Cupra Leon veers from hot to affordably warm

Put off by the thought of a profligate Leon? Cupra has a predictable engine-based plan…

By PH Staff / Monday, 5 September 2022 / Loading comments

Cupra has done a relatively good job of imposing itself on the UK market with bespoke models like the Formentor and its first EV, the Cupra Born. Granted, neither are the sort of option to blow you out of your socks, but they’re acutely well targeted at the modern car buyer, and seem to be selling accordingly. The current Cupra Leon though – counterintuitively, perhaps – seems like a harder sell. 

Not because it isn’t decent to drive or easy to understand; it is both of these things. The problem (and we’re semi-educated guessing here) is that the Leon launched as a relatively straightforward hot hatch, and the problem with doing that is that you’re limited to straightforward hot hatch buyers. And those buyers are a) very spoilt for choice, and b) not always as numerous as the market seems to think they are. 

Accordingly, much as it does with the Formentor, Cupra has opted to supplement the Leon lineup to ensorcel a broader cross-section of hatchback searchers. That means from next month you’ll be able to order one with either the 150hp 1.5-litre TSI or the 190hp 2.0-litre TSI. Needless to say, neither is going to be quite as invigorating as the 245hp and 300hp configurations currently available, but they will be handily cheaper – helped along by a new ‘V1’ entry-level trim – and almost certainly more cost effective to run. 

“The CUPRA Leon is already a king on the road, but we’re always developing the vehicle to maximise the offering for our customers, making it more customisable and grow its sales targets,” said Kai Vogler, Vice-president for Sales and Marketing at CUPRA. “With the introduction of these engines, our ambition is to achieve a big success with the CUPRA Leon, as we have done with the Formentor.”

The difference here, of course, is that the Formentor is exclusively available with a Cupra badge – and the Leon is not. You hardly need us to tell you that you can already buy one with the more efficient engines with a Seat badge on the nose, and if you told us that you favoured the toned-down FR look to Cupra’s copper-heavy stylings anyway, we might be inclined to agree with you. Either way, (and admittedly without knowing how much the new Leons will cost) there is clearly a premeditated case of Peter robbing Paul here. But evidently the powers that be think it worth the risk. 

And given the broader drift of the market (i.e. toward electrified compact SUVs) we’re not inclined to discourage any manufacturer from offering a conventional C-segment hatchback with a wider choice of unassisted petrol engines. Have at it, gents. Moreover, Cupra’s land grab also means that you’ll finally be able to order one with a manual gearbox. Attached to the wrong engine, sure. But still: progress. Of a sort. 

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