Volkswagen is keen to position its Seat brand as the Spanish alternative to Alfa Romeo. That's pretty hard to do when Alfa (occasionally) gives us sports cars like the 4C and 8C, and Seat gives us... rebadged Volkswagen minivans and old Audi sedans. But the new Leon Cupra is here to change that.

Or Leon Cupras, we should say, because Seat's new flagship hot hatch is coming in two flavors, and the stronger of the two arrives as the most powerful production car Seat has ever made. Set to be unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show come March, the new Cupra is powered by Volkswagen's trusty and potent 2.0-liter TSI turbo four, available in two states of tune: 261 horsepower or 276. Either way, that favorably bridges the gap between its German counterparts, the GTI and Golf R.

European buyers will also be able to choose between three- and five-door body styles, and either a six-speed manual or dual-clutch gearbox, but whichever model you choose, you're looking at a 0-62 run of less than six seconds (as low as 5.7 in the right spec) and a top speed capped at 155 miles per hour. Which makes us want one, but we'll be happy enough to get the new VW Golf R, which shares its underpinnings and many of its specs with the Leon but offers more power. Scope out the full details in the press release below and the gallery of high-resolution images above.
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- Two versions of the new Leon flagship: Cupra and Cupra 280
- New Leon Cupra 280 is SEAT's most powerful series production car ever
- New 2.0-litre engine combines razor-sharp responsiveness with surprising efficiency, in 265 PS and 280 PS guises
- Cupra 280 DSG completes 0-62 mph sprint in just 5.7 seconds, yet returns 42.2 mpg; every Cupra hits 62 mph in less than six seconds
- Order books open today (8 January) with prices from just £25,690
- First deliveries expected early March 2014

SEAT today unveils the quickest and most powerful series production car it has ever made: the SEAT Leon Cupra 280.

The Cupra 280 sits at the top of a five-strong family of brand new Cupra models that begins with the 265 PS Leon SC Cupra and ends with the five-door Cupra 280 DSG. Here's the range at a glance:
Model Doors Engine PS Combined mpg CO2g/km 0-62
VED band OTR price
SC Cupra 3 2.0 TSI 265 44.1 149 5.9 155 F £25,690
SC Cupra 280 3 2.0 TSI 280 44.1 149 5.8 155 F £26,940
SC Cupra 280 DSG 3 2.0 TSI 280 42.2 155 5.7 155 G £28,225
Cupra 280 5 2.0 TSI 280 44.1 149 5.8 155 F £27,240
Cupra 280 DSG 5 2.0 TSI 280 42.2 155 5.7 155 G £28,525
Every Leon Cupra completes the benchmark 0-62 mph sprint in less than six seconds, while all manual versions return exceptional 44.1 mpg average fuel consumption.

But the Leon Cupra is a car whose development was led by the pursuit of dynamic excellence. To that end, every Leon Cupra comes as standard with a mechanical front axle differential lock, a progressive steering system that sharpens the turn-in for improved agility, DCC dynamic chassis control to alter the suspension settings between sportier or more comfort-oriented, and two-stage deactivation of the electronic stability control (ESC) – including the ability to turn it off entirely.

These are on top of fundamental changes compared to the previous Leon Cupra: the new Leon is built on an all-new chassis, with a wider front track and fully independent suspension front and rear.

"The new Leon Cupra is pure SEAT: emotion and performance, design and dynamics combine to deliver driving fun mile after mile. State-of-the-art technology is evident in its enormous precision, but also in its compelling efficiency," stresses Dr. Matthias Rabe, Vice President of SEAT S.A. for Research and Development. "The new Cupra is a sports car for every day; it feels just as much at home on the race track as it does on the long haul."

The Leon Cupra models embody the SEAT brand values in the best possible way. They combine exhilarating dynamics, state-of-the-art technology, stunning design, premium quality, outstanding efficiency and excellent everyday usability.

"With the new Leon Cupra, the SEAT brand is once more taking a major leap forward. The Cupra is a refined, high-performance car that combines its expressive dynamics with relaxed long-distance comfort and a compelling, high-quality feel," says Jürgen Stackmann, CEO of SEAT S.A. "Driving fun and great design comes with every Leon, but the new Cupra displays SEAT expertise in a whole new dimension. We are proud of this new brand icon and certain of its success."

The drive: stunning performance as standard

Cupra stands for power, performance and dynamics – and the new Leon Cupra and Cupra 280 have all those qualities in abundance. The Cupra 280, with optional DSG transmission, catapults from zero to 62 mph in just 5.7 seconds, or 5.8 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox equipped; every Cupra model has a 155 mph limited top speed.

The 350 Nm maximum torque of both versions spreads from just 1,750 rpm all the way up to 5,300 rpm, guaranteeing impressive pulling power and overtaking flexibility.

Against this, the new Leon Cupra is astonishingly efficient. The average fuel consumption for both power variants is just 44.1 mpg with a manual gearbox equipped, and 42.2 mpg with DSG. This equates to CO2 figures of just 149 g/km and 155 g/km; by comparison the second generation Leon Cupra R with 265 PS emitted 190 g/km CO2.

The engine: cutting edge technology

As a true sports engine, the 2.0 TSI turbo petrol unit of the Leon Cupra and Cupra 280 reacts spontaneously to every movement of the accelerator pedal and is wonderfully high revving. This is paired with a rich and refined sound that is aided and modulated by a standard sound actuator.

The all-new power unit, with its exceptionally responsive turbocharger, is packed with hi-tech and ground-breaking features. The dual-injection system, for example, combines direct injection with manifold injection under partial load, which optimises fuel economy and reduces particulate emissions. Cylinder fill is always in the optimum range: the camshafts are adjustable, with the valve lift system regulating opening on the exhaust side. The exhaust manifold is integrated into the cylinder head and is part of the intelligent thermal management system. In addition, a new kind of coating on the aluminium pistons and the bearings keeps friction to a minimum.

And like every other Leon in the range, the Cupra efficiency package also includes Start/Stop and Energy Recovery systems.

The chassis: dynamic precision

The key fundamentals of the dynamics are low weight and a stiff structure. The systematic lightweight design of the new Leon family is evident in the Cupra: despite considerably improved equipment, the new generation weighs 55 kg less than its comparable predecessor.

The Cupra name has always been synonymous with outstanding dynamics, precise agility and amazing sporting character. In every way, the new Leon Cupra manages to set the bar a good deal higher than any of its predecessors. With DCC dynamic chassis control, a front-axle differential lock and progressive steering all fitted as standard, the new Leon Cupra achieves considerably faster laps on the track than its already impressive predecessor.

At the same time, it is significantly more comfortable, with surprising refinement on long motorway journeys. Safe, strong and consistent stopping power comes courtesy of the Cupra-specific, high-performance brake system, recognisable by its red callipers.

DCC dynamic chassis control

The new generation of the DCC dynamic chassis control developed specifically for the Cupra is even more sensitive than that available with the Leon FR, adapting the chassis characteristics to the prevailing conditions in a matter of milliseconds.

Front-axle differential lock

The new front-axle differential lock significantly improves the traction and handling of this front-wheel drive car. The system uses a multi-plate package that is hydraulically actuated and electronically controlled. The maximum locking force is 1,600 Nm and, in extreme cases, 100% of the drive can be sent to one wheel. The differential lock is integrated into all the handling systems, like ESC and EDS. It improves not only the traction, but also eliminates torque steer. Furthermore, its sensitive control has no negative impact on steering feel.

Progressive steering

Also included as standard equipment, the progressive steering system improves the agile handling of the new Leon Cupra. The driver experiences a precise and relaxed steering feel because less steering movement is required, which reduces the number of grip changes, especially in cornering or parking manoeuvres. The system works using a progressive ratio through variable toothing on the rack.

The ESC handling system has been further developed specifically for the Cupra and enables a very sporty driving style with full retention of safety functionality. For extremely dynamic use, such as on a race track, it can also be deactivated in two stages – the first stage deactivates the traction control and puts the ESC into sport mode, permitting greater yaw angles. The second stage deactivates the ESC completely.

Cupra Drive Profile

The Cupra Drive Profile enables the characteristics of the new Leon Cupra to be adapted across a very wide range to meet the individual preferences of the driver. Alongside the Comfort and Sport modes, the Cupra mode was a focal point for the engineers in Martorell. Throttle response is particularly sensitive in this setting, while the DSG operates in its sportiest shifting mode and the sound actuator accentuates the full tone of the turbocharged engine. DCC dynamic chassis control, progressive steering and the front-axle differential lock also operate at their sportiest settings.

The design: emotional and powerful

Emotional design is a great strength of the Leon family. For the new Cupra, this has been developed one step further. The new front end, with its large air intakes and full-LED headlamps, ensures a powerful look, as does the rear skirt with its diffuser effect and the two oval end pipes. The alloy wheels are exclusive to the Cupra, while the red brake callipers and tinted side and rear windows underscore its individuality.

The focus of the interior is on the Cupra sports steering wheel in its own unique design, complete with shifting paddles for the optional DSG transmission. The sports seats, in dark grey Alcantara finished with white stitching, are another interior highlight. Black full-leather upholstery, likewise with white stitching, is also available. The pedals and entry sills are made from aluminium.

The Cupra 280 is visually differentiated by its unique 19-inch wheels with a titanium paint finish, plus the Aerodynamic Pack, which comprises a spoiler on the rear roof edge, Cupra lettering on the brake callipers and black exterior mirror housings. The trim elements in the cockpit of this top sporty variant are a deep glossy black.

Key equipment

In the UK, additional standard equipment for the Leon Cupra over and above the FR model (and the aforementioned styling details) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, full-LED headlights, DAB digital radio, SEAT Media System Plus, aluminium front door sill trims with Cupra logo, rain-sensing wipers and automatic headlights.

The Cupra 280 is distinguishable by its standard 19-inch alloy wheels, gloss black mirror caps, black exterior mouldings and frames, black rear roof spoiler, red brake callipers with Cupra logo, and black interior inserts. Satellite navigation comes as standard with the Cupra 280, too.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 11 Months Ago
      • 11 Months Ago
      SEAT is basically a VW discount brand, VW should bring over some of the better models and charge discount prices here in the USA. They make some interesting stuff.
        • 11 Months Ago
        Not really, VAG's discount brand has traditionally been Skoda since it was acquired in the late 1980s. Seat took a while to find its niche but were touted by VAG as the conglomerate's sporting brand. I've always disagreed with that, instead opting for the view of Seat being the youthful arm full of Mediterranean flair. Certainly in the UK at least Seat has managed to capitalise on this image - the nomenclature of Spanish towns and islands helps - and has garnered a definitive customer loyalty base over the years.
        • 11 Months Ago
        sadly this won't happen unless they build SEATs in america
      • 11 Months Ago
      • 11 Months Ago
      What a good looking hatchback. And it didn't even need any ostentatious swoops or curves to do it.
      • 11 Months Ago
      everytime I see the new Leon here in Europe I think it's the best looking compact on the road!
        • 11 Months Ago
        Where in Europe precisely? I never meet people in real life (ie not on the Internet) who use that particular phrase. They'll use a country, region, or urban area instead.
      • 11 Months Ago
      Attaining this amount of power whilst only emitting 150g/km is astonishing and bringing high performance back into the realm of modest road fund licence costs again. I'd be curious to see a new Cupra diesel as the mk2 was a barnstormer. Whilst the mk1 (Golf mk4 basis) model was my favoured Leon, the interesting features of the mk2 such as the vertically parked wipers and bold design are sadly it seems put out to pasture for this new incarnation.
      Robert Bleumer
      • 11 Months Ago
      It;s a pretty car, but it's all too clear that it, the Golf and the Octavia are based on the same platform and designed using the same software.
        The Wasp
        • 11 Months Ago
        @Robert Bleumer
        This one has pointy headlights, though. Did you see the headlights?
          The Wasp
          • 11 Months Ago
          @The Wasp
          I was being sarcastic. I find it silly that VW, Seat, and Skoda models are so similar and sometimes overlap in terms of where they are sold. This vehicle seems clearly superior to the GTI that all the VW fanbois hold in such high regard. Perhaps this is evidence that VW NA doesn't give a $@#^ what American enthusiasts want.
          Robert Bleumer
          • 11 Months Ago
          @The Wasp
          Ofcourse there are differences, but the whole ´language of forms´ is the same at both cars. Perhaps it´s more difficult for pople across the pond, because you can´t see both cars in the flesh.
      Ashley Wolf
      • 11 Months Ago
      Now all they need is a Cupra TDI to pit it against the GTD. I hope SEAT enters WTCC with this generation Leon ASAP. They are the stronger players there IMO.
      • 11 Months Ago
      I like this grille better than the audi, good to see an alternative style.
      • 11 Months Ago
      Honestly... looks like a spiced up A3. Nothing that special.
      Charles Robichaud
      • 11 Months Ago
      this is what I wish KIA had done with the forte/cee'd, instead of the dodge dart shaped thing they went with!!!
      • 11 Months Ago
      If VWoA wants to hit sales targets, they should put some SEAT in their US VWs. Better Yet, import the Leon Cupra and sell thousands of Faux Alfas!
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