Volkswagen and Skoda might have teased their new compact hot hatches, but it’s SEAT that fully reveals its new weapon by introducing the Cupra Leon. After three generations, the speedy Leon no longer bears the SEAT logo as it now transitions to the recently founded Cupra brand to join the high-performance Ateca and the forthcoming Formentor crossover.
Much like its SEAT-badged predecessors, the Cupra Leon is going to be available as a hatchback or a more practical wagon named Sportstourer. But unlike the previous fast Leons, the new one will be offered for the first time ever with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. The PHEV variant will combine a turbocharged 1.4-liter gasoline engine with an electric motor for a total output of 242 horsepower and 400 Newton-meters (295 pound-feet) of torque.
Gallery: 2021 Cupra Leon Plug-in Hybrid
Available in both body styles, the electrified model will offer up to 37 miles (60 kilometers) of pure electric range based on the WLTP cycle. Once you run out of battery juice, a full recharge from a domestic plug will take six hours, but you can lower that time to only three and a half hours by using a Wallbox.
The same amount of horsepower but a slightly lower 370 Nm (273 lb-ft) will be available for the conventionally powered Leon featuring a 2.0-liter TSI engine. In hatchback form, this specification will be the most affordable way to get behind the wheel of a Cupra Leon, but you’ll be able to order one as a wagon as well should you need the extra cargo volume.
Interested in more oomph? Cupra will sell you a hotter Leon hatch or wagon with a meaty 296 hp and the same 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) of torque as the plug-in hybrid. These front-wheel-drive versions have an electronic limited-slip differential to optimize power delivery to the wheels depending on the steering angle and other characteristics.
Gallery: 2021 Cupra Leon ST
But wait, there’s more. Available exclusively with all-wheel-drive, the flagship Cupra Leon Sportstourer will up the power ante by 10 to a grand total of 306 hp while retaining the 400 Nm (295 lb-ft) torque. While performance numbers for the lesser versions have not been provided, we do know the range topper completes the 0 to 62 mph (100 km/h) run in less than five seconds and tops out at an electronically governed 155 mph (250 km/h).
If there is some bad news in all of this, it’s that Cupra will not offer the Leon with a manual gearbox. That’s right – all flavors are going to come exclusively with a dual-clutch automatic transmission (DSG) benefitting from shift-by-wire tech as seen in the mechanically related Golf and Octavia.
When compared to a regular Leon, its athletic cousin sits 25 millimeters (one inch) closer to the road at the front axle and is 20 mm (0.8 in) lower at the back to reduce the center of gravity and consequently improve handling. Go for the base 241-hp gasoline model and the car will come with 18-inch wheels while all of the others get 19-inch rims. 370-mm Brembo brakes finished in copper are installed with all of the six alloy wheel designs available.
Even though it’s being unveiled today, the Cupra Leon won’t hit the market until the fourth quarter of 2020.
Powertrain: Performance and future-proofed
The new CUPRA Leon offers a wide range of engines, from traditional petrol engine to the high-performance plug-in hybrid system, so customers can choose the vehicle that best suits their needs.
High-performance Plug-in hybrid (eHybrid)
CUPRA integrates the traditional and advanced with the introduction of a high-performance plug-in hybrid powertrain for the first time. Available in both the hatchback and Sportstourer variants, the technology means customers keep the performance expected from a vehicle carrying the CUPRA badge, with an efficiency level not found in the segment before.
At the heart of the high-performance plug-in hybrid is a 150PS (110kW), 250Nm 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine and a 115 PS (85kW) electric motor with 13kWh lithium-ion battery pack, that together provides 245PS (180kW) of peak power and 400Nm of torque.
But when pace isn’t a necessity the driver can use the vehicle’s electric-only range (WLTP) of up to 60km to elegantly travel through urban streets or through city centres. When the battery needs recharging, it can be done in as little as 3.5 hours using a Wallbox (or six hours from 230V domestic plug).
Thanks to the efficiency of the plug-in hybrid powertrain technology, CO2 emissions will be below 50g/100km.
“The addition of a high-performance plug-in hybrid powertrain is a reinforcement of CUPRA’s commitment to bring electrification to the high-performance segment,” said Axel Andorff, Executive Vice-President for Research and Development at SEAT/CUPRA. “Bringing an advanced combustion engine and electric motor together to offer an incredible performance boost and effortless acceleration.”
The new CUPRA Leon will also be available in a selection of three turbocharged, direct-injection, four-cylinder 2.0-litre TSI petrol units.
The line-up includes a 245PS (180kW)/370Nm and a 300PS (221kW)/400Nm. These two variants are front-wheel drive, available in both hatchback and Sportstourer body styles, and integrate an electronic limited slip differential (VAQ) to help offer greater control and precision in the vehicle’s power delivery.
The system takes readings from numerous sources: steering angle, wheel speed and yaw, to provide reassurance in dynamic driving scenarios.
But there is one more option for customers. The most powerful engine in the line-up is the 310PS (228kW)/400Nm engine found exclusively in Sportstourer guise and with 4Drive.
With 4Drive technology, that constantly tracks the vehicle and driver inputs to deliver power to the correct wheel at the precise time it needs it, the CUPRA Leon Sportstourer can accelerate from 0 to 100 km/h in less than 5secs, with an electronically-limited top speed of 250km/h.
All powertrain combinations benefit from a DSG dual-clutch transmission, that helps make gear changes sharper, crisper and smoother. The shift-by-wire technology is designed so that the gear selector is not connected to the gearbox mechanically, instead using electronic signals to make shifts. The technology adds a greater level of efficiency, but also adds a new dimension to the art, pleasure and enjoyment of driving. And when drivers want an even more interactive experience steering wheel mounted shift paddles bring the connection between vehicle and driver even closer.
Chassis: Unparalleled ride and handling
As with any CUPRA, it is the relationship between the powertrain and chassis that gives it the distinctive dynamic performance expected by customers. The all-new CUPRA Leon continues the brand’s ethos of tuning the chassis and steering to offer the most precise, involved and distinctive ride possible, no matter what powers it.
Underpinning the CUPRA Leon is the progressive steering system, giving the vehicle maximum agility even on the most challenging of tarmac, and connecting the driver with optimised feedback through the steering wheel. The CUPRA Leon is able to react to changes in driving style and the road thanks to its Adaptive Chassis Control (DCC) system making changes to the setup in milliseconds to exploit the conditions and make for a genuinely engaging drive.
The CUPRA Leon’s dynamics can be changed to suit the tastes of whoever is in control through the four different driver profiles: Comfort, Sport, CUPRA and Individual. These profiles change the vehicle’s character, from daily drive to performance-focused hot hatch, giving the new CUPRA Leon a breadth of abilities seen in few other vehicles in the segment. And shifting between profiles is now even simpler with the DCC slider control, meaning you can select precisely the setup you want, especially in Individual mode.
And while the DCC system gives the driver direct control over vehicle feel, the technology is greatly assisted by the CUPRA Leon’s base chassis technologies; the front MacPherson struts and rear multilink setup, with springs and dampers tuned specifically to balance the competing needs of comfort for daily driving and the response in more energetic scenarios.
And it isn’t only the reassurance from the chassis that makes the all-new CUPRA Leon such an involving drive, the inclusion Brembo brakes means that dynamics are as intuitive when entering a corner as when exiting.
Improvements to the all-new CUPRA Leon’s dimensions have added to its dynamic abilities.
In its 5-door version, the new vehicle’s width has been reduced by 16mm to 1,800mm, while overall body width remains unchanged at 1,784mm. Overall height is also 3mm shorter at 1,456mm while the wheelbase has increased by 50mm to 2,686mm offering more room for the rear passengers as well as greater stability. The overall length of the CUPRA Leon is 4,368mm (+86mm).
In its Sportstourer version, the new CUPRA Leon is 4,642mm long (+93mm), 1,800mm wide (-16mm) and 1,448mm high (-3mm). The wheelbase stands at 2,686mm, which is 50mm more than the previous generation.
Compared with the regular Leon, the CUPRA Leon sits 25mm lower on the front axle and 20mm lower at the rear, meaning a lower centre of gravity and an even sportier feel.
In the most powerful Sportstourer variant the performance is controlled by the 4Drive all-wheel drive system. The latest generation of the electro-hydraulic multi-disc traction system delivers power to the wheels in a controlled manner helping to maximise traction and performance.
The system is integrated into the rear axle and sits at the end of the drive shaft in front of the rear differential, improving weight distribution and reducing inertia and reaction time, meaning the new CUPRA Leon can react to scenarios with even more assurance.
Exterior Design: Evolving performance
The new CUPRA Leon builds on the evolutionary approach if its sister vehicle the SEAT Leon but blends the tell-tell signs that this is a high-performance car developed for the enthusiast.
The CUPRA logo sits boldly on the front grille, with a large front wing and larger air intakes highlighting its more assertive look. As you sweep around the car, its side skirts add dynamism, dark chrome highlights including the front grille frame, front wing and exterior mirrors contrast with the body colour, to create an appearance that expresses the eagerness and boldness of the new CUPRA Leon.
The look is emboldened further by the vehicle’s colour palette; in addition to the four soft and metallic paint (Candy White, Magnetic Tech, Midnight Black and Urban Silver), the CUPRA Leon will also be available with two special paint (Desire Red and Graphene Grey) as well as with two matt paint options (Magnetic Tech Matt and Petrol Blue Matt). The exclusive matt paint options bring an additional visual elegance and personality to the vehicle.
The exterior design is heightened by the exclusive CUPRA-specific 19” alloy wheels – available in copper or in diamonds colour - (18” alloy wheels come as standard in the 245PS variant, while the other vehicles in the line-up have 19” alloys) that house the copper coloured 370mm Brembo brakes. And with six different alloy wheel designs, customers can further personalise their vehicle’s final look.
“The CUPRA Leon’s design is the result of the combination between athletic physiognomy and striking elegance; both are necessary and complimentary in a car like this.” said Alejandro Mesonero-Romanos, Director of Design at SEAT/CUPRA. “Its smooth flowing lines and well-trained muscles reflect perfectly the way it drives on the road: pure fun, just impossible to resist.”
At the rear the coast-to-coast lights deliver a visual focus, while the exhausts, (two on lower-powered versions, or four on higher-powered variants), diffuser and spoiler add a sporting allure to the vehicle’s aesthetic.
The additional exterior details aren’t purely added for aesthetics, they also serve a real-world purpose, making the CUPRA Leon more aerodynamic, helping air slide over the vehicle, improving efficiency and performance. The all-new CUPRA Leon’s aerodynamics are 8% better than the outgoing model.
Interior Design: Refinement, Comfort, and convenience
Before you even step into the cabin, the CUPRA welcome light projects down on the floor to set the scene and highlight that the all-new CUPRA Leon is a special vehicle.
Once inside, the cabin communicates the character of the car, with a sophisticated, sporty design. As the driver nestles into their bucket seat, takes hold of the CUPRA steering wheel, which houses the engine start and CUPRA mode select button, and sees the Digital Cockpit they will instantly understand they are taking control of a different type of vehicle.
The driver focus is further heightened by the inclusion of the large 10” infotainment system, which shifts controls to the touchscreen, reducing the button count, giving a sleeker, more modern look. The decluttered feel to the interior is amplified by the vehicle’s DSG technology, with a gear selector which gives more space in the central console.
Throughout the interior copper details and dark chrome details bring a subtle sense of drama, with highlights including the dashboard and door mouldings brushed in dark aluminium, with a sophisticated tone in tone effect, illuminated CUPRA doorstep in the front doors and colour coded door panels and seats.
The interior ambience is further defined by the seating option customers chose. Different bucket seat choices are available: the standard one, “Sharp Code CUPRA Tech”, offers a textile finish with PVC lateral coverings. “Genuine CUPRA Timeless” adds a black leather finish with an electric memory system, while this option is also available in Petrol Blue, and takes the colour to the dashboard to extend the feel inside the cabin.
The interior of the new CUPRA Leon is far more generous, giving greater space to driver, front and rear passengers thanks to the vehicle’s greater dimensions. In the Sportstourer, luggage space is increased by 30 litres, adding yet more appeal to the CUPRA Leon. The result is a cabin that is driver focused for when you want to enjoy the performance the Leon offer, but comfortable and practical enough to take on life’s adventures without compromise.
New CUPRA Leon: lighting technology
The new CUPRA Leon pushes the boundaries of what is possible in the segment with the range of lighting technologies integrated both in the outside as in the inside of the vehicle. The engineers and designers have used advanced lighting systems to provide dynamic styling, bring focus to the overall design and improve safety. And it also adds a level of entertainment and exuberance; press the key fob and watch the exterior lights dance as part of the welcome ceremony.
The standard full LED technology used in the headlights improves vision, making even the darkest road visible to the driver.
The vehicle’s side mirrors include integrated LED indicators, welcome lights that greet the driver and passengers projecting the logo “CUPRA” onto the ground as you activate the vehicle.
The new CUPRA Leon’s design is emphasised further with the inclusion of the rear coast-to-coast light design. The technology gives greater expression to the rear and makes the vehicle standout to other road users. The new Leon also includes dynamic indicators making the vehicle’s direction of travel clearer and therefore safer. But it isn’t only on the vehicle’s exterior that the development team has used the flexibility and functionality of LED technology.
Inside, the next-generation Leon enhances the cabin experience with a full-LED wraparound ambient lighting system bringing increased personality to the interior. It’s not only an ambient decorative light, but it also provides a number of key functions such as blind spot detection or exit assist.
Connectivity: Never lose touch
While the new CUPRA Leon takes performance and visual appeal to the next level, digitalisation and safety futureproof the vehicle. Engineers and designers have integrated systems that will make the high-performance CUPRA Leon standout in the crowd and bring a new experience to customers.
The Digital Cockpit can be customised to the driver’s need; in addition to the regular modes, the CUPRA Leon gets an additional Sport View, specifically developed by CUPRA, putting information including RPM, torque, power, turbo pressure and G-acceleration front and centre, giving greater clarity and creating a more emotional display.
The Digital Cluster is augmented with a standard 10” infotainment system that incorporates a Retina display, offers 3D online navigation, reduces the number of hard buttons, and integrates voice and gesture control. The system combines the Full Link system making it compatible with both Apple CarPlay (wireless) and Android Auto – meaning customers can take the digital lives with them into the car no matter where they go.
Users need only plug their phone into the vehicle using the USB connection or using Bluetooth to access their eco-system of apps. So, whether you want to bring your contact list, music or mapping systems into the car, they’re all available, and can be accessed in a controlled, intuitive, safe manner.
And voice recognition is arguably one of the most natural ways to interact with devices, meaning less chance of distraction from the act or driving because there is no need to look away from the road ahead. It’s especially attractive as we become increasingly used to home assistants from the consumer electronics world.
Voice recognition in the CUPRA Leon allows users to interact with the infotainment system using natural language – the system responds by simply saying the international word “Hola” twice. The system can be used to find navigation information or search for music in a safer and simpler way.
The Connect app brings online services directly into the vehicle thanks to an embedded SIM. The service allows customers to access downloadable apps, online radio and an expanding ecosystem of functionality.
And when users are away from their vehicle, they can access vehicle information including driving data, parking information, vehicle status and set up speed alerts using the smartphone app. And for the high-performance plug-in hybrid version, there are additional features too. Drivers can manage the charging process and control the air conditioning remotely.
The embedded SIM also brings improved safety into the vehicle as users benefit from the eCall service. Should an accident occur the vehicle can directly contact the emergency services either manually or automatically. And should the worst happen the vehicle can relay important data including car position, engine type, and number of passengers making it easier for them to assist.
And, to make sure connections are never lost, the all-new CUPRA Leon includes Qi standard protocol inductive charging for mobile devices.
Safety: Maximising protection
While CUPRA is synonymous with performance, it is also embracing other aspects of the industry, and making arguably the safest vehicle it ever has. The new CUPRA Leon incorporates a suite of safety and convenience technologies that will make it even easier and safer to live with in daily life.
Among the highlights are the inclusion of Predictive Cruise Control, Emergency Assist 3.0, Travel Assist, Side and Exit Assist.
Adaptive Cruise Control helps the vehicle maintain a constant speed and distance from the vehicle in front, while the introduction of ACC Predictive – which uses information from the camera and navigation system – can adapt to speed limits and road layout to help smooth the journey.
Side and Exit Assist technology detects what your eyes can’t with blind spot detection, Exist and adds an Exit Warning when you’ve parked and want to leave the vehicle, giving an acoustic caution if someone or something is approaching.
When the road becomes more congested Traffic Jam Assist takes the stress out of driving, controlling the vehicle; maintaining the distance to the vehicle in front, staying in lane, controlling braking and, with Lane Assist Plus, keeps the CUPRA Leon centred in its lane.
One of the biggest additions is the introduction of Emergency Assist, making sure the driver remains focused on driving and doesn’t become distracted with visual and acoustic warnings. If there is no reaction from the driver, the system can initiate braking jolts, if there is no change the vehicle can come to a complete stop and activate the warning lights. One parked the CUPRA Leon can directly contact the emergency services using the eCall system.
The latest generation CUPRA Leon, adds to the allure, desire and appeal of the CUPRA brand, bringing new levels of performance, new technologies to the segment and taking the brand to the next level.
The range of powertrain options, including the high-performance plug-in hybrid system and the highest powered Sportstourer variant, offer a range of options that will mean customers can chose a vehicle that matches their lifestyle more closely without having to compromise on the joy of driving.
The new CUPRA Leon encapsulates the core aspects of the CUPRA brand through its elegant, evolutionary approach to the exterior design, bringing together performance aesthetic styling with practical additions that help improve vehicle performance.
Inside, the cabin adds the essence of the CUPRA personality, mixing it with increased levels of comfort and practicality while at the same time bringing it into the digital, connected age.
And while never forgetting the reality that the all-new CUPRA Leon is a driver focused, high-performance car, its development team strove to make it one of the safest vehicles to ever come off the production line, integrating a range of safety technologies.
And while performance, dynamics, design, safety and connectivity are key attributes for the all-new CUPRA Leon, so too is value. The vehicle is highly equipped as standard, adding yet another dimension to its personality appeal.
The new CUPRA Leon will enter in the market in the final quarter of the year.