Cupra Leon review

Category: Hot hatch

Section: Performance & drive

Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 rear cornering
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 front right tracking
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 rear cornering
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior dashboard
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior rear seats
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior infotainment
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 front right tracking
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 rear tracking
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 front right static
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 rear left static
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 right tracking
  • Cupra Leon Estate 2021 right tracking
  • Cupra Leon Estate 2021 rear right tracking
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior front seats
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior driver display
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior detail
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 front light detail
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 rear lights detail
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 alloy wheel detail
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 boot open
  • Cupra Leon Estate 2021 boot open
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 front right tracking
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 rear cornering
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior dashboard
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior rear seats
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior infotainment
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 front right tracking
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 rear tracking
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 front right static
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 rear left static
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 right tracking
  • Cupra Leon Estate 2021 right tracking
  • Cupra Leon Estate 2021 rear right tracking
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior front seats
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior driver display
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 interior detail
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 front light detail
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 rear lights detail
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 alloy wheel detail
  • Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 boot open
  • Cupra Leon Estate 2021 boot open
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

The driving experience offered by the different versions of the Cupra Leon is actually surprisingly different.  

Let's start with the 300 hatchback which, like all Cupra Leons, has a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine under the bonnet. The power (296bhp) is sent to the front wheels which does limit how quickly the car can accelerate away from the mark, but a 0-62mph time of 5.7 seconds is hardly shabby.

The worst news, though, is that the plug-in hybrid’s battery adds weight, and that rather dampens any thrills in the bends. Where the Honda Civic Type R is like driving a racing car on the road and the Renault Megane RS’s tail-sliding antics are a pleasure seeker's paradise, the Leon eHybrid is a bit forgettable. The issue of weight taints the driving experience offered by the 310 estate a bit, too; it weighs 160kg more than the 300 hatch, so never feels as eager to make quick changes of direction as its sibling. The margins here are smaller, though, and the extra traction the estate has courtesy of four-wheel drive does help it feel more composed and planted on greasy roads.

Every Cupra Leon has plenty of grip, and you can make rapid progress in all of them, but it’s the 310 estate that gets our vote for being the the best to drive relative to its peers, including the Focus ST Estate and Mini Clubman JCW. It also has the nicest steering, because there's less 'torque steer' – a phenomenon during which the steering wheel pulls left then right in your hands as you accelerate hard.

All of the Leon Cupras we’ve driven so far have come with adaptive suspension, which, like the Golf GTI’s, have three simple main settings (Comfort, Sport and Cupra) but also a number of settings beyond and in between those three, so you can really fine tune things. The trouble is that, while you can make the Cupra very compliant over softer folds in the road, anything sharp creates more of a thwack that it would in a Civic Type R or Golf GTI.

What’s more, the PHEV’s brakes aren’t hugely confidence inspiring. A hot hatchback should have resolutely consistent and progressive brakes, but as the eHybrid’s regenerative system tries to recoup energy for the battery as you slow down, the brake pedal’s feel changes disconcertingly. They’re good by the standards of an ordinary PHEV, just not by the standards of hot hatchbacks. Happily the brakes fitted to the 300 and 310 estate are much more confidence-inspiring, allowing you to press on without fearing you’ll be able to shed pace quickly when required. Opt for the larger alloy wheel option with Brembo brakes and you’ll get an appreciable improvement in bite in the pedal’s initial travel.

Cupra Leon Hatchback 2021 rear cornering
New car deals
Save up to £374
Target Price from £32,241
Save up to £374
or from £345pm
Swipe to see used and leasing deals
Nearly new deals
From £33,999
Leasing deals
From £298pm