Hot Hatch of the Year 2015: SEAT Leon Cupra
The SEAT Leon Cupra is the 2015 Auto Express Hot Hatch of the Year, with the Fiesta ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI commended
There are more powerful rivals, and there are opponents that are more focused to drive, but none can match the all-round ability of SEAT’s Leon Cupra.
On a twisting B-road, the Cupra delivers huge grip and razor-sharp handling, especially when you select Cupra mode from the Drive Profile system. The standard adaptive dampers adjust to road conditions, while the Leon’s engaging chassis has been stiffened to deliver an even more focused drive. An electronically controlled limited-slip diff helps to put the 276bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine’s power down, and the lack of understeer in corners is astounding for such a powerful front-drive car.
Add in responsive steering and a rasping exhaust note in Cupra mode, and the Leon is a blast to drive fast. But the best hot hatch needs to be a master of many talents to shine, and selecting Comfort mode transforms the Cupra into a docile family car. And standard-fit stop/start helps to save fuel ready for the next B-road blast.
What’s more, the Leon doesn’t shout about its performance. SEAT does offer some colour packs to help the car stand out, but if you’d rather go incognito, then 19-inch alloys and subtle Cupra badging are the only giveaways to its potential.
And unlike many hot hatch rivals, there’s a Cupra to suit all occasions. The three-door SC will appeal to those with an eye for style, the five-door hatch is a fine all-rounder, while the ST estate can keep pace with the fastest of growing families.
Leon SC Cupra 280 (£27,910)
The three-door Leon Cupra is our pick, as the slightly sharper lines suit the hot hatch better than the five-door or estate models. You can get a DSG automatic gearbox, but while it adds launch control, we think the six-speed manual version is more engaging to drive.
Ford Fiesta ST
The Fiesta ST has managed to fend off a slew of new arrivals to keep its crown as the best supermini hot hatch. Its great-value price tag and massively entertaining chassis mean it could be all the car you’d ever need, while upgrading to the Mountune performance kit is money well spent.
Volkswagen Golf GTI
The car that started the hot hatch phenomenon is still a great choice for those drivers wanting a high-quality performance model that can keep them entertained and has a real feelgood factor about it. Stick with the tartan cloth trim and manual gearbox with its golf ball gearlever, while adding the Performance Pack is a wise move.
Auto Express New Car Awards 2015
For complete, in-depth coverage of the New Car Awards 2015, buy your collector's edition copy of the Auto Express magazine now...
- 1IntroductionThe winners of the 2015 Auto Express New Car Awards have been announced
- 2Car of the Year 201512 years since the first generation model took the crown, the new Volvo XC90 is the 2015 Auto Express Car of the Year
- 3City car of the year 2015The Skoda Citigo is the 2015 Auto Express City Car of the Year, with the Hyundai i10 and Renault Twingo commended
- 4Supermini of the Year 2015The Volkswagen Polo is the 2015 Auto Express Supermini of the Year, with the Mazda 2 and Skoda Fabia commended
- 5Premium small Car of the Year 2015The Mini Cooper is the 2015 Auto Express Premium Small Car of the Year, with the Audi A1 and Citroen DS3 commended
- 6Compact family Car of the Year 2015The SEAT Leon is the 2015 Auto Express Compact Family Car of the Year, with the MINI 5dr and Skoda Octavia commended
- 7Family Car of the Year 2015The Skoda Superb is the 2015 Auto Express Family Car of the Year, with the Mazda 6 and Volkswagen Passat commended
- 8Estate Car of the Year 2015The Volkswagen Passat Estate is the 2015 Auto Express Estate Car of the Year, with the SEAT Leon ST and Skoda Octavia Estate commended
- 9MPV of the Year 2015The Citroen Grand C4 Picasso is the 2015 Auto Express MPV of the Year, with the BMW 2 Series Active Tourer and SEAT Alhambra commended
- 10Crossover of the Year 2015The Nissan Qashqai is the 2015 Auto Express Crossover of the Year, with the Citroen C4 Cactus and Mazda CX-3 commended