276 horsepower, 0-62 in 6 seconds flat and 52 cubic feet of cargo space: that's what's in store for the European market at the Geneva Motor Show this year in the wagon form of Seat's Nürburgring-chomping hot hatch.
Attending European auto shows like this week's Paris expo always makes me kind of jealous of the things offered in other markets. Funny little MPVs, hot hatches of all shapes and sizes, and just generally weird stuff are plentiful here, but we'd never, ever see these things in the States. And among the wares not often found in our market that are of particular interest, to me, are lifted wagons, like the new Seat Leon X-Perience on display here.
Under 8. That's the new benchmark for hot hatches, expressed in the number of minutes it takes to get around the Nürburgring. Although Renault has since beat its time with the Mégane RS 275 Trophy, it was Seat that was the first to break that time in a front-drive car with the Leon Cupra 280. Critics pointed out that the record-setting car was equipped with certain add-ons over the production version, but now Seat is offering those upgrades to customers as part of a new package.
In the market for a Volkswagen Golf but don't actually want a Volkswagen Golf? If you live in North America, your choices are limited to the Golf or, if you've got the scratch, the outgoing Audi A3. But if you live overseas, you can also opt for the Skoda Octavia or Seat Leon, which open up a whole array of possibilities. And this is the latest.
In case you haven't been paying attention, there's a battle raging on between two European automakers over who makes the faster hot hatch. The battle ground has been the Nürburgring, where Seat and Renault have been going back and forth, taking the front-drive lap record away from each other.
Crashes in racing are expected to happen at high speed with two drivers challenging each other to be the first one into a corner. They are not, however, supposed to happen like this. The poor Seat Leon Cupra racecar here goes out in the most humiliating way possible – a combination of gravity and human error.
Racing simulators have come a long way in recent years. As computers have gotten quicker, developers have been able to create more sophisticated models that practically bring real-world driving to the screen. Volkswagen's Spanish brand, Seat, has harnessed a bit of this cutting-edge tech to give its fans an all-too-real taste of the new Leon Cupra a few weeks before the car begins deliveries in Europe.
While Porsche and McLaren vie for sub-seven-minute lap records at the Nürburgring, there's another hotly contested category, and it's not for the fastest time of any vehicle. It applies specifically to front-wheel-drive cars, and is contested between European hot hatches.
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.
There's nothing like the yearly reminder of the Frankfurt Motor Show to put our wagon jealousy into top gear. Be they from Alpina, Honda, Opel or Volkswagen; Europeans have access to long-roof rides that we only get to sample with a plane ticket and a Hertz Club Gold card.
Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo, otherwise known as Seat, started becoming a part of the Volkswagen universe of companies way back in June of 1983, and it has taken right up until its latest generation of models for all the benefits of the VW Group empire to come to bear. Prior to the past couple of years, Seats have continued being built and sold passably well with a healthy enough rapport with VW, but the full tech swap and nod of faith had never totally happened yet
In the 'Just Because It's Awesome' category we have the Seat Leon Cup Racer, a kerb-stomping trinket the Spanish brand took to the GTI Wörthersee gathering. A transformation worthy of Marvel turns the recognizable five-door hatch underneath into a test-bed for a 325-horsepower sprint or endurance racer, depending on which version a customer prefers, and Seat "can envision" a 1.6-liter motor so it can contest World Touring Car championships.
Not long after the Seat Toledo got its public groove on, the Seat León is here to say hello from all angles. This is the third generation of the little Spanish hatchback, and while its overall form copies its predecessor, its details prove it to be a brand-new car.
GTI Treffen may have started out as a gathering for owners of Volkswagen pocket rockets, but by now it's blown into a full-on celebration of everything related to hot hatches and more. And though it remains a grassroots event by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, Volkswagen is wise not to ignore it. These days, it comes to the annual lakeside gathering in Austria with a handful of show cars in tow, and brings its sister-brands along for the ride, too.
Buyers looking for a hot hatch could do worse than a Volkswagen GTI. But European buyers also have the option of going with its Spanish version, the Seat Leon, which offers a touch of Latin flavor along with a little bit more power than its German sibling often at a more attractive price. Now, the Iberian auto marque is expanding the range of its Leon FR with a choice of new engines.