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2021 Cupra Leon Review

BODY TYPE: Hatchback
In February 2018, Spanish carmaker SEAT decided to spin off its performance division Cupra into a brand in its own right. In the two years that have passed since, Cupra handled a number of projects both for the mother company and for its own pleasure.
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In the years that preceded the separation, one of the most high profile Cupra-handled cars was the Leon. The successful Spanish hatchback was also the driving force behind Cupra for a long time, and it was only natural for the line to continue even under the new business arrangement.

In February 2020, SEAT launched the fourth generation of the Leon, and about one month later Cupra revealed its own interpretation of the model. Signaling the first time a Cupra Leon is ever made by the standalone brand, it is also the first one available with a hybrid powertrain, and is offered in both hatchback and wagon versions (estate, in Cupra speak).

1Exterior design & features

Heavily based on the SEAT Leon, the Cupra interpretation brings a host of visual changes that should make it stand out in its line as the more aggressive, high-performance version.

Build on VW’s MQB Evo platform shared with other cars belonging to the brands of the German group, the Leon measures 4,368 mm in length, and is 1,800 mm wide and 1,456 mm high.

Compared to the stock Leon, the Cupra interpretation boasts full LED front and rear lamps (at the back, the light bar spreads coast-to-coast), a larger front splitter and larger air intakes, a dark chrome front grille frame (the grille no longer has the SEAT emblem, but the Cupra one), and front wings and side mirrors in contrasting color.

The Cupra Leon mostly rides on special 19-inch alloy wheels, but some variants are offered with 18-inch ones.

The Cupra Leon can be wrapped in a choice of five metallic paints - (Candy White, Magnetic Tech, Midnight Black and Urban Silver) two special (Desire Red and Graphene Grey), and two exclusive matte paint options (Magnetic Tech Matte and Petrol Blue Matte).

2Interior design, features
and passenger space

The interior is not all that different from the stock Leon, but there are a few elements that make it unique to the Cupra range.

The dashboard is slim and supports the usual hardware, from the steering wheel to the left and infotainment screen at the center. In front of the dashboard sit bucket seats than can be wrapped in either a textile upholstery with PVC lateral coverings or black leather or blue textile.

The entire interior of the Cupra is sprinkled with copper and dark chrome detailing, dark aluminum on the door mouldings, and illuminated treadplates in the front doors.

As for luggage space, we're talking about the same numbers as in the SEAT Leon, namely 380 liters for the hatch and 617 liters for the estate.

3Gadgets

The infotainment system of the Cupra Leon is centered around a 10-inch screen with 3D online navigation and voice and gesture control.

The system runs the Full Link suite, meaning among other things it is compatible with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The car also ships with an app, called Connect, that allows remote control over a variety of features. In the case of the plug-in hybrid, that means the charging process can be managed from afar.

Keyless entry, ambient lighting and a built-in eSIM are also on the table when it comes to the Cupra Leon.

4Performance

The biggest changes can be found under the hood. Just like the SEAT Leon, the Cupra version boasts a large number of engines, but unlike it, the power rating is much greater.

Whereas the power output of the Leon ranges from 90 to 190 ps, the Cupra plays in the 245 – 310 ps range. All powerplants are linked to a dual clutch transmission.

There are three variants of the same 2.0-liter engine that cranks out 245, 300 and 310 ps, with torque rated in all cases at 400 Nm. The most powerful one can accelerate from 0 to 62 mph in 4.8 seconds, on the way to an electronically limited top speed of 250 kph (155 mph).

The biggest novelty is eHybrid. That means a combination between a 1.4-liter 150 internal combustion engine, a 115 ps electric motor, and a 13 kWh lithium-ion battery. They translate into a total of 245 ps, an all electric range of 60 km (37 miles), and recharge times of 3.5 hours using a 3.6 kW AC wallbox.

5Safety

There are some modifications made to the Cupra Leon that make it much better at handling the road at higher speeds than the stock version. Among them is the fitting of a sport suspension, large Brembo brakes, and several computerized systems to aid the car along.

The slightly different size of the Cupra Leon (the front and rear tracks are better matched with the width of the car) lets it handle higher speeds better, while the lowered front and rear ends (25 and 20 mm, respectively) make for a lower and much more effective center of gravity.

The computerized systems mentioned above include electronic power assisted steering and adaptive chassis control that can be set in one of four profiles, namely Comfort, Sport, Cupra and Individual.

6Conclusion

As said, this is the first time the Leon launches under the Cupra brand. There were such variants before, only they were a sort of a trim for the SEAT Leon. Even so, they proved extremely successful considering the size of the Spanish brand, and the previous SEAT Leon Cupra managed to become a bestseller, accounting for some 44,000 examples of the sales of the Spanish car.

The new Cupra Leon is available for preorder on the European continent, but it is to be expected the present coronavirus pandemic would affect at least initial sales, as Europe is fighting to confine the spread of the disease.