Cupra Leon long-term test

The new Cupra Leon is a hoot to drive and one of our favourite hot hatches, but what’s it like to live with on a daily basis? We’re finding out...

Cupra Leon long-term test tile

The car Cupra Leon 2.0 TSI 300 DSG VZ2 Run by Mark Pearson, used cars editor

Why it’s here To find out if this ultra-sporty Cupra Leon can cut it against some seriously good hot-hatch competition

Needs to Prove it’s more than just a pretty face. It must be both tremendous fun to drive and able to cope with all the usual work and family duties 

Mileage 3622 Price £35,575 Target Price £35,229 Price as tested £36,155 Official economy 37.2mpg Test economy 34.1mpg Dealer price now £30,336  Private price now £26,965 Trade-in price now £27,275 Expenses Fuel £370

13 January 2022 –  Parting is such sweet sorrow

That age-old question of what might be the best car in the world really depends upon which world you inhabit. For some, it’ll be a luxury car with a whisper-quiet engine and a pillow-soft ride. For others, it’d be a rip-snorting roadburner so fast its top speed is counted in light years, and with an interior so uncomfortable that only the very young can get in or out of it with any dignity. 

Cupra Leon LT

Somewhere in the middle lies the hot hatch. I’ve always loved them, which is why until just recently a Cupra Leon, one of the most impressive and versatile of the latest crop, graced my driveway. For me, its mixture of sporting performance, family-friendly practicality and a smart and upmarket appearance ticked every box and must, therefore, in its way, make it the best car in my world. 

Such a claim needs justification. Performance? Well, mine had a 296bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine under the bonnet, driving the front wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox, and it produced enough oomph to propel the car from 0-62mph in just 5.7sec and on to a top speed of 155mph. 

To drive it was eager, sweet and faithful, with quick steering and plenty of grip, and with a ride that was impressively comfortable for something so orientated towards performance.  

Cupra Leon LT

It was practical and family-friendly, too, with plenty of room for my brood and a boot large enough to cope with a quick trip to the tip, or an Ikea shop, or a week’s worth of holiday luggage. 

And it was well equipped. I chose the mid-range VZ2 trim, which included 19in alloy wheels, three-zone climate control, a 10.0in touchscreen with smartphone integration, a rear-view camera and front and rear parking sensors. Elsewhere I benefited from sporty bucket seats, which were both comfortable and supportive, and a neat perforated and flat-bottomed steering wheel, which felt good to touch.

I added a couple of options to mine. I couldn’t resist the metallic Desire Red paintwork, and a Safety and Driving pack, which added a road-sign display, high beam assist and predictive and adaptive cruise control. Of those, both the road-sign display and high beam assist were useful but could occasionally let you down, with some wildly inaccurate speed signs and a failure to light up high beam on occasions when it would have been possible to do so.

Cupra Leon

Affordability? Well, my car had an on-the-road price of £36,155, including the options, or it would have been £35,125 without, which is a fair bit cheaper than the subcutaneously similar Volkswagen Golf GTI. In its time with me, it averaged 34.1mpg, which is not at all bad a figure for something that spent a lot of its time in urban traffic, only occasionally enlightened by the odd motorway or A-road blast. 

And let's not forget the way it looks. I loved the hexagonal patterns on the front grille and the door mirrors and the interior air vents. Those alloys were pretty neat, too, as was the quad exhaust setup at the back, and the detailing around the brakes. It all looked sufficiently purposeful, in a hot hatch-stylee, without being overly vulgar, and I liked that. 

Negatives? The infotainment system was a bit awkward, being slow to start up, sluggish to respond and difficult to use on the move. The lane-keep assist safety feature was sporadic in its workings and would tug me violently back on what it perceived, often wrongly, to be the right course. Oh, and the flappy paddles behind the steering wheel were too small.    

Cupra Leon LT

Apart from that, though, it was a great all-rounder: sporty, practical and smart. So, the best car in the world? As I said, depends on your world, but there’s no doubt this is one of the best of all the current crop of hot hatches, and certainly one of the nicest to live with. 

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