What’s it like?
I’m not sure yet whether it’s down to this car’s powertrain, or whether the wider Cupra Leon line-up will share this car’s characteristics, but it’s curiously unsatisfying.
I can’t remember the last time I drove a car and struggled to work it out as much as I have this one.
Let’s start with the good bits. The Leon steers rather nicely, with smoothness and linearity, good accuracy and the kind of natural response that’s easy to warm to. There is a bit of torque steer but it’s slight and that’s not surprising, considering the instant energy of the motor, whose soundtrack – given the engine is sometimes off – is augmented with a gruff electro backbeat played over whatever the actual drivetrain is making, depending on the drive mode. Sometimes that’s not unappealing. To imagine it, think of a Fiat 500 TwinAir mixed with some digital overlay and amplified. I imagine it could get wearing.
From that point onwards, it’s all more baffling still. The ride is sometimes compliant, rounding off the worst edges with only the occasional thump, but it also feels heavy and wooden, with a curious diagonal pitch on motorway curves.
It’s not engaging like you might imagine a hot hatch should be, and it seems to feel every ounce and more of its 1596kg kerb weight. The claimed weight distribution is only 56% to the front, which is reasonable, given how much is up there.
The interior is pretty good, though, if you don’t mind bronzing. It feels well assembled, and although as usual there’s too much for the touchscreen to do, it’s well appointed and the seats and driving position are particularly good.
Should I buy one?
I’m not totally convinced. I’m not entirely sure what the Cupra Leon is trying to be. If it’s a hot hatchback, then it’s not engaging or agile enough, and if it’s just a quick PHEV, then it’s closer to the mark but still dynamically unsettled to the point that it’s not relaxed enough in daily driving.
Perhaps an internally combusted Leon will be better and, if so, that’s a shame: it’s time we had an affordable ‘hot’ PHEV that was fun to drive.