2021 Cupra Leon hot hatchback: new 242bhp engine revealed

New Cupra Leon gets familiar 2.0-litre engine from the VW Golf GTI; prices start from £31,460

The Cupra Leon hot hatch is now available with a 242bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine. It’s an engine already widely used in other VW Group models, including the latest Volkswagen Golf GTI.

The new turbocharged four-cylinder engine option means the Leon can accelerate from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds and go on to an electronically limited top speed of 155mph. Unlike in the Golf GTI, it’s not available with a manual gearbox; a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox is the only option.

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It’s the fourth powertrain to be made available for the Cupra Leon, alongside the 242bhp plug-in hybrid, the 296bhp petrol and the range-topping 306bhp petrol estate. Given the the engine choice, the Leon is a rival to an array of hot hatchbacks and PHEV models, including the Volkswagen Golf GTE, Renault Megane RS, Ford Focus ST and Honda Civic Type R.

Cupra Leon prices and specifications

In hatchback form, the new base 242bhp model costs from £31,460 in VZ1 trim, with the higher spec VZ2 car increasing the starting price to £32,695. Above this, the plug-in hybrid VZ2 model starts at £35,000 (£36,730 for the VZ3 trim level). The 296bhp petrol engine is also available in the higher VZ2 and VZ3 trim levels, priced at £35,030 and £36,760 respectively.

The Cupra Leon Estate is also restricted to the higher trim levels, with the VZ2 spec 242bhp PHEV model starting from £38,475 (£38,155 for the VZ3 trim). The flagship 306bhp petrol engine is exclusive to the estate, with the VZ2 trim starting from £38,475, increasing to £40,535 for the VZ3 model.

Every trim level across is well equipped, with entry-level VZ1 cars getting 18-inch alloy wheels, sports seats, copper detailing, a digital cockpit and a 10-inch sat nav infotainment screen.

Above this, VZ2 spec cars get larger 19-inch alloy wheels and dynamic chassis control, which allows drivers to pick from three suspension settings. VZ3 brings extras including heated Nappa leather bucket seats, wireless phone charging and a heated steering wheel. Seven paint colours are available for no extra cost.

Following the launch of the latest SEAT Leon, the high-performance Cupra Leon model effectively replaces the outgoing Leon Cupra, so there’s the same choice of five-door hatchback and estate body styles.

Plug-in hybrid: performance, economy, range and charging

For the first time, you can choose a plug-in hybrid system that’s also used in the Skoda Octavia vRS and Cupra Formentor. A 1.4-litre petrol engine, electric motor and 13kWh battery pack combine to produce 242bhp, and you’ll also be able to travel up to 32 miles on a full charge. Officially, this engine is capable of fuel economy of between 188.3mpg to 217.3mpg and CO2 emissions of up to 33.5g/km, which will please company-car drivers, as well as buyers who have to commute into London; it’s exempt from the Congestion Charge.

The battery pack will recharge in around three and a half hours from a 3.6kW wallbox, or around six hours from a standard three-pin plug.

The PHEV powertrain sends power to the front wheels via a six-speed DSG automatic gearbox. While it's the slowest model on paper, it still offers swift acceleration, managing 0-62mph in 6.7 seconds and a top speed of 140mph. Buyers can spec this engine in both hatchback and estate bodystyles.

Petrol engines: performance and economy

Alongside the plug-in hybrid, you can choose a Leon hatchback with two petrol options. The cheapest is the 242bhp version of the 2.0-litre petrol engine, which can sprint from 0-62mph in 6.4 seconds, and rivals the Volkswagen Golf GTI. A more powerful 296bhp version of the same 2.0-litre engine is also available, which manages 0-62mph in 5.7 seconds. Both engines are electronically limited to a top speed of 155mph.

Cupra claims both petrol engines emit between 161-172g/km of CO2, with fuel economy ranging from 35-39mpg.

Cupra Leon Estate buyers also have the additional option of a 306bhp version of the 2.0-litre engine, mated to SEAT’s 4Drive four-wheel-drive system. This model will be the quickest in the range, getting from 0-62mph in just 4.8 seconds - around a second faster than the outgoing model - and on to a limited top speed of 155mph. All of the conventional petrol engines come with a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission.

Due to the four-wheel-drive system, the estate is the thirstiest model in the lineup, officially managing fuel economy of around 34mpg with CO2 emissions starting at 186g/km.

Every version of the Cupra Leon gets chassis tweaks to improve its handling. The Brembo brakes are much bigger than standard at 370mm, while four driving modes are available, letting you select between Comfort, Sport, Cupra and Individual settings. Adaptive Chassis Control is also offered, which scans the road ahead and adjusts the suspension to iron out imperfections. Compared to the standard Leon, the Cupra-badged version sits 20mm lower to the ground.

Interior

The interior matches the outside with a host of copper touches, and Cupra models also benefit from more supportive front seats, dark chrome finishers and a Cupra steering wheel, complete with two new buttons for the ignition and driving mode selection.

Like the standard Leon, a 10-inch infotainment touchscreen is mounted on the dashboard, and it’s joined by a digital instrument cluster of the same size. The touchscreen gets voice and gesture control, plus Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. An accompanying SEAT Connect app allows users to remotely access driving data, lock/unlock the doors, see where the car is parked and set up a series of alerts. If you buy the hybrid model, the app also lets you oversee the charging progress and preset the cabin temperature.

As the flagship model, the Cupra Leon gets plenty of innovative safety technology alongside the state-of-the-art connectivity features. Blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist and traffic jam assist are all fitted as standard, and there’s also a predictive adaptive cruise control system. This works with the sat nav, front-mounted camera and the traffic sign recognition system to adjust the cruise control speed based on the road layout ahead.

Styling

This new car is the first Cupra-badged Leon and the eye-catching copper exterior elements and alloy wheels are similar to those of the existing Cupra Ateca. The Cupra Leon also gets much bigger front air intakes, a rear diffuser sitting between two sets of exhaust pipes and extra vents in the rear bumper. Even with the changes, it’s far more subtle than the Honda Civic Type R, while other rivals include the Ford Focus ST, Renault Megane RS and Hyundai i30 N.

Read our review of the current SEAT Leon Cupra, or see where it ranks on our list of the best used hot hatchbacks.

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