22.4.2022Cupra Leon e-Hybrid review
Cupra is quickly establishing itself as Seat’s performance brand, and a key part of that is electrification. With a range of core models across the VW Group receiving the plug-in hybrid treatment, it’s now the time of Cupra with its Leon e-Hybrid.
Review by Chris Lilly
CUPRA LEON E-HYBRID: PERFORMANCE
Powered by a combination of 1.4-litre petrol engine and electric motor, the Cupra Leon e-Hybrid produces a combined 245 hp - around 40 hp more than the Seat Leon e-Hybrid on which the Cupra is based. As such, the 0-62mph time is 6.7 seconds. It’s fast; not ridiculously quick, but certainly hot-hatch territory.
Pace from the electric motor only is good at lower speeds, proving responsive around town and car parks. To access the full power output though, the Cupra Leon needs to be in Hybrid mode, to have both engine and motor running. This gives the rapid shove from the electric motor, and then the petrol engine takes on the bulk of the work at higher speeds. It’s an effective combination, and although not the most exciting sounding or the most powerful set0up around, it certainly proves useful. The switching between electric and petrol power is generally smooth, as is the six-speed DSG automatic gearbox.
As an out and out hot hatch, the Cupra Leon lacks a little something. It can’t compete with the likes of the Honda Civic Type R or Hyundai i30 N. But this is because the suspension set-up is not rock hard. And this - for many buyers at least - is a benefit. On the limit or on a track, the Cupra Leon would be left behind by plenty of rivals, but the flip-side of this is that the ride is much better suited to daily use.
The stiff ride isn’t overly harsh when hitting lumps and bumps on the road, which can also giver greater confidence along an open country road where surfaces can often be imperfect. The ride is a little taut for motorway driving to be considered comfortable, but if you’re buying a hot-hatch, this has to be expected. Overall, a bit of an old school hot-hatch in terms of ride and handling - and that’s a positive thing.
The Leon - Seat or Cupra - is a stylish hatchback, and catches the eye of most. Cupra’s take on things tends to add copper accents about the place, which can put some off, but they can add something to the look for others. Overall though it’s a good example of the Spanish brand’s flair.
This translates to a practical hatchback, which is capable of seating four in comfort, or coping with a couple of child seats. Boot space is the same as the Seat model, which in turn means it’s a little down on non-PHEV versions because of the electric components. It’s still a useful hatchback though, with an estate version of the Cupra Leon available should space be a key factor.
COMFORT & CONTROLS
The Leon e-Hybrid’s cabin is as stylish as the exterior, and is a tidy, cleanly designed space. The drive-by-wire gear selector is short and more of a switch than a gear-stick, which saves space and works nicely. There is a large touchscreen system that is shared across a number of VW Group models.
It’s sleek-looking, but can be fiddly to find the right controls at times, with a number of button presses or menus to head through to get to where you want. The main point here is the hybrid settings, which could be easier to access. Other than that, the system can work nicely, but occasionally is laggy to start. Other controls feel good to use and fall easily to hand in general.
CUPRA LEON E-HYBRID: RANGE & RUNNING COSTS
With a fuel economy score of 217.3 MPG, the Cupra Leon e-Hybrid is easily capable of being efficient. It’s backed by an electric-only range of 34 miles on a charge, and helps make for a flexible system, one that emits 30 g/km CO2 - not at all bad for a hot-hatch.
In real-world driving, the electric range worked out at about 28-30 miles on a charge realistically. It’s more than enough for most daily needs, and even after more than 300 miles of driving and two full charges, the Cupra Leon e-Hybrid, the trip computer was showing around 60 MPG. Clearly, added charging pushes that figure well beyond what a conventional diesel could achieve, and comfortably into three figures.
With a 13 kWh battery, the Cupra Leon e-Hybrid manages a range over 30 miles on a charge. It can be charged at up to 3.6 kW via the Type 2 inlet, which will take three and a half hours for a full top-up. Brake energy recuperation is fitted to help capture energy that would otherwise be wasted under braking. There are High, Low, and Automatic settings, but these need to be changed by diving into the menus.
Driving modes will allow the car to be held in electric-only power under E-Mode, it can be run in Hybrid setting, or charge to hold/top-up the battery.
At launch, there are three trim options available - VZ1, VZ2, and First Edition. Fitted as standard are 18-inch alloys, rear privacy glass, LED headlights, Cupra black brake callipers, customisable digital instrument display, 10-inch touchscreen navigation system with smartphone connectivity, cloth upholstery, sports seats, Cupra drive select, parking sensors front and rear, reversing camera, and sports suspension.
Add to VZ2 models are 19-inch alloys, while First Edition models, as tested, include Cupra exterior styling details, wireless phone charging, a Safety and Driving Pack, and leather sports steering wheel.
CUPRA LEON E-HYBRID: MODEL SUMMARY
One criticism of the Seat Leon e-Hybrid that I had was that it simply wasn’t engaging enough. Seat has traditionally been the VW Group’s brand that offers a bit of zip to proceedings, and although the Leon e-Hybrid is a very capable car, it didn’t get under my skin in a way that Seats have done in the past. The Cupra is a different matter. It’s not a full-bore hot-hatch in this PHEV guise, but to me that makes it even better. It’s more exciting to drive, but without the compromises that often have to be made for performance models.
Model tested: Cupra Leon e-Hybrid First Edition
Body-style: Family hatchback
Engine / CO2: 1.4-litre petrol engine and 85 kW electric motor / 30 g/km
Trim grades: VZ1, VZ2, and First Edition
On-road price: £37,090
Warranty: Three Years / 60,000 Miles
In the showroom: Now
Review rating: 4.0 Stars