Cupra Leon eHybrid plug-in hot hatch priced from £34,495

Fledgling performance brand Cupra has expanded its line-up with the Cupra Leon hot hatchback, its first model to be offered with a plug-in hybrid powertrain.

Based on the fourth-generation Seat Leon, it is the first Leon to wear the Cupra badge and will be available as both a five-door and an estate, with a selection of petrol engines as well as a PHEV variant.

The Leon e-Hybrid plug-in pairs a 1.4-litre, 148bhp petrol engine with a 113bhp electric motor and 13kWh battery pack, for a combined 242bhp and 295lb ft of torque. It will be capable of a WLTP-tested 37 miles of electric range, with CO2 emissions below 50g/km. Prices for the electrified variant begin at £34,495 for the hatchback and £35,525 for the estate, with deliveries set to begin by the end of 2020.

The standard Cupra Leon uses the tried-and-tested 2.0-litre turbocharged ‘EA888’ TSI petrol engine in both hatchback and estate guise. A more powerful 306bhp variant is exclusive to the estate, which also gets 4Drive all-wheel drive. All versions use a dual-clutch DSG automatic gearbox and feature an electric limited slip differential. Suspension is by MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear, with adaptive damping adjusted via four user-selected drive modes.

Indicative prices for the pure petrol options – available to order in early 2021 – project a £31,450 starting price for the 242bhp car and £35,000 for the 296bhp option. Official prices for the 306bhp range-topper will be released within the next two months.

A larger front splitter, expanded air intakes, roof spoiler and Cupra badging set the Cupra Leon apart from the Seat car on which it is based. It has a 3mm lower roofline, sits lower to the ground (25mm on the front axle, 20mm on the rear), and gets a bespoke exhaust – twin tailpipes for the 242bhp engine, and quad pipes for more powerful variants. All models have full LED headlights, plus a rear LED lightbar that stretches across the entire width of the tailgate. It rides on 18in alloy wheels as standard, but can be optioned with 19in alloys and uprated 370mm Brembo brakes.

Inside, the Cupra Leon gets sports seats, a steering wheel with engine start and drive mode select buttons, a 10.1in central infotainment touchscreen and fully digital instrument cluster with bespoke Sport view mode. Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay are also available. The cabin features LED ambient mood lighting, along with copper and dark chrome accents that match the exterior trim, while the estate sees boot space increased by 30 litres over the hatchback.

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A. This is the challenge you always have, as soon as you bring a battery into a car and you have the topic of weight. I think if you have the right compromise on making the battery not too big, but having the ability to boost, there’s a good compromise, compensating for the additional weight while keeping the agility. Not all our customers require 300bhp – we’re also looking at those customers that want to come to the brand, or the need for a plug-in hybrid. They want to have the Cupra feeling, and the brand image, so I think this is a very good fit.

Q. Could there be a Hardcore Leon variant on the cards?

A. Cupra is a small company still. We are happy that we were able to set up the Leon as we see it today, and at the same time we already set up the ICE race car and e-Rracer. This is a lot of work for a small team, and I’m proud of what we’ve done. But if you have racing guys on your team, they do think about this stuff.

Q. How much autonomy does Cupra have from Seat, and from VW Group?

A. We have the right freedom we need to create the brand. There are strict rules within the Volkswagen Group, but as we have the good situation that our group CEO is also head of our advisory board, you can imagine that whatever we do, we have a good freedom of where we want to go.