2016 Seat Leon Cupra 290
Seat’s Leon Cupra line has been making a lot of waves since the Cupra 280 seemingly came out of nowhere to set the lap time record for a front-wheel-drive production car at the Nurburgring in 2014. That record has since been claimed by the 2016 Honda Civic Type R, but Seat still proved something more important than a record lap time. It showed the world that it can compete with the best hot hatchbacks in the business. The success of the 280 is also a big reason why Seat seemingly fast-tracked the launch of its successor, the Leon Cupra 290.
Boasting all the standard features of the 280 and adding some notable upgrades on the engine and handling fronts, the Leon Cupra 290 aims to take the popularity of its predecessor to new heights, renewing Seat’s goal of hot-hatch dominance with an engine output that now eclipses that of the 2015 Renault Megane RS 275 Cup-S, a similar hot-hatch that will share the stage with the Leon Cupra 290 at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show.
It’s only fitting that the Leon Cupra 290 will make its debut opposite the Megane RS 275 Cup-S in the same event. After all, it was their predecessors — the 2015 Seat Leon SC Cupra 280 and the 2014 Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy — that battled for the lap record that now belongs to the Civic Type R. The Leon Cupra 290 looks up to it, as does the Megane RS 275 Cup-S.
Continue reading to learn more about the 2016 Seat Leon Cupra 290.
2016 Seat Leon Cupra 290
Horsepower @ RPM:285
Torque @ RPM:258 @ 1700
0-60 time:5.8 sec.
Top Speed:155 mph
Not much has changed from the design of the Leon Cupra 280 and the Leon Cupra 290. In fact, the only noticeable difference is the Cupra 290 badge on the rear end and the retuned exhaust system that gives the hot-hatch a more refined tone.
The only noticeable difference is the Cupra 290 badge on the rear end and the retuned exhaust system that gives the hot-hatch a more refined tone.
Other than those two things, the Leon Cupra 290 remains true to the current-generation Leon styling. It has the Audi-like full-LED headlamps, the large honeycomb grille and air intakes that dominate the front end, and the titanium-finished 19-inch wheels that are exclusive to the hot-hatch.
The Leon’s distinctive character lines are also still there, extending from the front and rear lights on two different height levels like muscle cuts on a human body. At the back, the Leon Cupra 290 also received LED taillights and a rear diffuser that’s flanked by the two exhaust pipes.
Seat is offering individual options for the Leon Cupra 290, including the Aerodynamic Pack, which adds a spoiler on the rear roof edge, CUPRA lettering on the red brake calipers, and black exterior mirror housings.
Other options include the White Line, Black Line, and Orange Line. Each of these options allow the customers to have the surrounds of the radiator grille and wing mirrors and parts of the two-tone aluminum wheels painted in either white, black, or Cup Racer orange, respectively.
Note: 2014 Leon SC Cupra interior shown.
Except for a few enhancements, the interior of the Leon Cupra 290 is similar to its predecessor. Standard features like the Cupra sports steering wheel and the sports seats dressed in Alcantara with matching white stitching are all still there. If the materials and the seats used in the cabin aren’t up to a customer’s standards, Seat is also offering black leather upholstery with white stitching and bucket seats as options.
The few noticeable upgrades include the size of the color touchscreen display, which is bigger now at 6.5 inches, compared to the 5.8-inch display in the Leon Cupra 280. LEDs in the door panels have also been added to provide a touch of ambient lighting in the cabin. These LEDs emit a white glow in standard configuration, only turning red when the car is switched into Cupra mode via the Cupra Drive Profile.
Interior space is another highlight of the Cupra Leon 290. The enhancements may be minimal, but Seat still managed to fit everything together while still achieving a maximum load space of 51.9 cubic feet.
The range-topping Leon Cupra 290 will continue to use a 2.0-liter turbocharged TSI engine. Power has been raised to 286 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, 10 ponies more than the Leon Cupra 280 it replaces. The new output pushes the hot-hatch past the just-announced Renault Megane RS 275 Cup-S and within striking distance of the 292-horsepower 2016 Volkswagen Golf R.
Seat will also offer an optional Performance pack for its new hot-hatch, giving the Leon Cupra 290 a set of Brembo brake calipers, new wheels, and special tires.
The Leon Cupra 290 still falls short of the 308-horsepower Honda Civic Type R, but its output still allows it to remain competitive in a market that’s not short of worthy adversaries. All that power is channeled to the two front wheels courtesy of a six-speed manual transmission, allowing the car to sprint from 0 to 62 mph in just 5.8 seconds.
An optional DSG transmission is also available. With it, the Leon Cupra 290 can cover the same sprint time in 5.7 seconds. The car also has an electronically limited top speed of 155 mph.
Seat will also offer an optional Performance pack for its new hot-hatch, giving the Leon Cupra 290 a set of Brembo brake calipers, new wheels, and special tires. I don’t think these options, even combined with the raised power from the 2.0 engine, will make a world of difference on the streets of Europe, but they could make for some interesting track and/or drag races between the Leon Cupra 290 and the likes of the Golf R and the Megane RS 275 Cup-S.
At the very least, I’d like to see the Leon Cupra 290 take a stab at the Renault Megane RS 275 Trophy-R’s lap time around the Nurburgring. Given the recent history between these two models (the Megane RS 275 Trophy-R was specifically built to beat the Leon Cupra 280’s ‘Ring lap time), I’d pay good money to see if Seat can do it again.
|Type||2.0 TSI engine|
|Torque||258 LB-FT @ 1,700 - 5,800 RPM|
|Top Speed||155 MPH|
|0 to 60 mph||5.8 seconds manual (5.7 seconds DSG)|
|Transmission||6-speed manual standard (optional DSG)|
The Leon Cupra 290 benefits from having Seat’s new chassis, developed specifically for the model. The design is stiff enough to handle the rigors of the road and light enough to increase the car’s responsiveness depending on the road and track conditions. A new front-axle differential lock feature and progressive steering are both standard features on the Leon Cupra 290. The two systems may function independent of the other but they work hand-in-hand in improving traction and handling of the car while also cutting down on the torque steer. This ensures peace of mind for the driver, who won’t have to worry about grip changes and unwanted steering movement, especially in tight corners.
The hot hatch also comes with Seat’s ESP handling system, which can be manipulated to change the car’s driving character, especially when it hits the race track. In its default setting, the system is fully activated to improve the car’s stability by reducing the loss of traction on any of the two front wheels. That said, drivers can be a little more adventurous with the car by deactivating stages of the ESP, first by taking out traction control and putting the system into sport mode, and second by deactivating the system entirely, putting the car’s driving dynamics squarely in the hands of the driver.
Everything about the Cupra Leon 290 points to a really impressive hot hatch. That much can’t be disputed if you take into account what the Cupra Leon 280 was able to accomplish. About the only downside to the car is its availability, or lack thereof in the US. Sadly, as awesome as the Cupra Leon 290 is, it’s not going to be sold here. For those who will have a chance to buy the Cupra Leon 290 in Europe, the hot hatch is expected to retail from £30,000, which would be about $46,370 based on current exchange rates.
The hot hatch market in Europe is arguably one of the most competitive segments in the industry today. The Seat Leon Cupra 290 is an up-and-coming star in this segment. That’s a good place to be in as the Seat can measure itself against a good number of competitors, including an established hot hatch like the Volkswagen Golf R.
By most measures, the Golf R has the advantage over the Leon Cupra 290. It’s more powerful, thanks to a 2.0-liter turbo our-cylinder that produces 292 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. To be fair, Seat has managed to cut down on that advantage by adding more power to the Leon Cupra 290. Unfortunately, there’s still nothing the Leon Cupra 290 can do about its front-wheel-drive system. That’s always going to be a drawback against a car with a four-wheel-drive system like the Golf R. That advantage of having power sent to all four wheels (as opposed to just the two front ones) allows the VW to sprint from 0 to 62 mph in just 4.9 seconds, almost a second faster than the Leon Cupra 290.
Then there’s plain old appeal and recognition. The Golf R is a Volkswagen. The Leon Cupra 290 is a Seat. Hot hatch enthusiasts will likely have less of a problem choosing the Leon Cupra 290 if it suits them more than the Golf R. But customers who aren’t as technically proficient with the finer workings of either car will more than likely go for the established name.
Fortunately for us here in the US, the choice becomes moot because the Leon Cupra 290 isn’t available here. Still, it would’ve been fun it were just so we can see how they line up against one another. The Volkswagen Golf R starts at $36,595 in the US. Add the DCC and Nav options and the price goes up to $39,090.
You can read our full review here.
The Golf R may have the edge over the Seat Leon Cupra 290, but that’s understandable considering the VW’s stature in the hot hatch hierarchy. There is one hot hatch that the Leon Cupra 290 considers as its real rival. That’s the Renault Megane RS 275 Cup-S, and based on the history between these two cars, the feeling is mutual.
When the two cars aren’t exchanging lap records for a front-wheel-drive hatchback at the Nurburgring, the Leon Cupra 290 and the Megane RS 275 Cup-S also share one thing in common: they’re both making their debuts at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show. Sales should start soon after that so we’re going to find out which model ends up with the upper hand where it really matters for Seat and Renault.
In the mean time, both the Leon Cupra 290 and the Megane RS 275 Cup-S make compelling cases in the styling department. Both were styled like proper hot hatchbacks, which is to say that they look fit for the role. The Megane RS 275 Cup-S also functions like a proper sports car, thanks in part to its own 2.0-liter turbo four engine that can produce as much as 275 horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque. The Leon Cupra 290 has the edge in that department, but it’s not like the Megane RS 275 Cup-S will be severely handicapped by having 11 less horsepower than its rival.
Ultimately, the biggest difference between these two might end up in the price of each hot hatchback. The Megane RS 275 Cup-S will retail for £23,935, or about $36,500 based on current exchange rates. Seat hasn’t released the price of the Leon Cupra 290, but expect it to be a little bit more expensive than the £28,785 Cupra 280. If the Leon Cupra 290 is priced north of £30,000, that would be a huge advantage for the Megane RS 275 Cup-S.
You can read our full review here.
I don’t often find myself getting intrigued about anything that Seat releases, but I’m making an exception for the Leon Cupra 290 because as a hot hatch enthusiast, I didn’t expect Seat to come up with a car that can really hold its own against the titans of the segment. It would have been nice to see the car become available in the US, but that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. So once again, importing expenses will likely keep us from ever seeing the Cupra 290 in our soil. That’s about the only thing wrong with the car and to its credit, it’s not even its own fault. So the hot hatch battles will continue over in Europe and we’re once again left as mere spectators.