly serious numbers on them. 

Your body, and that of your passenger, is held in place by suitably hefty-looking sports seats that are trimmed in grey Alcantara. 

It's easy to get in the back of the three-door, and there’s decent space back there when you do. That said, the five-door is unsurprisingly the more practical option if you regularly need to carry more than one passenger.

Either version has more than enough boot space for the average person’s needs.

Cupra owners will have plenty of toys to play with because the car comes with climate control, an upgraded media and sound system, cruise control, heated door mirrors and full LED headlights and rear lights as standard.

Should I buy one?

We do worry that the Leon Cupra isn’t quite cheap enough. A starting price of £25,690 seems steep when you consider that a range-topping Ford Focus ST-3 (which has five doors as standard) costs just £25,495.

However, compare the Cupra with the Golf GTI and it seems like a bit more of a bargain. The 261bhp Leon Cupra SC is £435 less than the equivalent GTI, and while the five-door Cupra (which is available only in 276bhp guise) is actually £460 more expensive than the five-door GTI, it has a whole lot more performance.

In fact, it’s on more of a performance par with the Volkswagen Golf R, which costs north of £30k. Yes, a Golf will probably hold on to its value better, but you don’t buy a hot hatch simply because it makes a good investment. You buy one because it’ll be a proper hoot when you want it to be and unobtrusive the rest of the time. If that’s the case, the Leon Cupra has it nailed. 

What of the Renaultsport Megane? Well, the Cupra is definitely less focused than that car, but it’ll be a whole lot easier to live with every day, and again it’s a lot cheaper.

What Car? says...



Rivals

Ford Focus ST

Volkswagen Golf GTI

Specification
Engine size 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Price from £25,690
Power 261bhp
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 5.9 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 44.1mpg
CO2 154g/km

Specification
Engine size 2.0-litre turbo petrol
Price from £26,940
Power 276bhp
Torque 258lb ft
0-62mph 5.8 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel economy 44.1mpg
CO2 149g/km

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