New SEAT Leon Cupra set to blow rivals away with 276bhp

8 Jan, 2014 9:00am Paul Bond

New flagship SEAT Leon Cupra outmuscles VW Golf GTI with an incredible 276bhp

The new SEAT Leon Cupra has been revealed, and it packs quite a punch.

Last year saw a bumper crop of new hot hatches, from the VW Golf GTI to the Ford Fiesta ST – but the SEAT Leon Cupra is set to blow them all away. Based on similar mechanicals to the 217bhp Golf GTI, it delivers up to 276bhp from its 2.0-litre turbo.

• SEAT Leon review

The Cupra will make its public debut at March’s Geneva Motor Show, and provides a choice of power outputs. There’s 261bhp in the manual three-door SC, or 276bhp in the three-door DSG auto plus the manual and auto five-doors, all badged Cupra 280.

The 261bhp three-door covers 0-62mph in 5.9 seconds, while the Cupra 280s take 5.7 seconds. All versions hit an electronically limited top speed of 155mph.

The three-door Cupra is £435 cheaper than the equivalent Golf GTI, at £25,690, but has a limited-slip front differential and adaptive dampers as standard. These work with the 44bhp power advantage to ensure the Leon is over half a second quicker from 0-62mph.

SEAT Leon Cupra performance

The 276bhp five-door comes with bigger 19-inch alloys, high-performance Brembo brakes and a set of stickier, track-focused tyres. Even with a six-speed DSG auto, the Cupra 280 undercuts the Golf GTI Performance Pack by £650, at just £28,525, and order books are open now.

SEAT has hinted that the new Cupra 280 has already lapped Germany’s Nürburgring race track “significantly quicker” than the Renault Megane RS 265, which would make it the fastest front-wheel-drive hot hatch ever. The ESC system has been revised so that it can be partly disabled or fully turned off for truly hardcore drivers with an eye on track days.

Adaptive dampers, fine-tuned specifically for the Cupra, have a choice of three modes, while a ‘Cupra Drive Profile’ will let owners tailor various mechanical settings to suit their tastes.

Yet although there has been a huge increase in performance and spec, the design isn’t too ‘in your face’. Wide front air intakes, a low front bumper and swollen wheelarches are all present, but bosses have told us SEAT is keen to avoid being tarnished with a “boy racer” image. At the back, two oval exhausts and subtle chequered flag badges are the only clues to the searing pace. Instead, the company claims the new Cupra is an “elegant” car that can be used more as a “day-to-day” driver than ever before.

Even so, for buyers who do want more extrovert visuals from their hot hatch, SEAT will sell a limited-edition launch version with looks inspired by the Leon Cup Racer, offering coloured alloys, contrasting mirrors and a two-tone interior design.

All models come with full LED headlights, DAB radio, rain-sensing headlights and auto wipers as standard, while the Cupra 280 adds a rear spoiler, gloss black mirror caps, red brake calipers and sat-nav. Inside, the new model sticks closely to the blueprint laid down by the sporty Leon FR, although a flat-bottomed steering wheel, LED ambient lighting and Alcantara-trimmed seats add a sense of drama.

Yet despite the mind-blowing pace, the car will be impressively efficient. Every model has stop-start, and manual versions claim 44.1mpg and 149g/km emissions – 41g/km less than the old Cupra – regardless of power output.