New Cupra Leon 2020: a hot hatch for all tastes

  • Next model in growing Cupra brand arrives
  • Three different petrol options, plus plug-in hybrid
  • Five-door hatch or Sportstourer estate body styles

Spanish company SEAT’s performance division – Cupra – has revealed the latest model in its line-up, the Cupra Leon. It arrives to expand the firm’s line-up from the existing Cupra Ateca, based on the new 2020 SEAT Leon.

Being a Cupra though, you won’t find SEAT badges anywhere, instead it comes with exclusive Cupra branding, logos and details, mainly the copper theme debuted on the Ateca in 2018.

The previous SEAT Leon Cupra was a big hit for the company, with around 44,000 of them finding homes. As such, there’s a good spread of options available for this new version, including plug-in hybrid power.

>> Read more: Cupra Formentor is the SUV version - here are its details

Turbocharged 2.0-litre TSI provides the power

Cupra is giving buyers plenty of options with this Leon. The old model had varying power outputs throughout its life, but the company is providing choices from the get-go this time.

Kicking off the range is a 2.0-litre TSI with 245hp and 370Nm of torque. Not a bad starting point for a hot hatch, and one that’s been mimicked with other models like the Hyundai i30 N and VW Golf GTI (with or without Performance Pack additions), giving buyers an entry point to the range, and the option to upgrade to more powerful models.

2020 Cupra Leon Sportstourer front and side view

As such, there’s also a 300hp and 400Nm version available if 245hp isn’t quite enough. Both of these versions are front-wheel drive and are available in both hatchback and estate body styles (SEAT calls it the Sportstourer on regular Leon models). All Cupra Leons come with a DSG automatic transmission controlled via a small switch where a traditional gear lever would be – known as shift-by-wire.

For the most powerful Cupra Leon, you’ll want the 310hp version of the same 2.0-litre TSI, also coming with 4Drive all-wheel drive. This engine is reserved for the estate body style only, and is able to get from 0-62mph in 4.8 seconds.

But there’s also a Cupra Leon plug-in hybrid

Car companies rarely introduce models without some kind of electrification nowadays (in the form of hybrids, plug-in hybrids or mild-hybrid technology), and the Cupra Leon is no different.

On top of the three regular petrol options, there’s a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option available as well – it’s badged eHybrid. This mimics the option of a PHEV in the similar Skoda Octavia vRS iV and, unsurprisingly, has almost identical performance figures.

It comes with a 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with 150hp, plus a 13kWh battery pack and 115hp electric motor. In all, they provide a combined 245hp and 400Nm of torque. And while that almost mirrors the entry-level petrol, it does allow drivers to use the Leon for up to 37 miles in EV mode when fully charged. Ideal for those using the car regularly in town.

If you can charge the car at home, it’ll take around six hours from a regular domestic socket, or three-and-a-half hours from a dedicated wallbox. The ability to run on electric power alone means the Cupra Leon eHybrid’s CO2 emissions come in at just 50g/km.

Two body styles

Like the old Leon Cupra (that’s the older naming style), the new Cupra Leon (now its new name) comes with a choice of body styles, but not quite as many. The old car was available at various points in its life cycle as a three-door SC, five-door hatchback and five-door ST estate.

2020 Cupra Leon Sportstourer side view

Sadly, despite looking the sportiest, three-door cars have become less popular and less viable to produce alongside more practical options, so there’s no longer an SC available. That goes for the regular Leon models, as well as the smaller Ibiza.

Still, the five-door hatch and estate remain available, and we’ve got more information on the practicality credentials of those cars in a separate story.

What’s it like inside?

As it’s based on the Mk8 Volkswagen Golf, the Cupra Leon benefits from a host of extra technology over the older car. Nothing revolutionary, just the usual suite of screens to control everything, very few buttons and lots of slick ambient lighting surrounding the driver.

2020 Cupra Leon interior

It’s not hugely different from the regular Leon, but there are a few new touches. Cupra logos are everywhere, and the starter button has moved to the steering wheel, like you’ll find in an Audi R8 or Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio. The Cupra switch for the driving modes is also located here, like Hyundai’s i30 N drive mode switch.

The digital dial display also changes depending on the driving mode, while plenty of Cupra-specific copper and dark chrome details add a different feel to the regular cars. There’s also a choice of upholsteries depending on the model. There’s part-fabric, part-fake-leather on some, and full leather in black or blue also available.

2020 Cupra Leon front seats and interior

What are the rivals?

Unsurprisingly, many of the Leon’s rivals also come from the wider Volkswagen Group, namely the new Skoda Octavia vRS and VW Golf GTI and GTE, but with an updated Hyundai i30 N on the way, along with the existing Renault Megane RS and Honda Civic Type R, it’ll need to be impressive to appeal to potential buyers. There’s also the Ford Focus ST, which also has a choice of engines and body styles, but no PHEV option.

What this means for you

A regular fast version of the popular hatchback wouldn’t have offered much different over the competition, but the Leon’s choice of powertrains and body styles means it has wider appeal than cars from Renault and Hyundai. It’s particularly timely that a plug-in hybrid version of a performance car has become available. We’ve seen it in much more expensive cars from the likes of Porsche, so it’s good to see the technology filtering down to more everyday models like a Leon.

The unique Cupra branding is likely to appeal to a slightly different set of buyers than those tempted by the equivalent Skoda and VW models, so SEAT (sorry, Cupra…) could be on to something here. On the other hand, the slightly left-field branding may put some off.

That’s unlikely to be a huge issue in the minds of those in charge of the VW Group. There’s always a variation on the same product available from another brand.

Read more:

>> Group test: Ford Focus ST vs Golf GTI TCR and i30 N 

>> All you need to know about regular 2020 SEAT Leon 

>> We rate the best hatchbacks to buy now 

2020 Cupra Leon Sportstourer rear view