The SEAT Leon Cupra has never been a low-performance car, but German tuning specialists will know how to spice up your salsa if you so choose.
For a fairly modest price of Â£ 500, your SEAT dealer can plug in an additional ECU to go from standard 296hp (gasoline particulate filters and all) to a mighty 345hp, with corresponding torque increases. As a manufacturer-approved upgrade, it also avoids unpleasant warranty surprises.
And the rest? It’s the same Leon Cupra we’ve known and loved for a long time, seen here as an estate for an added touch of practicality, and wearing Cupra’s latest corporate war paint of gray bodywork and copper detailing. .
The Leon is moving forward a bit now, so does an Abt power boost raise the Leon to its position near the top of the class, or would your money be better spent elsewhere?
Engine, performance and time 0-60
We’ve written so many paragraphs about the Volkswagen Group’s EA888 engine that it’s almost possible to remember the basic stats: four-cylinder, two-liter, single-turbocharged, 296 hp @ 5,300 rpm and 295 lb-ft. of torque produced from 2000 rpm.
The rest of the mechanical makeup is also the same, from the seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to the Haldex-based all-wheel drive system (called 4Drive in SEAT parlance). Mix it all up and you’ve got a car that in standard form can reduce from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds and hit 155mph.
With Abt’s ECU upgrade, the horsepower, torque and top speed figures increase and the number of acceleration decreases. Peak power is now 345 hp, peak torque 324 lb-ft, top speed 163 mph, and 0-62 drops two-tenths to 4.7 seconds. For comparison, the latter is identical to the recently deceased Ford Focus RS, which also developed 345 hp.
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Like the Leon’s performance stats, there’s little here that we haven’t seen a dozen times before. MacPherson struts up front, a multi-link link behind, and with the model tested here, a handsome five-door station wagon body that remains perhaps one of the most attractive cars in this class. Practical too, with 587 liters of space behind the rear seats.
At 1431kg, it’s also far from heavy considering its size, although with some rivals in the 1300kg range it’s not a flyweight either. The wheels are 19 inch items wrapped in a wide 235/35 rubber.
How does it feel to drive?
With almost every modern hot hatchback of this size producing around 300 horsepower these days, performance that once seemed remarkable has now almost become a routine.
Aside, that is to say in the Leon Cupra modified by Abt. Keep revs high enough to avoid the slightly sluggish low-end response of the 2-liter unit and the Leon absolutely flies, with a crescendo to power output worth holding onto all the way to the limiter. In seat-of-pants terms, it has the measure of anything in this class for outright speed.
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With all-wheel drive and a DSG gearbox, it’s also hilarious to deploy this performance, and the resulting acceleration is pretty much relentless as long as you dare to keep the pedal on the mat. The sound in the cabin still feels slightly synthetic, and VW’s popular 2-liter EA888 is no longer a class leader in terms of refinement or crisp response, but there is enough volume and raspy character to go with it. accompany every slot to the horizon that there is no questioning the value of entertainment.
Fortunately, the Cupra still manages the bits between each straight line. Like the engine, it’s no longer a class leader in this area, with steering that’s a bit light and lacks immediate off-center response, and front tires that don’t bite as hard as some rivals.
It’s an expressive chassis though, moving more than some attached equivalents, and feeling almost pulled back when exiting tighter corners. The light steering begins to simmer with feedback and precision with a bit more locking, it feels more agile and faster than the length of the field might suggest, the mid-corner balance is good, and with so much force under your right foot, driving every corner is remarkably strong.
The Leon begins, it must be admitted, to feel its age. While the brakes are powerful and the ride quality is perfectly acceptable for a car of this type, the refinement lags behind the class, the structure seems a little less purposeful than the alternatives, such as the Civic Type R ultra. -rigid and the interior, while logically arranged, doesn’t seem quite appropriate for the nearly Â£ 35,000 price tag. For sheer fun, it’s worth a look.
Prices and competitors
The Leon Cupra R ST tested here starts at Â£ 34,760, with prices for the Leon hatch (giving ten horsepower less and driving only the front wheels) currently starting at Â£ 31,360. To that you can add Â£ 500 for the Abt upgrade, which as previously mentioned isn’t such a bad deal for almost an extra 50bhp.
Abt’s tweaks put the Leon’s horsepower far beyond that of most other hatchbacks (and similarly sized station wagons) on sale, whether front-wheel-drive or all-wheel-drive. Only models such as the Mercedes-AMG A45 and the Audi RS3 develop further in this category, and these are more expensive than the SEAT.
In terms of capacity, the Leon still lags many of its rivals – the front-wheel-drive hatch ranked 11th in our recent hot hatch mega-test, which was topped by the Honda Civic Type R, the Hyundai. i30 N Performance and the Renault Sport MÃ©gane 280. the hatch was offered in all-wheel drive, it might have done better – the same Golf R managed 8th place – while the straight-line value and joy of the bet at Abt level make it even more tempting.