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.

Our choice

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.

Commended

Ford Fiesta ST Mountune - front cornering

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 cornering

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...  

Mag cover awards 2015 issue

in association with

 

Recommended

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300
Car group tests

Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport vs Cupra Leon 300

The capable Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport goes up against its new Cupra Leon 300 sibling in this hot hatch battle
12 Jun 2021
New Cupra Leon 2021 review
Cupra Leon - front
SEAT Leon Cupra

New Cupra Leon 2021 review

The new Cupra Leon shares much with the VW Golf GTI Clubsport, but is more focused and cheaper
13 May 2021
New 2021 Cupra Leon Estate on sale now priced from £38,475
Cupra Leon
SEAT Leon Cupra

New 2021 Cupra Leon Estate on sale now priced from £38,475

Cupra has launched an estate version of its Leon hot hatchback, with 306bhp and four-wheel drive
30 Apr 2021

Most Popular

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox
Dacia Duster gear lever
News

Driving test update to preserve the manual gearbox

With more drivers learning in autos and electric cars, the DVSA is looking to update the driving test so people can still drive manuals in future
16 Jun 2021
Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services
Tesla Model 3 police car - front
News

Tesla Model 3 police car all set for evaluation by UK emergency services

Tesla hopes to offer UK police forces a new zero-emission emergency responder option with the Model 3 police car
17 Jun 2021
New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power
Vauxhall Astra render
Vauxhall Astra

New 2021 Vauxhall Astra to offer plug-in hybrid power

The new Vauxhall Astra will get a plug-in hybrid powertrain and a more premium image - here’s how it could look
17 Jun 2021
Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review
Ineos Grenadier prototype
Ineos Grenadier 4x4

Ineos Grenadier prototype 2022 review

Can the Ineos Grenadier really fill the mud-splattered void left by the old Land Rover Defender? We take a first drive in a prototype to find out...
15 Jun 2021
Motorists think they can get away with driving offences due to lack of road police
police speed gun
News

Motorists think they can get away with driving offences due to lack of road police

Lack of road traffic police officers in the UK is making it easy for drivers to break the law, according to a survey of 15,500 British motorists
16 Jun 2021
New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review
Nissan Qashqai 2021
Nissan Qashqai

New Nissan Qashqai 2021 review

We get behind the wheel of the larger, more comfortable and higher-tech Nissan Qashqai SUV in the UK
16 Jun 2021
Dacia unveils new badge design
Dacia badge
Dacia

Dacia unveils new badge design

The new Dacia branding will feature on the company’s cars from 2022, with the Bigster being the first candidate
17 Jun 2021
New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review
Audi Q4 e-tron 2021  front
Audi Q4 e-tron

New Audi Q4 e-tron 2021 review

We get involved with the new all-electric Audi Q4 e-tron SUV on UK roads for the first time
17 Jun 2021
UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars
Electric car charging
News

UN report highlights ethical problems with electric cars

Analysis reveals lithium refining takes 65 per cent of Chilean region’s water, while 40,000 child miners dig for cobalt in DRC
14 Jun 2021
'I was cynical about Hyundai's aim to be the world's 2nd biggest carmaker, not now'
Opinion Genesis Hyundai Ioniq
Opinion

'I was cynical about Hyundai's aim to be the world's 2nd biggest carmaker, not now'

Steve Fowler is impressed by Hyundai's electric cars, its N division and now its luxury Genesis brand
16 Jun 2021
Mazda to launch 10 new hybrids and three new EVs by 2025
Mazda electric plan
Mazda

Mazda to launch 10 new hybrids and three new EVs by 2025

The electrification push forms part of Mazda’s goal to become a completely carbon neutral company by 2050
17 Jun 2021
New Renault Arkana 2021 review
Renault Arkana - front
Renault Arkana

New Renault Arkana 2021 review

Does an eye-catching coupe-SUV body give the new Renault Arkana the edge over other mid-size SUVs? We find out...
16 Jun 2021
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed
Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition
Ford Puma

Fan-designed Ford Puma ST Gold Edition revealed

Ford unveils a special edition Puma ST, with a black and gold colour scheme chosen by Ford fans over social media
18 Jun 2021
New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review
Skoda Enyaq iV 80 Sportline - front
Skoda Enyaq

New Skoda Enyaq iV 2021 review

The new Skoda Enyaq iV is the Czech firm’s first bespoke electric car and we've tested the full range on UK roads
10 Jun 2021