SEAT Leon SC Cupra 2014 review

21 Feb, 2014 11:45am Jack Rix

Manual version of the SEAT Leon SC Cupra three-door is great to drive


There must be internal warfare at the VW Group, as the Leon Cupra is faster, cheaper and better looking than the Golf GTI it’s based on. SEAT has done a fine job of putting together an appealing package, and with a differential and adaptive dampers as standard it’s a serious performance car at full tilt. The three-door manual brings some savings, but we’d save even more and choose the lower-powered 261bhp version – you’ll hardly notice the difference.

Previously, we put the five-door, DSG-equipped, SEAT Leon Cupra 280 through its paces. It’s the most expensive model in the Cupra range – but what if you don’t have quite as much cash at your disposal?

Go for the three-door SEAT Leon SC Cupra manual and you’ll save £300 for the removal of the rear doors, plus £1,285 for ditching the six-speed DSG.

The car we drove was still fitted with the more potent 276bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, although a less powerful 261bhp version is also available that slashes another £1,250 from the price. Rather than detracting from the Cupra’s abilities, choosing a cheaper model actually has a number of benefits.

For starters, the manual gearbox has a light but precise action, so it’s a pleasure flicking it around the gate. It’s a bit of a tired cliche now that manual boxes offer more interactivity between driver and machine, especially when modern DSG gearboxes are so fast and compromise- free – but in the Cupra’s case it’s true.

The SC also benefits from a 35mm shorter wheelbase than the five-door (although it has the same 380 litres of boot space), which gives it a more squat, powerful stance, but also makes it more agile.

The way the front-wheel-drive Cupra spears into corners and finds traction on the way out – thanks largely to the standard front differential – is remarkable.

Pace from the 276bhp engine is frantic, but in reality, the loss in performance on the 261bhp car is negligible. In its pursuit of VW Golf GTI-slaying speed, SEAT hasn’t forgotten about refinement, either.

Back off the throttle, switch the three-stage dampers to their comfort setting and you could be driving a £17,720 Leon SC 1.4 TSI. And that’s our only problem with the Leon Cupra – when it’s good it’s very good indeed, but it doesn’t always feel special enough for that £26,940 price tag.

Disqus - noscript

Like this car. Much bettet looking than the GTi. Very smart indeed.

Very true, but im a bit disappointed they didnt make the front bumper more like the cup racer and less like the FR. They missed a trick with that one.

Agreed Brian, The Cup racer looked like a very serious bit of kit and this front end looks a bit to much like the FR models, the rear looks good though.

A standard differential? My, how impressive. And look - it has wheels too. else is it supposed to transfer power to the wheels?

Key specs

  • Price: £26,940
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
  • Power: 276bhp
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 5.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 155mph
  • Economy: 42.8mpg
  • CO2: 154g/km
  • On sale: Now