The UK motoring press has got its hands on the eagerly awaited Leon Cupra and driven it on some testing Spanish roads. Here’s what they had to say about the 265PS three-door Leon SC Cupra and the five-door Leon Cupra 280 with DSG and manual gearboxes.
“The steering is meaty and accurate, and conveys a reasonable amount of sensation to your palms. A standard front differential means traction out of corners is strong and there’s none of the to-and-fro steering tug that afflicts rivals such as the Ford Focus ST, either.
“The way the 265PS car rides is great; it smooths away bumps and is unfazed by ruts, ripples or potholes. It also grips well and changes direction crisply.
“Of the two, the more powerful car is undeniably more capable, but its little brother is actually more enjoyable.
Inside “you grip a thick-rimmed, sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel, and the grey dials ahead certainly have some fairly serious numbers on them.
“Your body, and that of your passenger, is held in place by suitably hefty-looking sports seats that are trimmed in grey Alcantara. “
“You don’t buy a hot hatch simply because it makes a good investment. You buy it because it’ll be a proper hoot when you want it to be and unobtrusive the rest of the time. If that’s the case, the Leon Cupra has it nailed.”
“The most important addition to the Cupra’s standard equipment list is a limited slip differential fitted to the front axle. In normal circumstances, sending 276PS to the front tyres is a recipe for torque steer and understeer, but by shifting power to the front wheel with more grip during cornering it helps the Cupra stick like glue to your chosen line.”
“The steering is light, but sharp enough, and you can really feel the variable ratio working its magic in tight corners.
“The Cupra is a stunning car to behold, especially the shorter-wheelbase three-door version. It’s a feast of angles and blade-like creases.”
“The first thing that strikes you is how mature the Leon feels. If you're expecting a nervous, fidgety ride from something over-sprung and under-damped, you'll be pleasantly surprised. The Cupra 280, riding on its goliath 19s, manages to smooth out almost all undulations and keeps wind noise, tyre roar and engine/exhaust boom to the barest minimum. Luckily, however, when you start to up the pace, the Leon's inherent playfulness comes back to the fore.
“Adjust the dampers through Comfort, Sport and Cupra settings and you'll notice the difference between them, yet the car never becomes too soft or uncomfortable at either extreme. It's all very commendable.
“The Leon is better looking, better equipped and therefore cheaper spec-for-spec, pretty much as smooth as the Volkswagen [Golf GTI] and quicker to boot.”
Autocar: four stars
“Unsurprisingly, much more grown up. As with the base Leon, memories of the former car, stiff-backed hollow-sounding prospect that it was, dissipate in moments…
“On 18-inch wheels and ContiSport Contact5s, the 265 flows along with considerably more elan than the Golf...”