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SEAT Leon Cupra (2012 - 2020) Review

Is the hottest Leon anything to shout about? Well, we think it is; it has the sporty looks, as well as the handling to take on the more mainstream competitors.

Starting price:
From £28,380

From £28,380
  • Sporty exterior design
  • Acceleration
  • Comfortable seats and driving position
  • Manual gearbox – get it as an automatic
  • Overall interior material quality
  • Price
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With Seat, despite the brand not being one of the most mainstream, you can pretty much bet on it as a brand and an investment. As it uses Volkswagen parts; for example this Leon Cupra uses the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, so shares its running gear with the likes of the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and the Skoda Octavia. Also the same 2.0-litre TSI engine as Golf GTI , you can pretty much guarantee that you’re onto a good product – oh, and one that doesn’t cost as much as its competitors I just mentioned. However, the Leon Cupra punches above its price tag and comes with equipment you have to pay extra for on the Volkswagen Golf GTI. Front limited-slip differential for example is standard on this, which you have to pay for on the Golf. If you take the Honda Civic, for example though, it looks a little bland in comparison.

On The Road

Seat Leon Cupra review


The Seat Leon Cupra is powered by a 2.0-litre TSI turbo engine which has been pretty heavily tuned to 286bhp. This power output makes the model Seat’s most powerful hatchback, and one of the hottest on our roads. By adding the limited-slip differential and new XDS electronic technology, Seat has controlled the torque steer that would normally be created by such power in a front-wheel drive vehicle. The limited-slip differential is capable of moving 100% of its power to either of the front wheels, making use of the most available grip through tight corners. Torque power levels sit at 350Nm at around 1700rpm, meaning that if you choose the manual transmission you’re not forever changing gears to get anywhere. Again, focussing on our test mule, which features a manual gearbox, its 0-62mph sprint comes in at 5.8seconds – if you go for the DSG automatic, though, you’ll chop another second off that time. Top speed is electronically limited to 155mph.

Seat Leon Cupra review

Ride Handling

This car can handle. That electronically-controlled limited-slip differential does wonders to take you into a corner and take you back out of it safely, keeping understeer at bay.

The steering, however, could be a little heavier, but isn’t uncomfortably light and you can turn it through the corners and it feels just as direct. The Leon Cupra has a driver mode called Cupra which stiffens up the suspension somewhat, for a sportier drive – it also hightens its noise. Driver modes include Comfort, Normal and Cupra (its Sport button), which controls the dampers and their stiffness. Even in sport mode, though, the car isn’t too stiff, certainly not uncomfortable on even the longest of journeys. Plus, if you’re in sport mode, you’re generally too focused on your driving to care, but comfort mode is there if you just fancy sitting back and having a relaxing drive. Seat even set a Nurburgring front-wheel drive lap record, back in May 2015, of 7minutes and 58seconds, which was fitted with Seat’s optional Sub-8 package. The Volkswagen Golf Clubsport SVW's – the hottest Golf GTI yet and even more powerful than even the four-wheel-drive Golf R – smashed the Nurburgring, Nordschleife record, recording a time of 7minutes 49.21seconds, back in May.

And if you do fancy a little track action, those stability control technologies can be switched off.

Seat Leon Cupra review


The Leon Cupra produces some noise, but not in an annoying way. For everyday life, the car sounds good, but to give it a little more oomph the Cupra button takes the whole thing to another level. One thing about the Seat is, and all Volkswagen Group vehicles really, is that everything seems to fit together well; wind noise is limited and there are no annoying rattling noises through the cabin when driving at motorway speeds, or on very open roads. In a bid to increase sales, the Seat Leon Cupra has become a little sanitised, but in Seat’s efforts to create a hot compact hatchback, the results are wonderful. The Seat Leon Cupra has a perfect blend of entertainment, functionality, everyday usability and off-the-wall power and handling when you need it, with refinement that challenges even the more expensive in its class. No, it’s not cheap, but there’s no denying that it’s ruddy good. 

In The Car

Seat Leon Cupra review

Behind the Wheel

The Seat Leon Cupra does fall down a little here. It really depends what you want from a car for the money. For slightly more than the Golf, as standard, you get more performance and driving related extra thrown in for no extra cost, such as the limited-slip differential I previously mentioned. But to counter that cost, interior quality lacks somewhat. The inside is all still very functional, which all of what you need, but the ‘grade’ of plastic, if you will, is slightly lesser than the more premium generally used by Volkswagen. I rather like how clean the interior is – all buttons and knobs are well-placed, meaning easy-use for the driver. You can tell it’s all really been thought about in the building process, making for a real driver’s hatchback. Inside features all the mod-cons you would expect. Air conditioning, touchscreen satnav, USB port and adaptive cruise control are all included – Surprisingly, I’ve not switched the air-con off all week. But, if that’s just not enough for you, there’s a Black upgrade, featuring special 19-inch alloy wheels, more bucket’y bucket seats and Black Line trim feature. Another add-on is the Sub8 Performance Pack, which includes uprated Brembo brakes, semi-slick Michelin tyres, lighter 19-inch wheels and chunkier side sill design.

Seat Leon Cupra review

Space & Practicality

The model is available as a five-door or a three-door (named SC Cupra). Oh, and there’s even an estate ST Cupra model available – so there should be no problems with space. Seating position is good – you’re able to move your seat forward and back, as well as lowering it down, depending on your driving style. The steering wheel can be adjusted by rake and height, working at one with those seat adjustments for the perfect driving position. It is a drivers’ car afterall. Overall practicality will depend on which model you choose; the three-door SC comes in slightly shorter (52mm) than the five-door, so there’s inevitably slightly less legroom and headroom. Boot space is respectable, with 480-litres, although still down on the Renault Megane’s 505-litres. Fold down its seats, though, and this space rises to 1,210-litres.


Seat Leon Cupra review

Running Costs

As I previously mentioned the Seat Leon Cupra doesn’t cost as much as competitors, where the Volkswagen Group is concerned. However, you can pick up a Honda Civic Type R for around the same price. Check out our write up on that here. But, in terms of running costs, the Leon Cupra performs relivitely well for a hot-hatch. The three-door Leon Cupra SC (complete with DSG auto gearbox) for example returns up to 43.5mpg combined – it all depends on how heavy your right foot is. CO2 values come in between 149g/km and 156g/km, depending on which size model you go for and whether you go for manual or automatic transmission, meaning road tax costs of around £150-£180. The Seat Leon Cupra currently sits in insurance group 35, so it’s not exactly cheap on insurance, but not all bad for a hot-hatch.

Seat Leon Cupra review

Quality & Reliability

For some slight peace of mind is that Seat vehicles all come as standard with a three-year warranty (or 60,000 miles) – which, granted, isn’t as good as the likes of Kia and SsangYong’s five-year warranty, but is still a peace of mind of sorts. An added warranty is available, however, for private owners, increasing the warranty to four years and 75,000 miles or five years and 90,000 miles. Customers will need to service their vehicles every 20,000 miles, but there are service plans available, which means you agree a fixed price upon purchase, helping to avoid any unexpected servicing bills.

Safety & Security

NCAP has given the Seat Leon Cupra a five-star rating; so safety is of the very highest standard. Standard safety features also include emergency brake assist and lane assist. Electronic stability control is also included as standard. Seat’s ESC system monitors steering, wheels, brakes and acceleration, engaging the brakes to individual wheels if skidding or instability is detected. Tiredness detection technology, as well as high-beam assist (which activates the high-beam headlights, should it think you need them, then deactivates upon an approaching car or daylight), are available as optional extras.  

Buy and save on quality approved and used cars
By Danielle Bagnall
Aug 16, 2016

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