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In-depth reviews

Cupra Leon review – design

Subtle beyond the food processor wheels and quad exhaust outlets

Evo rating
  • More agile than a Mk8 Golf GTI Clubsport
  • Not as confidence-inspiring; forgettable looks

There’s no getting past the fact that Cupra’s Leon is almost completely indistinguishable from one with a SEAT badge on the front, which is both good and bad. Inherently, the new Leon’s exterior design is well executed and resolved. The windscreen has been brought closer to the driver, giving it more of a distinct two-box silhouette, while the body sides and basic proportions are simple, clean and less awkward than the Golf’s 'receding hairline' look.

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To most, it’s the Leon’s lighting that will draw the most looks, as the rear end is defined by a full-width light bar that brings with it a more expensive feel at night. But, take this single element away and you will be forgiven for mistaking it for pretty much any midsize hatchback as the overall design is more generic than it was before.

The issue comes when we start considering the Leon as a Cupra, as the sporty design elements are paired back to an absolute minimum. The front bumper and grille insert are new, but their design is so derivative of the basic SEAT that the two are almost indistinguishable unless sitting side by side. The same can be said for the rear, as while 300 models come with four round exhaust outlets, they sit in an equally dull rear bumper with only the merest attempt of purpose.

There are no arch extensions, wings, sill extensions or even funky graphics, and while the top-spec 19-inch food-processor wheels are distinctive, their design is out of kilter with the otherwise mundane design. Cupra’s penchant for matte colour options does help, but they’re not enough to make the Leon look like anything more than a high-spec run-of-the-mill family hatchback. With a whole brand to represent, the Cupra Leon needed to be more visually arresting, not to mention distinctive.

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