The rain is coming down in buckets and it’s not letting up. I know because I’m charging along in country NSW in the Cupra Leon V, and I’ve had to switch from auto wipers to the all-out setting.
Only a couple of hours before I’d been sitting through a brief product presentation that pointed out Leon V’s reduced power output compared with other variants.
Never mind the numbers, because we’re setting a cracking pace in slippery conditions and the base Leon couldn’t feel more at home. It fact, I’m hoping for the inclement weather to set in for a few days, such is the progress we’re making and the fun we’re having.
It’s not just the speed that surprises us, it’s more that we’re carving up these isolated B-roads and doing it in such an effortless fashion, with such reassuring confidence.
Whichever way you look at, there’s a strong case for the base Cupra Leon hatch offering the best bang-for-buck in the range, especially given its favourable balance of performance, equipment, and price.
Cupra has just bumped up Leon pricing for its 2024 by as much as $1700, and added DAB+ radio to its list of standard equipment to help offset it – but the cars impacted by that haven’t touched down just yet.
In the meantime, there’s still stock of cheaper 2023 models around at their original prices – including the Leon V tested here from $43,990 before on-roads, or $47,990 drive-away.
For the updated MY24 model range, expect to pay $49,190 drive-away (+$1200) for the entry-level Leon V.
2024 Cupra Leon price
- 2024 Cupra Leon V: $49,190 (+$1200)
- 2024 Cupra Leon VZ: $57,990 (+$1500)
- 2024 Leon VZe: $61,690 before on-road costs (+$1700)
- $64,690 (ACT) (+$1700)
- $65,690 (QLD) (+$1700)
- $66,690 (NSW) (+$1700)
- $66,690 (SA) (+$1700)
- $67,190 (VIC) (+$1700)
- $67,690 (WA) (+$1700)
- 2024 Cupra Leon VZx: $65,690 (+$1700)
All prices are drive-away.
It might be the budget-conscious variant in the Cupra Leon range, but you don’t miss much given the quality of materials and generous equipment list across the range.
Cupra brings a fresh approach to design, especially when it comes to the interior. It’s decidedly sporty, yet there’s also a premium look and feel about the entire cabin.
The sports seats seats up front, even in the base Leon, wouldn’t look out of place in a Lamborghini.
They’re only partial leather with patterned material inserts, but they’re incredibly comfortable on longer stints behind the wheel with extra bolstering all round.
For those buyers partial to full Nappa leather upholstery we’d recommend the Leather & Sound Package, which adds heated seats with power adjustment for the driver, as well as a Beats sound system.
Cupra does flat-bottom steering wheels better than most, using perforated tactile leather emblazoned with its unique copper-coloured logo and brightwork . The rim itself is of perfect thickness, making quick changes of direction a driver’s delight.
Knobs and dials are non-existent in the Leon. Thankfully though, the designers have had the good sense to leave a couple of scroll wheels on the tiller for volume adjustment and driver’s display configurability.
That level of practicality hasn’t been extended to the climate controls, where touch buttons are the only shortcut option for temperature control. It’s actually quite intuitive, or you can tap the Clima button on the central screen which brings up the entire HVAC display.
The centrally-mounted touchscreen is a huge 12-inch unit offering first-rate clarity and colour, along with quick response, while the driver’s display is slightly smaller at 10.25 inches but remains usefully configurable.
Annoyingly, the’s no drive mode button on the centre console where you’d normally find it.
Rather, you tap the an icon on the touchscreen which brings up several modes including Individual, allowing further customisation over your steering, powertrain, and suspension setup. I’d prefer a rocker switch conveniently placed next to the stubby transmission selector.
Overall, it’s spacious and devoid of clutter with stacks of storage for all the usual stuff like phones, keys, sunnies, and bottled water. The door pockets are particularly large in that respect.
The front-most compartment doubles as a wireless phone charger and you’ve the choice of both wired and wireless CarPlay and Android Auto. It’s robust, with not one dropout during hours of driving in regional New South Wales.
That same feeling of spaciousness applies to the second row which offers properly bolstered seating for the two outside passengers, with still plenty width for the centre seat if it’s not in use as an armrest.
Legroom is good back there, with the added convenience of automatic climate control and dual USB-C ports. However, smaller passengers might feel a tad claustrophobic with the one-piece sports seats blocking the view forward.
The rear seats are 60/40 split-fold and don’t drop completely flat, with the added inconvenience of a large lip to manage if you’re carrying bulky stuff like bikes or even surfboards.
It’s manageable but not ideal. There’s 380 litres of boot space back there.
Power in the Leon V comes from a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine making 140kW of power between 4200rpm and 6000rpm, and 320Nm of torque between 1500rpm and 4100rpm.
It’s delivered exclusively to the front axle through a seven-speed wet dual-clutch transmission. The zero to 100km/h sprint takes a claimed 7.2 seconds.
The obvious comparison is with the Cupra Leon VZ for those buyers with the means to step up a notch. It uses a version of the same 2.0-litre turbo-four tuned to deliver 180kW and 370Nm – good enough to cover off the 100km/h sprint in 6.4 seconds.
Claimed fuel economy for the Leon V is 6.2 litres per 100km on the combined cycle, we saw as low as 6.8L/100km on a highway run back to Sydney from the Blue Mountains.
Premium 95 RON unleaded fuel is required as a minimum, and the fuel tank holds 50 litres.
Ordinarily, I sink to a mild level of depression when faced with the realisation it’s going rain cats and dogs on what could have been an enjoyable, hard-charging drive.
Nevertheless, the roads are completely deserted, and at least the rain is consistent if not heavy. There’s no wind that might hamper progress further or worse still, unsettle the car even more.
On the contrary, progress is brisk and utterly sure-footed at the same time, and we’re smack-bang in the middle of the really twisty stuff. The feeling from behind the wheel is uncanny. It feels completely tied down.
What’s even more encouraging is there are a few Leon VZe plug-in hybrids in the mix, and we’re staying with them with them – comfortably, thanks to the car’s balance, grip, and superb steering feel.
In the end we just keep getting on the power on (all of it), even as the rain falls harder, and there’s not a moment of front-wheel slippage or wheel spin. I’m putting our pace of progress down to the feedback through the steering wheel. It’s a complete surprise given the Leon V is the entry point to the range.
It’s not just the steering that inspires; it’s as much about damper tuning in Leon. It’s as though someone at Porsche was brought in specially to set up the suspension up on this car, so good is the ride compliance at speed over some pretty ordinary surfaces.
The tarmac is littered with bumps, deep potholes, and crumbling edges, but you don’t feel them in the Leon – so you drive straight over them. Mid-corner abrasions don’t seem to unsettle the car, so you keep pouring on the cornering pace
Do you miss the 40kW of power or 60Nm of torque gained by moving up the range? Not in these conditions, especially knowing the Leon V is lighter by 30kg. It seems to make all the difference here.
Perhaps the combination of rain falling, tyre roar, and general road noise cancelling out any four-pot snarl that might be man-made or electronically synthesised, but I’d like more of it, even on the V.
Same goes for the auto throttle blips on downshifts, which aren’t loud enough to properly excite either. Perhaps a loud button is in order, or even the synthesised note from the VZe would suffice.
The 2024 Cupra Leon V comes with the following standard features:
- 18-inch black-and-silver alloy wheels
- 18-inch space-saver spare wheel
- Heated, power folding side mirrors
- LED headlights
- LED daytime running lights
- Fog lights with cornering function
- LED tail lights with static indicators
- Automatic headlights
- Automatic high-beam
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Rear tinted windows
- 12-inch touchscreen infotainment display
- Wired and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
- 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster
- Wireless phone charger
- Digital DAB+ radio (New)
- Two front and two rear USB-C ports
- Heated, leather-wrapped steering wheel
- Paddle shifters
- Interior ambient lighting
- Black headliner
- Cloth sports bucket seats
- Driver profile selection
- Dynamic Chassis Control
- Progressive steering
- Keyless entry and start
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Three-zone climate control
- Illuminated sill panels
- Rear spoiler
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
- Two front and two rear cup holders
The Cupra Leon wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on Euro NCAP testing conducted on the SEAT Leon in 2020.
It received an adult occupant protection rating of 91 per cent, a child occupant protection rating of 88 per cent, a vulnerable road user protection rating of 71 per cent, and a safety assist rating of 80 per cent.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- 10 airbags incl. front-centre, driver’s knee
- AEB incl. Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Adaptive cruise control with stop/go
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross-traffic alert
- Driver fatigue monitoring
- Lane keep assist
- Proactive passenger protection (pre-crash)
- Reversing camera
- Safe exit warning
- Travel Assist (adaptive cruise + lane centring)
The Cupra Leon is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Cupra no longer offers three-years of free servicing, instead buyers can choose from three and five-year service packs. The three-year pack costs $990, while the five-year pack is $1990.
Hardcore enthusiasts who like Cupra’s edgy designs will likely look past the Leon V in favour of more powerful variants, but that would be selling it short in so many ways.
Never mind the shortfall in output relative to the VZ, the base Leon is an exceptionally well-sorted hatch and a lot more capable that the numbers might suggest, especially in the twisties – and especially in the wet.
Then there’s the value-money aspect. There’s not a lot of kit the Leon V misses out on, but if you want the full suite, the Leather and Sound Package is a sure-fire bargain.
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MORE: Everything Cupra Leon