This test car is a performance plug-in hybrid (PHEV) variant, with 242bhp and 295lb ft, featuring a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol mated to an electric motor. With a 12.8kWh battery, it has a pure electric range of 31 miles, and you can set the minimum level it’ll discharge to, in case you want to save some juice for a zero-emissions zone. The drive units both sit under the bonnet and it’s front-wheel drive
Also front drive, incidentally, will be 242bhp and 296bhp 2.0-litre turbo pure-petrol units. And then the 2.0-litre 306bhp engine and four-wheel drive system as tested in the Formentor will also be available in the Cupra Leon, but in the estate version only rather than in this hatchback.
The Cupra Leon sits 25mm lower at the front and 20mm lower at the rear than the regular Seat Leon, for a lower centre of gravity. There are struts at the front and a multi-link set-up at the rear, and big 370mm brake discs behind 19in rims and 235/35 R19 Goodyear Eagle F1s. All quite sporty.
I’m not sure yet whether it's down to this car’s powertrain, or whether the wider Cupra Leon line-up will share this car’s characteristics, but it’s curiously unsatisfying.
I can’t remember the last time I drove a car and struggled to work it out as much as I have this one.
Let’s start with the good bits. The Leon steers rather nicely, with smoothness and linearity, good accuracy and the kind of natural response that’s easy to warm to. There is a bit of torque steer but it’s slight and that’s not surprising, considering the instant energy of the motor, whose soundtrack – given the engine is sometimes off – is augmented with a gruff electro backbeat played over whatever the actual drivetrain is making, depending on the drive mode. Sometimes that’s not unappealing. To imagine it, think of a Fiat 500 TwinAir mixed with some digital overlay and amplified. I imagine it could get wearing.