Singapore - Picture this, you love European hot hatches but are on a modest budget, thus monsters like the outgoing Mercedes-AMG A45 and incoming A35 are stretching things a little. Thus that will leave you with everyone’s favourite workhorse, the Volkswagen Golf in its GTI and R incarnations right? Well, not anymore.
What if I told you you purchase a car that is also from the VW Group, has the same engine/performance as the R but in front-wheel drive format - that’s lighter, more economical and definitely more fun to drive if you ask me - at a price that’s marginally cheaper than the price tag of a GTI?
Impossible? Tell that to the Seat Leon Cupra. Seat belongs to ‘Veedub’ by the way. You have to love the Volkswagen Group here with all their cross-sharing of platforms, engines, parts and what nots. Its because of that we have this, the Leon Cupra.
Built upon the same MQB platform as the Golf, it packs the R’s turbocharged four-potter that pumps out 290 horses and 350Nm of torque for a 0-100km/h timing of 5.7 seconds and onwards to a top speed of 250km/h. The Leon Cupra differentiates itself though by being front-wheel driven versus the R’s four-wheel layout - which to me spells driving fun.
Much like the GTI or I dare say the Scirocco R (two of my favourite FWD hatches from VW) the Leon Cupra is a hoot to blast around just with a good dose of added power, push it to the limit and there’s a tinch of lift-off oversteer whilst understeer is barely noticeable - it all spells superb fun!
In contrast, the Golf R with its 4WD is definitely fast but in such a safe and predictable manner that it just isn’t as fun. Anyway back to the Cupra, it also packs that same 6-speed dual-clutch transmission you get from Volkswagen so shifts are lightning quick accompanied by the signature DSG-farts at full revs and if you downshift manually at high enough RPMs the Leon will even break out into a crescendo of popping backfires - music to my ears!
Seat’s cabin is just a tad not as refined as the one you get in the Golf but its still better than what the rest of the competition offers. You get a digital cluster, a touchscreen infotainment screen that also doubles up with a triple gauge reader showing essential stuff like G-force, Oil Temperature and Boost - just like the ones you get in the Golf R!
Cabin space front and back are near identical to the one you get in the Golf, the seats provide ample support and comfort. What I did like though was the wealth of vision you get thanks to very thin A-pillars and compact side-mirrors that never get in the way.
Ride quality is just as good if not better as the Golf too even though the Leon Cupra rides on 19-inch wheels. The suspension is a good balance between performance and comfort as it soaks up bumps and humps without jarring the cabin while still being stiff enough for you to take bends and corners at speed with minimal roll.
Looks wise, the Seat Leon Cupra is a sharp-looking European hatch that does a splendid job of looking the part without being overly shouty about it.
Perhaps the only thing working against the Leon Cupra is the badge, not many people know about it and chances are it might get overlooked, but don’t dismiss this hot hatch just yet, anyone in the market for one should take the car for a test-drive and see what I mean.
Its the perfect alternative to those that want a front-wheel drive Golf R or a more powerful version of the GTI.