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Cupra Leon Review: The King of Leons

The Cupra Leon packs 300 bhp sent to the front wheels - is it a manageable riot?
OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
16 Dec 2021
The statement of intent is certainly clear from its large, matt-finished black wheels and a sharply-designed rear light strip with quad exhausts below. 
What we like:
Objectively near faultless engine and gearbox.
What we dislike:
It doesn’t look as distinct as its predecessor. Can make 300 bhp feel too accessible.  

The Cupra Leon has always been hot on the toes of the Volkswagen Golf GTI, or arguably, even the Golf R.

Packing as much as a Golf R but with front-wheel drive (only the Sportstourer gets optional all-wheel drive), the Cupra Leon promises to be more riotous than any of its related siblings.

The statement of intent is certainly clear from its large, matt-finished black wheels and a sharply-designed rear light strip with quad exhausts below. The front is a little more anonymous compared to its predecessor, though.


There are high quality touches everywhere and so much technology, you probably need to spend a few hours sitting in the car to learn it all. Screens are the order of the day and almost all controls are accessed through them. I’d have preferred more physical buttons, but that’s just a personal preference.

The Drive

The Cupra Leon is appreciably louder inside versus the larger Formentor we last tested, and certainly dials up the ante much more on engagement.

Equipped with 300 bhp and 400 Nm, the car is all too happy to be redlined, which is a marked improvement over previous versions of this engine which can feel a little strained at the top. There’s also a very decent low and mid-range punch. In the sportier modes, pops and bangs from the exhaust is common but passengers at the rear may feel it’s a tad loud. While overall sound insulation is fantastic there are some frequencies that seem to come through to the cabin, like the sounds from a distant bus, for instance.

The handling is sharp but errs on the side of neutrality (as expected), but combined with a snappy dual-clutch gearbox that is lightning fast for upshifts as well as downshifts and the muscular engine, the car is hugely rapid point-to-point. There is a wide scope for suspension adjustability, too, and can feel very comfortable or quite stiff depending on your selection.

Our Thoughts

The Cupra Leon is a brilliant hot hatch, even if there is quite a lot of technology overlaying it all.

Credits: Text by James Wong; Photos by Clifford Chow

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