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CUPRA Leon facelift: No mistaking it now!

CUPRA Leon facelift

With the new for 2024 facelift, the CUPRA Leon gains new tech, powertrains and styling to set it apart from its roots once and for all. Ken Pearson has all the details.

Well, nobody can say it looks like a SEAT any longer. The CUPRA Leon has been refreshed and separated from the SEAT model that it is based on in more ways than one. But first, a bit of backstory: CUPRA was the performance moniker for go-faster SEAT models that began with an Ibiza rally car in the late 1990s. Roadgoing Ibiza and Leon Cupra models followed and in 2018, the brand was spun out from being a subdivision of SEAT and became a manufacturer in its own right - similar to how Polestar was the in-house tuner for Volvo before becoming their own entity. 

Since 2018, the brand has produced the Ateca, Leon and Formentor in varying degrees of swiftness and although the detailing always said CUPRA, from afar they still looked like the models that they were based on. That began to change with the Born and Tavascan - two electric models that brought in extra gold trim and a new light signature, but now with the facelifted Leon, CUPRA is starting to find its form.

CUPRA Leon facelift

CUPRA Leon facelift - Design and Styling

I say form in the literal meaning of the word - the form/shape of the products. At the front, the 2024 model Leon gets the new triple-triangle light signature that made its debut on the Tavascan. Combined with triangular headlight clusters, this guides the eye towards the centre of the grille and to the new shark-nosed face that dominates the styling. There is a flat vertical surface which connects the two light clusters and meets a flat horizontal surface that runs beneath it and folds down into the two arrow-shaped bumper inserts. A second L-shaped insert runs down to the front splitter while a flat bar runs from edge to edge, with the rest of the grille being made up of squares that don’t appear to line up correctly. 

Usually, it’s Chinese cars that provoke comparisons to other models from Western brands but with this, I can see elements of the Ford Focus RS (Mk 3) and Mustang Mach 1 (S550), the Renaultsport Clio 200 (with its single wide inlet at the top of the grille) and amazingly, the BYD Seal for the bonnet design. It may just be me who sees these similarities but in short, although CUPRA have found their form, they may need to finesse it to have a more cohesive-looking design going forward. That said, there is no way that the new CUPRA Leon can be confused with the old one.

From the front anyway…the rest of the car looks fairly similar to the model that went before it which to my eyes makes the new nose look a bit out of place, but let’s cast that aside for now. The current generation Leon is a good-looking car - it’s well proportioned with a lovely curved lower windowline that steeply rises towards the C-pillar and a fantastic creased character line that emerges above the front wheel arch, runs along the doors before disappearing ahead of the rear wheel arch and re-emerging above it. This sharp line accentuates both pairs of flared arches brilliantly and it’s one of my favourite styling touches on any new car today. The arches are home to 18” or 19” wheels with new designs being made available as part of the facelift. 

CUPRA Leon facelift
CUPRA Leon facelift

With the front being decidedly un-SEAT, the rear follows suit. That creased character line from the rear arches extends around and across the tailgate, being underscored by a full-width light bar that sees triangular lights at the extremities, and an illuminated logo in the centre. I know that illuminated logos are rather marmite at the moment but I love this. Naturally, the in-vogue wide-spaced badging for the manufacturer’s name is featured beneath. The bumper now features a darkened diffuser insert which will make the car look like it sits lower to the ground. As before, the model is available as a hatch or an estate with the long-roofed variant having its own design for the diffuser but the same design themes at the rear. 

CUPRA Leon facelift - Engine, Powertrain & Performance

That’s enough of the style for now, what about the substance? Well, there are a few flavours of engine available for the new Leon. While not yet officially confirmed, reading between the lines on the CUPRA website tells me that there will be three engine options coming for the facelifted Leon; opening the range will be the 1.5-litre mild-hybrid hybrid four-cylinder with 147 bhp and 184 lb-ft, sending its performance to the road via a 7-speed DSG transmission.

In the middle of the range is a 268 bhp plug-in hybrid option which pairs a 1.4-litre engine to an electric motor and a large 19 kWh lithium-ion battery which is good for up to 62 miles of electric running - a significant improvement on the 37 miles attainable in the pre-facelift model. It can recharge at up to 11 kW AC which should return a flat to full charge in around 3 hours at a home wall box; with 50 kW DC charging capability, using a rapid charger will complete the job in around 40 minutes.

The engine is shared with the recently refreshed Skoda Octavia vRS iV plug-in hybrid that we covered earlier this year, but owing to the higher drivetrain output and greater EV-range (62 miles vs 37), the electrified Leon promises greater on-road performance, flexibility and lower benefit-in-kind tax rates than its Czech cousin.

CUPRA Leon facelift

Topping the range is a 2.0-litre turbo-four that makes 296 bhp in the front wheel drive hatch, and 328 bhp in the all-wheel drive estate. The hatch continues to be one of the most powerful front-drive hot hatches on sale today while the estate positions itself as a credible alternative to cars like the Volkswagen Golf R estate and the Mercedes-AMG CLA 35 Shooting Brake. The estate gets a clever torque-splitting system which can shuffle the power to all four corners for optimum grip, or send it all towards the rear axle when the dedicated Drift Mode is activated. This is said to be for track use only, not for the many roundabouts of Milton Keynes.

Detailed specifications are yet to be announced but we can imagine similar performance figures to the pre-facelift version for the front-drive hatch and the new Audi S3 for the all-wheel drive estate. This means we should expect a 0-62 time of 5.7 seconds for the hatch and 5.0 seconds for the estate.

CUPRA Leon facelift
CUPRA Leon facelift

CUPRA Leon facelift - Interior & Tech

Inside, the CUPRA touches are clear to see with a bespoke steering wheel with a pair of quick-select buttons attached; one is for switching driving modes and the other is for starting or stopping the engine - don’t confuse them when cornering! A customisable digital display sits behind the multifunction steering wheel and the theme of gold accents from the exterior continues throughout the cabin; the stitching, logo and select trim elements are all gold here. Carbon-effect trim is found on the dash and the backs of the two-piece bucket seats which look like a rather nice place to spend some time. The upholstery is made using either recycled microfibre fabric, or “environmentally conscious” leather which presumably means that the cows were vegans and used public transport wherever possible before they were turned into seats.

The 12.9” infotainment is angled towards the driver and has been updated with new software to improve usability. The layout can be customised, widgets can be added and your phone can be connected wired or wirelessly to run Apple CarPlay or Android Auto on screen. While there are a good degree of buttons on the steering wheel and in the centre console, the shortcuts underneath the central display for volume and temperature are capacitive strips. Optionally available is a new 12-speaker surround sound system which has been developed with Sennheiser - I’m expecting this to be a very popular item in the UK.

CUPRA Leon facelift

CUPRA Leon facelift - Practicality & Price

The appeal of the CUPRA Leon is as much in its space and practicality as in its looks and performance; the hatch has a 380-litre boot while the estate offers up an impressive 620-litres. The plug-in hybrids lose some space owing to the positioning of the battery, so the boot capacity is reduced to 270 litres in the hatch and 470 for the estate. Regardless of body style, the second row folds down to allow for enough space to transport more furniture than you thought you’d be buying from the nation’s favourite flat-pack homeward store.

We have to wait until the autumn for the model to go on sale and we can expect an increase on the £31,000 - £48,000 price range of the current Leon offering. What we do have already is a vision of how CUPRA models of the future are going to look; get used to this new family face - it also appears on the Formentor SUV which has received a similar raft of updates simultaneously - as this is how CUPRA is beginning to emerge from the catch-all definition of making faster SEAT models with a gold badge on the nose. There’s no mistaking the new CUPRA Leon for a SEAT any longer, but if I had one…I’d be parking it nose-in.

CUPRA Leon Sportstourer & CUPRA Formentor Gallery

CUPRA Leon Sportstourer
CUPRA Leon Sportstourer
CUPRA Formentor Gallery
CUPRA Formentor Gallery


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