Read Caroline’s Cupra Leon review for everything you need to know about buying Cupra’s sporty hatchback in Ireland.

Cupra was a badge that adorned many high performance Seat cars over the years like the Ibiza Cupra and the Leon Cupra.

But all that changed in 2018, when Cupra became its own standalone brand within the Volkswagen Group.

And it’s been a big success, releasing some great models like the Born and the Formentor, and becoming one of Ireland’s fastest growing car brands along the way.

The Cupra Leon sells in smaller numbers than the Born and Formentor, but Cupra has still managed to sell around 300 of them this year.

The Cupra Leon goes on sale priced from about €35,310, with the choice of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid. That’s still competitive against the likes of the Toyota Corolla, the Opel Astra, Peugeot 308 and the Ford Focus. And you get to drive a car that looks as good as this.

The Cupra Leon on test for Changing Lanes
The Cupra Leon on test for Changing Lanes


If you thought it looked a lot like a Seat Leon, you’d be right because this is one model that is still shared with the Seat brand. But it’s been beefed up and given the Cupra makeover. Cupra is of course a more upmarket, performance brand within the Volkswagen Group. And these days Seat Ireland no longer offers the Leon in the sporty FR trim, leaving space for Cupra to carry the mantle – which it does very well. The Cupra Leon looks meaner and more aggressive with sportier bumpers, larger air intakes, large front splitter, dark chrome front grille frame and side skirts. It also wears Cupra’s copper trimmed badge in the centre of the grille. It’s a very eye-catching car and attracts plenty of admiring glances.

The wheels deserve a special mention. No one does alloy wheel designs as cool as Cupra’s. 18-inch come as standard, while high performance VZ models get 19-inch. The test car pictured has an optional copper/black tipped 19-inch design. Stunning!

All in all, it looks good parked up beside high spec versions of its rivals.


The cabin is very similar in its basic design and layout to the Seat, but it has been ‘Cuprified’ and all for the better. The material quality is better overall with some nice soft touch panels in the doors and gorgeous seats. The Leon e-hybrid gets bucket seats as standard, though entry level petrol and diesel models get more basic sport seats. There’s the option of those same bucket seats in full leather, blue or black. The steering wheel stands out with the Cupra logo and the full digital instrument cluster with a number of different layouts to toggle between from the touch of a button. There’s a lovely strip of ambient lighting around the dash, with the choice of a few different colours.

The cabin of the Cupra Leon
The cabin of the Cupra Leon

A large touchscreen comes as standard with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Wireless smartphone charging is an option but there are a few USB-C ports. The minimalist cabin means that pretty much everything is controlled from the screen, including the ventilation. It can be a bit fiddly to use on the move, though you get used to it. Other features include heated steering wheel, heated front seats and a reversing camera.


The Cupra Leon is built on the same underpinnings as the latest Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 for example. It is one of the most spacious hatchbacks of its kind, with generous headroom in the back. Tri-zone climate control comes as standard.

Petrol and diesel versions have a decent 380 litres of boot space, though the plug-in hybrid can only manage 270 litres. But opt for the Sportstourer and that goes up to 470 litres.


There are a range of engines for the Cupra Leon and it’s get a few spicier power options than the Seat. The range kicks off with a 1.5-litre turbo petrol engine with 150hp and the choice of a manual or automatic gearbox. There are similar options for the 2.0-litre diesel, also with 150hp. There’s also a 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid with either 204hp or 245hp. The 12.8kWh battery onboard can be charged in about 3.5 hours at a rate of 3.6kW and driven electric for up to about 60 kilometres.

For some real high performance, there’s the Cupra Leon VZ 2.0-litre TSI turbo petrol with 245hp or 310hp and four wheel drive.

The Cupra Leon is available with a range of engines
The Leon is available with a range of engines


The Cupra Leon is a really nice hatchback to drive with precise steering and sweet handling. It gets a front differential lock as standard so it handles the tarmac with real skill, turning into corners with lots of grip and staying wonderfully flat and balanced throughout. The Leon is almost worth it just for that skill.

Dynamic Chassis Control comes as standard on VZ models, but was added as an option to the test car. It means you can fine tune the suspension damping and steering through a few different settings: Comfort, Sport and Individual. It’s comfortable for a sporty hatch and the extra firmness of the Sport mode actually enhances the driving experience. The only annoyance is persistent road noise from the tyres.

With 204hp and an electric motor for a burst of torque, the e-Hybrid is one of the most powerful of the range with 0-100 in 7.5 seconds and 350Nm of torque. It’s expensive to buy however and does need to be charged to get the best from it – including efficiency. On an empty battery, it gets thirstier. But if you can charge it regularly and even drive on electric power alone for a limited range, then it can work well. But otherwise most buyers will be served well enough by the 1.5 petrol.


The Cupra Leon range starts at about €35,310 for a 1.5-litre petrol manual. Diesels start from €37,585. The Leon e-Hybrid on test with 204hp costs about €48,145.

Rear seating in the Cupra Leon
Rear seating in the Cupra Leon


The Cupra Leon is a brilliant sporty hatchback. It stacks up very well against high spec, sporty versions of rivals like a Corolla GR Sport, Astra GS, and Focus ST Line. It’s fun and spirited to drive, and Cupra has done a good job at giving it a makeover to make it feel more special. It does get quite expensive however, particularly as a plug-in hybrid. However with one of the more basic engines, it’s a very good buy indeed.


Written by Caroline Kidd

Founder and Editor of Changing Lanes, Juror for Irish Car of the Year

The Cupra Leon is a brilliant hatchback
The Cupra Leon is a brilliant hatchback