THIS car might well look rather familiar to you. That’s because it’s a Seat Leon.
But look a little closer, scratch the surface or squeeze the throttle and you will find this is no ordinary Leon.Scratch the surface or squeeze the throttle and you will find this is no ordinary Leon[/caption]
It’s a Cupra . . . and Cupra is Spanish for “hot”.
Well, sort of. There are 300 tablespoons of hot sauce in this most spicy of Leon hatchbacks – putting it slap-bang in the ring with the potent VW Golf GTi Clubsport and the Audi S3 Sportback (both chassis-sharing siblings, of course).
But this Cupra costs less than the GTi Clubsport. Some £2,350 less. And it looks better.
People will want to talk to you about it – and about that copper-coloured Transformer-esque badge on its grille.
But does it drive better than the venerable Golf?
Actually, that is harder to determine without back-to-back testing.This Cupra costs less than the GTi Clubsport – some £2,350 less, and it looks better[/caption]
And honestly, it doesn’t really need to, given the Golf’s appealing breadth of ability.
But there is a slew of savvy Spaniards back in Catalonia who will stake their livelihoods on its superiority, that’s for sure.
While adopting all the eminently family friendly practicalities that come from the sensible Seat Leon base – like the roomy fiver-seater cabin, generous 380-litre boot and solid build quality – there are a few things inherited that are sub-prime.
The scratchy hard plastics near where your legs go, for instance.
And that frustratingly counter-intuitive infotainment touchscreen you will end up wanting as little to do with as possible.
Copper is the colour of Cupra.
And you will notice little splashes of the bronzy tint dotted about the interior, from the stitching on the racy flat-bottomed steering wheel and the supportive sports seats to the air vent surrounds and the default ambient lighting that visually unites the doors and attractively layered dashboard.
SMILE ON YOUR FACE
But there are nine other colours of illumination to experiment with should you want to stray off-brand.
Like the Golf GTi Clubsport, this Cupra Leon comes exclusively with a seven-speed, dual-clutch gearbox.
Which is a shame for hot hatch fanatics but a boon for the less break-necked among us who will need to occasionally drive the thing sensibly and easily in start-stop traffic.
For a front wheel-driven car with tons of torque on tap, it feels wonderfully grippy, even on the damp Welsh mountain roads where I tested it.
Accurate steering inspires further confidence behind the wheel when maintaining pace.
And then there are those pops and bangs that fart out of the quadruple exhaust pipes when you are in the bespoke Cupra drive mode.
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The only problem with this is the lack of a shortcut button to activate it – or toggle through more economic or comfort-based drive modes – so you have to faff your way via a couple of on-screen sub-menus to uncork it.
This car doesn’t scream the arrival of Cupra like the bespoke Cupra Formentor SUV does or the forthcoming EV, Cupra Born, will.
But it can slip into family life seamlessly, put a smile on your face when the time is right and save you a couple of quid with a dash of exclusivity for free.
Key facts: Cupra Leon
Engine: 2-litre turbo petrol
Power: 300hp, 400Nm
0-62mph: 5.7 secs
Top speed: 155mph