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Cupra Leon 2022 review

The Leon is here, but will it be king of the hot hatches?
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Any day another hot hatch family lands in Australia is a good day, but does the Cupra Leon have what it takes to mix it with rivals like the Hyundai i30 N, or its VW Group siblings, the Golf GTI and Golf R? We put the most powerful example of the new Leon to a track-attack test to find out.

If you're the kind of person who usually names their car, then I've got some good news for you – Cupra has already gone and done it for you.

Meet Leon, the new brand's performance-focused hatchback with strong links to the ever-popular Volkswagen Golf GTI and Golf R.

What's a Cupra, you ask? It's a Spanish performance brand that sits under the Volkswagen Group umbrella (much like Skoda), with a trio of models, including our mate Leon, launching in Australia around the middle of the year.

Why would you have one over a Golf R? Read on.

Cupra Leon 2022: VZX Launch Edition
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L turbo
Fuel Type
Fuel Efficiency6.8L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$65,065

Is there anything interesting about its design?   7/10

Don't ask me why, but the Leon looks (but happily, doesn't feel it from the cabin) somehow smaller than the Golf, coming across as compact and aggressive – which is probably exactly what you want from a warm or hot hatch.

  • The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive. The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive.
  • The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive. The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive.
  • The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive. The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive.
  • The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive. The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive.
  • The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive. The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive.
  • The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive. The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive.
  • The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive. The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive.
  • The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive. The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive.
  • The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive. The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive.
  • The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive. The Leon comes across as compact and aggressive.

The Cupra treatment works well here, too, with a wide bonnet that kind of tapers towards the small(ish) grille the the Cupra badging, giving a look of purpose and intent to the Leon.

At the rear, a solid-red light bar spans the width of the boot, while the quad exhaust tips (and the copper-tinged alloys) all add to the sense of sportiness emanating off this hot hatch.

Inside the top-spec model, you'll find a pared-back and performance-focused space. Inside the top-spec model, you'll find a pared-back and performance-focused space.

Inside the top-spec model, you'll find a pared-back and performance-focused space, with a new-look gear selector, and the big screens taking pride of place in front of the driver and in the middle of the dash.

But while it feels well put-together, for mine it doesn't quite feel special enough in the cabin to fully justify its pricing.

How practical is the space inside?   7/10

According the UK's official data, the Cupra measures 4398mm in length, 1442mm in height, and 1799mm in width, and the brand says you can expect 380 litres of luggage space in the boot.

The Cupra measures 4398mm in length, 1442mm in height, and 1799mm in width. The Cupra measures 4398mm in length, 1442mm in height, and 1799mm in width.

It's a relatively compact hot hatch, but the rear seat space is surprisingly generous, with enough leg and headroom to keep even those taller than my 175cm happy – it means the Cupra Leon strikes a pretty good balance between potency and everyday practicality.

There are the usual assortment of cupholders and bottle storage, as well as USB charge points for all riders, and ISOFIX attachments in each window seat in the back.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

There are four Leon models set for Australia, including the  V, the VZ, the VZe and the top-spec VZx, with prices spanning $43,990, $52,590, $59,990 and $60,990 (all before on-road costs) respectively.

The 10.0-inch screen comes with navigation, wireless (and wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 10.0-inch screen comes with navigation, wireless (and wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The V opens proceedings with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, a seven-speed DSG, and 18-inch alloy wheels. Outside, expect LED lighting all around, auto headlights and some sporty kit like a roof spoiler.

Inside, there's a 10.25-inch cluster, a 10.0-inch screen with navigation, wireless (and wired) Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging and ambient interior lighting.

The Cupra Leon features a 10.25-inch cluster. The Cupra Leon features a 10.25-inch cluster.

The seats are sporty, but wrapped in cloth, the steering wheel is dressed in leather and heated, and there's keyless entry and start.

The range then steps up to the Leon VZ, which adds bigger 180kW and 370Nm outputs, and 19-inch alloys. Next, there's the VZe, which is all about the clever, electrified powertrain (but more on that in a moment).

Finally, there's the top-spec VZx, which gets the pick of the performance kit, including 19-inch "Performance Sport" alloys, side skirts and a quad-exit exhaust.

The brand's petrol-blue colour scheme dresses the VZx cabin, including the (heated in the front) leather bucket seats, a sportier steering wheel, and there's a better Beats Sound System with nine speakers and a subwoofer.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   8/10

The entry-level Cupra Leon V is equipped with a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine good for 140kW/320Nm. Stepping up to the VZ ups the grunt to 180kW/370Nm. Then there's the top-spec VZx, which delivers 221kW and 400Nm. All pair with a seven-speed wet clutch DSG and front-wheel drive.

The truly interesting model, though, is the VZe PHEV, which combines a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine with an 85kW/300Nm front-mounted electric motor to deliver a combined 180kW/400Nm. It has a six-speed DCT.

How much fuel does it consume?   7/10

Cupra in Australia is yet to confirm official fuel figures for the Leon range, but internationally the standout is the VZe, which pairs its potent powertrain with fuel efficiency of 1.1-1.3L/100km – though that's measured in a unique way that's difficult, if not impossible, to replicate.

For context, the most powerful engine delivers 6.7L/100km, and you'd expect the PHEV to comfortably beat that.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Full disclosure, my time behind the wheel of the Cupra Leon has so far been limited to a series of flying laps at Sydney Motorsport Park (a very long, very fast racetrack), so if you’re looking for answers on how easily the hot hatch will slip into your daily life, I can’t help you.

If, however, you’re wondering whether the Leon will paint a smile on your face when you’re in the mood to be a little generous with the accelerator, then I can help.

Because the answer is yes.

The Leon will paint a smile on your face when you’re in the mood to be a little generous with the accelerator. The Leon will paint a smile on your face when you’re in the mood to be a little generous with the accelerator.

Slip into the very good sports seats of the Leon, and engage its maximum attack Cupra drive mode, and little hatch feels almost like it is flexing, ready for action.

The only Leon available to sample was the full-noise 221kW version, and it doesn’t disappoint, delivering ever bit the noisy, enthusiastic experience you might expect from a car only slightly less powerful than a VW Golf R.

But what you might not expect is the slightly old-school way it delivers that experience, with the Leon feeling a little light and flighty at speeds, like it wants to move around a little under high-speed braking, and like it wants to keep you on your toes.

While the Cupra Ateca feels super-planted at speed, the smaller, lighter Leon feels more like you're an integral part of what's going on outside the windows, and very much like you're driving it, rather than the other way around – up to and including the small breaks in power delivery, seemingly as it struggles for traction as it knocks off its 5.7s run to 100km/h

If that sounds like a bad thing, it’s not — it only adds to the theatrics and the engaging nature of this new hot hatch.

The steering is confidence-inspiring, the soundtrack solid, and it’s the kind of car you could have a lot of fun with at a track day or on a winding alpine road.

But could you live with it, day to day? For that you’ll have to wait until we can get a longer, more detailed drive on public roads.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

5 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

All Leons get the same safety kit, which is an admirable move from the Cupra brand.

The high-tech stuff includes adaptive cruise control, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, Lane Assist (which keeps you in the lane markings), Travel Assist (which unlocks semi-autonomous driving on freeways), a reversing camera and a driver fatigue monitor.

The Cupra is yet to be ANCAP tested in Australia.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   7/10

The Leon range wears a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, with three years of complementary servicing built into the purchase price, with five-year packs also available to purchase.

The Leon range wears a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. The Leon range wears a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Verdict

Another warm-to-hot hatch family enters Australia, only this time with the added trick of electrification up its Spanish sleeves.

Welcome to Australia, Leon. I'm sure you'll find plenty of people who want to be your mate.

Pricing guides

$58,828
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$52,590
Highest Price
$65,065

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
VZX Launch Edition 2.0L, —, 7 SP AUTO $65,065 2022 Cupra Leon 2022 VZX Launch Edition Pricing and Specs
VZE Phev 1.4L, —, 6 SP $59,990 2022 Cupra Leon 2022 VZE Phev Pricing and Specs
VZ 2.0L, —, 7 SP AUTO $52,590 2022 Cupra Leon 2022 VZ Pricing and Specs
VZX 2.0L, —, 7 SP AUTO $60,990 2022 Cupra Leon 2022 VZX Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.3
Design7
Practicality7
Price and features7
Engine & trans8
Fuel consumption7
Driving8
Safety7
Ownership7
Andrew Chesterton
Contributing Journalist

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Pricing Guide

$65,065

Lowest price, based on new car retail price

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