2017 Seat Leon CUPRA 300
The Cupra comes to the party with more power and torque on tap!by Robert Moore, on LISTEN 13:01
The Seat Leon has been on the market for nearly 20 years and has evolved dramatically in the time. The third-gen model rolled onto the market in 2012, and for 2017, it was time for a much-needed facelift. With that facelift came an updated exterior, new exterior lighting units with LED strips, and a wider grille that now features a chrome surround to go with new wheel designs and some new color options. Inside, the facelifted model benefits from a new center console, an electric parking brake, and the addition of some new soundproofing for a quieter cabin. There was also the addition of a new infotainment system. There was a brand new three-cylinder engine added to the engine lineup, but what we’re really here to talk about is the new Leon Cupra 300, which as you probably guessed now has 300 PS on tap – an improvement of 10 PS over the outgoing model. Torque has increased by 30 Nm on the 300, and the estate version even gets all-wheel drive. Nice!
It should be noted that when Seat put together the facelift for the Leon, it was actually quite surprising to see the amount of work that went into it. Normally, the brand’s facelifts – as with anything from the VW umbrella – are very mild with just enough to let you say “Hey, there’s something different there.” But, the facelift was quite extensive. Be that as it may, there isn’t really much of a difference on the outside between the standard model on the Cupra, but there’s plenty of other stuff to talk about, so let’s go over what comes standard on the new Cupra, and why the new Cupra is worth your consideration.
Continue reading to learn more about the Seat Leon CUPRA 300.
2017 Seat Leon CUPRA 300
The Leon’s much-needed facelift brought a lot of geometric balance to the vehicle. Everything looks to be strategically planned and positioned exactly where it should be; there’s nothing out of place. The new LED strips in the headlights are somewhat awkward with the high center point on the lower side, but it’s not particularly hard on the eyes either. The radiator grille grew by 1.5 inches in width and now gets a richer chrome surround to help the car stand out in the crowd. Down below, there’s a wider air dam to go with larger corner air inlets that also serve as a home for the LED fog lights. Around back, there’s a new taillight layout with LED lights to go with a revised decklid and rear fascia.
To be honest, the Leon actually looks a little better than the VW Golf it is based on.
In terms of the Cupra 300, there really aren’t any details on the exterior that will separate it from non-Cupra variants. There will, of course, be Cupra badging but there won’t be anything else in the way of more aggressive looks or extra aerodynamics. Then again, this is a hot hatch and an estate that we’re talking about, so what really matters is the overall design, not the little bits and pieces. And that’s okay, as the facelifted Leon is actually pretty aggressive as it is. That front fascia, in particular, is actually pretty damn menacing for something that is in any way related to VW, plus the body lines are in all the right places. To be honest, the Leon actually looks a little better than the VW Golf it is based on.
The new Cupra benefits from the new center console with an electronic parking brake and the advanced sound insulation to cut down on noise bleed through from the road. But, that’s not all. It also gets the updated Media System Plus that pairs an eight-inch screen with a connectivity hub that includes inductive cell phone charging, and a GSM antenna amplifier in case you find yourself in an area with shoddy cellular reception. Features like Seat Full Link and the Seat ConnectApp should also carry over, bringing voice recognition and gesture control into the fold. Not a bad way for Seat to up the ante, huh?
Note: Standard Seat Leon interior shown here.
There isn’t really anything that makes the Cupra stand out, but that’s okay because the standard cabin is a very nice place to be.
But, it’s not all about technology when it comes to the Leon or the Cupra 300, specifically. There isn’t really anything that makes the Cupra stand out, but that’s okay because the standard cabin is a very nice place to be. It’s nowhere near as geometrically dominate inside, but it has character in all the right places. The door panels are pretty plain jane with flat armrests that run the length of the doors and house the window and mirror controls as well as the pull handle. There’s a small storage pocket down below with a speaker housing up front. The instrument cluster and infotainment system share a contrasting bezel that matches the face of the center console and HVAC controls. The seats might not be “sport” seats, but they do offer a decent stitching pattern and decent bolsters for support during more spirited driving. Of course, that will happen more often in the three-door hatch, but it’s not out of the question in the five-door or estate.
Before we move on, however, it’s only fair to mention the plethora of driver assist systems that come with the Cupra 300. To start off, you’ll get Traffic Jam Assist, Lane Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, and Pedestrian Protection. There is, of course, the electric parking brake, but you also get what Seat calls KESSY, which stands for keyless entry and start. Then, for those who like to play a little, there’s also dynamic chassis control to go with a progressive steering system and an electronic, self-locking differential. Finally, the Cupra Drive Profile brings the option to select four different driving modes depending on your mission each time you sit in the driver’s seat. Comfort obviously softens things up to give the most comfortable ride, while Sport will tighten things up to reduce body roll when cornering at higher speeds. Seat didn’t divulge specific information about Cupra mode, but it does say that it “takes the driving experience to another level.” And, there’s Individual mode, which allows you to create your own custom settings and dial things in just the way you like. You can’t argue with that, can you?
This is where we get to the real news. The Cupra has had a pretty long history, given the age of the Leon. The Cupra 300 replaces the Cupra 290, which in turn had replaced the Cupra 280. If you haven’t noticed the trend, Seat manages to squeeze out just a little more power from each new Cupra model. As has always been the case, the Cupra 300 gets an extra 10 PS over the model it replaces. To be more specific, the 2.0-liter TSI engine under the hood delivers a cool 300 PS and 380 Nm of torque. For those of you here in the U.S., that translates to 295 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. That’s an increase of nine horsepower and 22 pound-feet over that Cupra 290. That 280 pound-feet of torque, by the way, is available from 1,800 rpm to 5,500 rpm, which is pretty impressive. Seat has yet to say anything about what handles shifting duties, but in other VW sub-brands, the same 2.0-liter can be found with either a six-speed manual or a six-speed DSG, so it’s quite possible that both will be options in the near future. For the record, you can find different variations of this 2.0-liter in the Skoda Octavia vRS, Volkswagen Golf R, and the Golf GTI, among others.
The 2.0-liter TSI engine under the hood delivers a cool 300 PS and 380 Nm of torque.
As far as performance goes, Seat has said nothing, but the last model could hit 62 mph in 5.8 seconds with the manual or 5.7 with a DSG, so those figures might drop to 5.7 and 5.6, respectively – at least with any luck, anyway. Top speed will remain limited to 155 mph, but this engine is highly tunable, so getting quicker acceleration and altering the top speed limiter isn’t unheard of. For now, the three-door and five-door hatchback models will soldier on with two-wheel drive, but if you go for the longer estate model, you’ll get Seat’s 4Drive traction in conjunction with the DSG gearbox. Hopefully, Seat will introduce all-wheel drive to the hatchback models, but we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
|Torque||280 LB-FT @ 1,800-5,500 RPM|
|0 to 60 mph||5.8 seconds (est.)|
|Top Speed||155 mph|
Seat has yet to release pricing for the new Cupra, but the has said that pricing, specification, and full technical information will be made available shortly before it begins taking orders in March of 2017. The current model starts out at £28,380 and increases to as much as £31,485. That computes to a price range of $34,834 to $38,645 at current exchange rates. This new model, which is sporting updated looks and more power will likely see a price increase, somewhere in the range of $700 to $1,000 across the line. That’s really not bad considering the quality and performance you’ll get from the new model.
When it comes to the Ford Focus, you either have to go underpowered or overpowered when looking at competing models. The Focus ST is significantly cheaper than the Cupra 300, but you only get 250 PS on tap. So, if you want something that will actually beat out the Cupra 300, you have to look at the Focus RS. Powered by a 2.3-liter four-banger, the RS comes with 350PS (345 horsepower) and 440 NM (324 pound-feet) of torque. With all-wheel drive, that’s enough to get it to 60 mph in around 4.7 to 4.8 seconds and up to a top speed of 165 mph. Needless to say, this is one hot hatch, but it doesn’t come cheap either. It starts out at £31,250 as of the time of this writing, which computes to about $38,350. But, for that extra $4,000, you get a lot more power and way better performance, so the question is: do you want a Ford with more Power or a Seat with its new looks and technology? I’d go for the RS, but that’s just me.
Read more about the Ford Focus RS here.
The new Civic Type R is another one of those hot hatches that are absolutely impossible to ignore. The current model offers up 305 horsepower and 295 pound-feet of torque to go with its overall sporty character. With the right driver behind the wheel, the current Type R can hit the 62-mph sprint in 5.7 seconds and hit a top speed of 168 mph. But, that doesn’t matter because the 2017 model is about to be unleashed on the market with sportier looks, more aggressiveness and a mild upgrade in output as well. The new model is expected to return somewhere around 315 horsepower, 305 pound-feet of torque, and hit the 60-mph sprint in around five seconds – making it the best Type R to ever roll off the line and giving it a chance to compete with the likes of every other hot hatch on the market. Plus, the Type R is heavily tunable and in the hands of the right grease monkey can be massaged to deliver some insane performance numbers. The current model starts out at £30,000 while the upcoming model should see a price somewhere in the range of £31,200. If you’re going to opt for the Civic Type R, your best bet is to wait for the next model to makes its debut in the near future.
Find out more about the Honda Civic Type R here.
At this point, I have to call out VW and its sub-brands for being stingy on the power output in these little hot hatches. The new Cupra 300, just like the new Golf R, still fall far short of the performance offered by the biggest hit in the market right now, the Ford Focus RS. When it comes to raw power and performance, you can beat the RS, and it sends power to all four wheels.
The Cupra 300 isn’t a bad car, and it’s definitely an improvement over the last model, but if Seat really wants to find itself closer to the throne in the hatchback market, it needs to deliver more power and better performance. Until it does that, there will always be better options out there as long as you’re willing to pay for them. And, with those better models coming at a premium of around $4,000, it’s really not that hard of a decision make. Then again, maybe you like the minimalist nature of the Cupra 300, if so, then get your SEAT on.