Cupra León 2021: First Drive test with 300HP

And for those who are still not satisfied, ABT still announces improvements to come.

It is a direct rival to the Hyundai i30 N, the Renault Mégane RS Trophy, the Ford Focus ST, and the Honda Civic Type-R. It is as fast or faster than its rivals and it is very easy to drive; precisely for that reason, there will be those who find it less exciting. The Cupra brand continues to grow. And, for this reason, we have already been able to test the Cupra perhaps most awaited by sports car fans: the 300 hp Cupra León TSi, in this case with a five-door body. This version is only offered with a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG automatic transmission, front-wheel drive with VAQ electronically controlled limited-slip differential and DCC adaptive suspension. All of this is standard.

This five-door Cupra León is also sold with a 2.0 TSI engine with 245 hp and two plug-in hybrids with 204 and 245 hp. In addition, there is a Sportstourer estate variant with the same engines, plus a 310 hp 4Drive with all-wheel drive (and with XDS instead of VAQ).

Cupra León: this is how it is inside and out

Aesthetically, the resemblance to its brother from Seat is undeniable, as it is still manufactured on the same 4.39 m long five-door body of the Seat León. However, the sports bumpers, the 19 ″ wheels, the four tailpipes, the glossy black accents scattered throughout the body, or the Cupra logos give it a much more sporty and personal look.

Inside the differences are smaller. The great standard semi-bucket seats (what is optional is that they are leather and that they are heated and have electrical adjustment; from 1,653 euros depending on the tone of the leather) give you a hint that you are in something different and the configurable digital instrumentation has exclusive spellings of Cupra, but the rest is very similar to what we can find in other Lions.

So the central touch screen continues to convince us less than the usual buttons, and the finishes are good especially for adjustments. Behind, two people will be better than three, and the trunk, with 380 liters, is average, so it can not receive great criticism either.

That’s how it goes

You have to get going to begin to feel the differences. And it will be easy because this Cupra León has a rabid 2.0 petrol four-cylinder turbo with 300 hp, DCC adaptive suspension, gigantic brakes with 370 mm discs (340 mm as standard), and fixed four-piston Brembo calipers (which cost 3,991 euros and include a panoramic roof and a Beats audio system), an electronically controlled multi-disc clutch differential (called VAQ), semi-slick Bridgestone Potenza Race tires (they cost 1,448 euros, and come with specific design wheels, but also in 19 ”) and a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox (no manual, and not expected).

Cupra León 2021

There are four driving modes: Comfort, Sport, Cupra, and Individual. The two that best match the character of this car are the Sport and the Cupra, although the Individual allows you to mix the hardness of the steering, the suspension, the response of the gearbox and the engine, its sound, and the operation of the air conditioning. and active speed control to our liking. 

In the case of suspension, in Individual mode, we find up to 15 positions to regulate the hardness of the suspension. It is very good to have so many possibilities but, after all, in all these suspensions the hardness of the shock varies, but not that of the spring. So, at least for my taste, that spring works especially well as long as you move between the point of hardness that is just before the Sport mode, which would be the seventh degree of hardness, and that is just after the Cupra, which would correspond to the thirteenth, all depending on how broken or bulging the floor is.

The one that I always leave in Cupra mode is the engine. It is still a delight. He pushes hard from far below, and his fury increases until you approach 6,500 rpm. It is a fabulous engine that also gives us the occasional loud backfire through the exhaust when we suddenly release the accelerator pedal or simply downshift. 

Too bad the DSG gearbox, as it happens now with almost all DSGs, gets a bit stuck when you want to start fast or in very slow zones of second gear. Afterward, it goes very well, but in those moments it seems that the electronics are too restrictive to avoid possible damage. 

Cupra León 2021 Very easy to drive

The Cupra León has that typical touch of all VW Group GTIs. It is a car designed to be very effective, and that happens because it is as fast as it is easy to drive. The steering, which is a bit softer than expected even in Cupra mode, is very precise. At the same time, the suspension works very well and, playing with the aforementioned DCC degrees of hardness, you get a very stable car with an amazing ability to copy and filter out irregularities in the ground. In addition, and although it always feels firm, it is not a particularly uncomfortable car. 

Cupra León 2021

I leave this section to talk about traction. As I said at the beginning, this Cupra León TSI 300 is only offered with front-wheel drive and electronically controlled multi-disc clutch differential, whose operation varies depending on the selected mode and whether you have the ESC stability control connected, in Sport mode or off. 

In general, the Cupra León is a car with a very incisive front axle and very good traction capacity but, in slow and medium corners, when accelerating, the engine’s potential is very great when it comes to transmitting it to the ground at a low speed. that we accelerate with enthusiasm. In these situations, you will notice a very slight vibration accompanied by a reorientation of the front axle towards the inside of the curve while the Cupra León gains speed significantly. That means the VAQ is acting and simulating the action of self-locking, and it does it very well. 

So you cheer up, you put the ESC in Sport mode and you accelerate more and more and you do it earlier. And the VAQ increases its effectiveness every time … until a point in which it either stops acting or simply leaves the control to the traction and stability controls. At that moment, you will notice that the Cupra continues to go where you mark it with the steering wheel, but it no longer advances the same. 

Everything happens in a subtle, almost imperceptible way and for thousandths of a second unless you completely disconnect the ESC, at which point you will notice that the Cupra begins to lose the wheel when you accelerate as if there was no tomorrow and while you perceive how the tendency to go increases. nose. 

So, basically with the Cupra León, you have to get used to taking the front axle where you want it to be, and that’s very easy. The rear axle is very noble, neutral, and stable, so much so that it is difficult to displace it. And the truth is, this car is doing so well that doing so would not improve its efficiency either.

And the price? 

This Leon Cupra costs 42,167 euros, almost the same as the Hyundai i30 N Performance 280 (41,900 euros) and the Renault Mégane RS Trophy EDC (42,609 euros), but it is more expensive than a Ford Focus ST 280 () and, also, cheaper than a Honda Civic Type-R. All in all, and seeing how the Cupra is equipped, the price is reasonable, which does not mean that it is precisely affordable. 

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