Cupra‘s no longer an upstart in Australia.
Now more than 12 months old, it sold more than 3700 cars in Australia in 2023. That makes it comfortably bigger than Peugeot, let alone the likes of Alfa Romeo and Jaguar.
Although it’s not the brand’s biggest seller, the 2024 Cupra Leon V hatchback on test here is the cheapest way for buyers to enjoy Cupra’s unique, more Spanish take on the engines and platforms underpinning some of Volkswagen and Skoda’s best sellers.
The Leon V was warmly received at launch. Has the shine faded in 2024, or does it still make a strong impression?
2024 Cupra Leon pricing:
- 2024 Cupra Leon V: $49,190
- 2024 Cupra Leon VZ: $57,990
- 2024 Leon Leon VZe: $61,690 before on-road costs
- $64,690 (ACT)
- $65,690 (QLD)
- $66,690 (NSW)
- $66,690 (SA)
- $67,190 (VIC)
- $67,690 (WA)
- 2024 Cupra Leon VZx: $65,690
Prices are drive-away
The Cupra Leon takes on a range of warm and hot hatchbacks in Australia. To see how it stacks up, use our comparison tool.
The Leon V might be the cheapest Cupra money can buy in Australia, but it’s not a stripped-out affair inside.
Volkswagen’s fingerprints are still on the design, from the dual-screen setup to the layout of the central tunnel, but Cupra has done enough to differentiate the overall design. I prefer the Leon to a Golf from behind the wheel.
The fundamentals are excellent. Driver and passenger sit in sporty seats with plenty of bolstering, and tall drivers won’t have trouble getting comfortable.
The base V has cloth-trimmed bucket-style seats with leather bolsters, which feel suitably sporty. It’d be nice if the seats dropped lower to really deliver a sporty feel, but otherwise there isn’t much to complain about.
As you’d expect of a modern Volkswagen Group cabin, screens are the showpiece here. The touchscreen is a 12-inch unit running Cupra’s take on the software rolled out in the Golf and Skoda Octavia, along with the same touch sliders below for volume and temperature control.
Points to Cupra for allowing owners to drop a widget on the home screen to control fan speed for the air-con, and for making shortcut buttons prominent – it’s easier to jump around the system than in the Golf – but it’s fiddly at times.
It’s also harder than it really should be to change drive modes. You need to dive through sub-menus in the V to find Sport or Cupra, which seems like a weird oversight for a brand that wants to be overtly sporty.
The VZx has a wheel-mounted button that’s very Lamborghini; we’d love to see it here as well.
The digital cockpit is handsome, and features unique graphics in keeping with Cupra’s sportier remit. The steering wheel itself feels great in your hands, and has proper buttons instead of the touch controls rolling out elsewhere.
Rear seat space is about par for the class. The chunky front seats with their one-piece backrests block forward visibility, but kids will be able to get comfortable back there without too much stress.
Dual ISOFIX points and three top-tether points for child seats feature back there, along with a fold-down central armrest, air vents, and dual USB-C points.
As is the case in any other similar-sized hatchback, the rear door opening is quite tight which means loading kids (or squeezing adults) isn’t as easy here as in the more practical Ateca. Then again, that’s not really the point of a small hatchback anyway.
The claimed 380L of boot space is up 6L on what you get in a Golf GTI, and the load bay itself is a broad space that’s easy enough to load awkward items into. Folding the rear seats reveals 1210 litres of space.
|Cupra Leon V
|2.0-litre 4cyl turbo
|7-speed dual-clutch automatic
|Fuel economy (claim)
|Fuel economy (as tested)
|Fuel tank size
You miss out on some of the drama on offer in the more powerful Leon VZ and VZx here, but it still feels like a close relative.
There’s a little flourish of revs when you prod the start button, and it packs more of a punch than you’d expect of a base model when you put your foot down.
With plenty of torque on tap, the Leon is a smooth mover around the city. The dual-clutch transmission is devoid of any awkwardness off the mark, and it shuffles smartly through the gears when you’re just cruising around town.
Throw in a comfortable ride on the adaptive dampers – an option usually reserved for more expensive cars, and one that offers impressive customisation potential – and you’ve got a car that’s very comfortable on the daily drive.
Although they’re not dripping with intent like some of their hot hatch rivals, Volkswagen Group hatches offer their performance with very little compromise. That’s always been a core part of the appeal.
The grown-up, big-car-in-a-small-car-body feeling you get from the Leon translates to the open road as well.
It’s nicely settled at highway speeds, and has enough performance in reserve for high-speed overtakes.
With that said, the Leon falls into a familiar trap on Australian highways. With the cruise set to 100km/h there’s a lot of road roar from the 18-inch wheels, forcing you to crank the stereo to drown it out.
A full suite of active driver assists is on hand to keep a gap to the vehicle in front, keep you between the white lines, and warn of hidden obstacles in your blind-spot at highway speeds, all of which are smartly calibrated.
Cupra gives you Sport and Cupra modes, but you can also configure the car using an Individual mode. It’s a shame you need to dive through so many different touchscreen menus to jump into those modes.
The adaptive dampers can be toggled through a huge range of settings, from more relaxed than in Comfort to firmer than in the most aggressive Cupra mode; while the steering and drivetrain are all configurable as well.
The Leon is a fun, fast way to cover ground when the road gets twisty. The front end is keen to turn, body roll is kept nicely in check, even with the adaptive dampers set up with a focus on compliance.
With accurate, direct steering, it’s easy to place the car where you want it, and there’s plenty of torque on tap to drag you out of corners from low in the rev range.
Compared to the more expensive VZ you need to work it harder, but the difference is most noticeable at the top end of the rev range. Here the VZ rips confidently to its redline with its Golf GTI-derived engine, while the V can feel a bit breathless.
It sounds decent though, with a solid serving of huffing and puffing from the turbocharger, and a raspy bark from the engine.
Shifts from the seven-speed transmission are sharp in Cupra mode, and pulling the plastic paddles behind the wheel elicits an instant response. When you take charge with the paddles the car will actually stay in the gear you’ve chosen unless it absolutely can’t.
Leon V highlights:
- 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, wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
- 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster
- Wireless phone charger
- DAB+ radio
- 2 x front, 2 x 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
- Leather and Sound package: $2550 (V, VZ, VZe)
- Leather upholstery
- Heated front seats
- Power driver’s seat with memory
- Mirror memory
- Dashboard with copper-coloured stitching
- 9-speaker Beats sound system
- Power sunroof: $1850
The Cupra Leon has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, which is 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 across the Leon range includes:
- Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian, cyclist detection
- Adaptive cruise control
- Lane-keep assist with highway lane-centring
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Rear cross traffic alert
- Safe exit warning
- Driver fatigue monitoring
- Reversing camera
- 8 airbags
- 2 x ISOFIX Ports and 3 x top-tether points
The 2024 Cupra Leon is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.
Buyers can choose from three- and five-year service packs. The three-year pack is priced at $990, while the five-year pack is $1990. Cupra offers its customers the option of a Service Pack prior to their first scheduled service.
At the time of publication, Cupra is offering three years of free servicing as part of a finance offer.
The Leon V is a very convincing ‘base’ model.
It’s good to look at, fun to drive, and offers something different enough to the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 to carve a niche of its own.
I’d love if Cupra leant even harder into the sporty, spicy flavour with the V; though, they should make it easier to shuffle between drive modes. There’s real sporting ability built into this car and it should be easier to unlock it.
Regardless, the value equation is impressive when you consider you’ll pay at least $13,000 more for an Audi A3 with the same engine.
As it stands, you can also pick one up with three years of free servicing and a sharp interest rate to help sweeten the deal. I’d buy one over a Golf R-Line without giving it a second thought, despite the $5000 price difference if you factor in VW’s current drive-away offers on MY23 runout models.
So no, the shine has definitely not faded from the Leon V in 2024.
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