2024 Cupra Leon VZx review

Cupra has been in Australia now for almost two years, and the brand is slowly but surely growing its sales volume.

The Leon hatchback is one of the models the Spanish Volkswagen subsidiary launched with locally, and is currently available in a sprawling number of variants. It has been a little overshadowed on the sales charts by the Formentor crossover and Born electric hatchback however.

On test here is the flagship and high-performance-oriented 2024 Cupra Leon VZx which had its asking price hiked by $1700 for model year 2024 (MY24), though it also picked up DAB+ digital radio.

This particular variant can be distinguished from the rest of the Leon range due to its special copper-coloured 19-inch alloy wheels and vast array of copper accents both inside and out. It’s also the only variant to have proper quad exhaust outlets, too.

There are plenty of vehicles that are based on the Volkswagen Group’s MQB evo platform to choose from, including but not limited to the Audi A3, Skoda Octavia, Volkswagen Golf, as well as the Cupra Formentor. A lot of them are priced similarly which makes things even more complicated.

Should you still consider the Leon? Read along to find out.

How does the Cupra Leon compare?

View a detailed breakdown of the Cupra Leon against similarly sized vehicles.

Cupra Leon cutout image

Cupra

Leon

How much does the Cupra Leon cost?

Cupra has nationwide drive-away pricing for the Leon – prices went up between $1200 and $1700, depending on the variant, for MY24.

2024 Cupra Leon pricing

  • 2024 Cupra Leon V: $49,190 (+$1200)
  • 2024 Cupra Leon VZ: $57,990 (+$1500)
  • 2024 Leon Leon VZe: $61,690 before on-road costs (+$1700)
    • $64,690 (ACT) (+$1700)
    • $65,690 (QLD) (+$1700)
    • $66,690 (NSW) (+$1700)
    • $66,690 (SA) (+$1700)
    • $67,190 (VIC) (+$1700)
    • $67,690 (WA) (+$1700)
  • 2024 Cupra Leon VZx: $65,690 (+$1700)

All prices are drive-away

To see how the Leon compares with its rivals, use our comparison tool.

What is the Cupra Leon like on the inside?

Walking up to the Cupra Leon VZx it certainly has a commanding presence, especially when finished in the stealthy yet eye-catching Magnetic Tech matte (graphite grey) exterior paint as seen on our tester.

Hopping in you have duck a little lower than you’d initially expect if you’ve spent a fair deal of your time in and out of crossovers (like myself). This is a low-slung hatchback however and has an easily accessible cabin relative to its more hardcore rivals.

Once you’re in you’re presented with a set of beautiful and sporty-looking front bucket seats that are one of the main focal points in the car. They’re finished in the brand’s Petrol Blue leather-appointed upholstery that looks very special.

The front seats hug you in nice and snuggly with plenty of side bolstering, yet are really comfortable and supple. The headrests are also super squishy which is a nice touch.

The driver’s seat offers electric adjustment with plenty of thigh support that can dialled up, as well as memory. The front passenger seat however is entirely manually adjustable which is not uncommon for the segment but a little disappointing given this is the flagship variant in the lineup.

To make up for this both the front seats are heated which is a handy feature on chilly Melbourne mornings when you first get into the car.

Ahead of the driver is a flat-bottomed steering wheel that Cupra refers to as the ‘Supersport’ steering wheel. It’s yet another highlight of the Leon’s interior and is one of my favourite steering wheels on any new car at the moment.

I like it so much because it’s thin and has perforated sections that keep your hands cool when they get clammy. It’s also heated to keep your hands toasty warm in cold weather.

All the buttons on steering wheel are physical too, and they have a satisfying clicky action when pressed.

Uniquely the Leon VZx is the only variant in the range to receive the steering wheel-mounted engine start-stop button that makes this car feel special and like race car-like.

Behind the steering wheel there are some paddle shifters that are surprisingly subtle given how loud the Spanish Volkswagen subsidiary brand is. Speaking of Volkswagen, the indicator and wiper stalks are common and feel very familiar.

As standard there’s a proper 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster that like many Volkswagen Group vehicles has lots of customisation. There are a number of different views to choose from, plus a range of informative content that can be cycled through.

My favourite view was the one that shows the revs and speedo in an octagonal shape, with trip meter content in the middle. You can put the map view in the middle instead if you’d prefer.

Moving across there’s a 12.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system that sits proudly on the dashboard. Despite its large size it doesn’t necessarily look like it has a higher resolution than older Leon models which had a smaller 10.0-inch infotainment touchscreen.

The infotainment system’s user interface also isn’t immediately clear and can take a bit to learn and understand. Even at the end of the week of our loan period I was still figuring out where particular menus and pages to control certain features were.

You’d better get used to the infotainment system however because you’re going to be using it a lot. The majority of the climate controls, besides some touch sliders that don’t illuminate and limited touch-sensitive buttons, are integrated into the touchscreen.

Unless you know what you’re doing it can be a little awkward faffing around to adjust certain climate control-related functions. Thankfully some key climate control functions are always present at the top of the screen in the native interface and on the side when connected to smartphone mirroring.

Speaking of smartphone mirroring, the entire Leon range comes with both wired and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. With my iPhone 15 Pro Max connected wirelessly I did have some moments where it occasionally dropped out, which isn’t uncommon for some vehicles with wireless smartphone mirroring.

To fix the temperamental wireless smartphone connectivity I found I needed to use a USB cable. This also fixed another one of my gripes, which was the wireless phone charger didn’t actually charge my phone.

When connected to Apple CarPlay it appears to be more zoomed in than it looks in other vehicles. It’s also a little pixelated which doesn’t make it look very flash.

Looking around the cabin there are a bunch of really cool-looking soft-touch finishes in high touch-point areas, though you don’t need to look far to find harder plastics. I like there are minimal piano black finishes, though I was a little disappointed to have the door handle pull feel crunchy when using it.

On the centre stack I love how minimal the gear selector is, plus the small amount of storage on each side. I also really like the ratcheting centre glovebox armrest that allows you to configure it to your desired height.

The Leon VZx’s interior is pretty dark, copper accents aside, though our tester was fitted with the optional electric sunroof that helps lighten the ambience. The only catch is the sunroof’s blind isn’t very opaque which means a fair amount of sun still streams through. This can annoying when you’re feeling hot.

There are interior ambient lighting strips in the Leon’s cabin that spans the entire width of the dashboard. This is a fun way to add your own personality to the car, though it also doubles as a safety function because it’s used as part of the blind-spot monitoring.

The last thing I’ll mention before talking about the second row is the Leon VZx’s nine-speaker Beats sound system is fine, though a little too bass heavy for my liking. I’m typically all about that bass, but it’s funny how in this car it’s a bit too much.

Hopping into the second row there’s an adequate amount of space. At a leggy 182cm tall I had enough leg, head and shoulder room to get comfy, though my forward visibility was impeded by the large sporty front bucket seats.

In terms of second-row amenities there is a third zone of climate control, two USB-C ports, as well as a fold-down armrest with cupholders.

At the back the Leon VZx has a manual tailgate which isn’t uncommon for hatchbacks like this. Once it’s open you’re presented with a claimed 380 litres of boot space which appears to be deep and relatively large.

One downside about the boot is there’s a high loading lip which means you need to lift the items into the boot, rather than slide them in.

There really aren’t many amenities in the boot though a portion of the centre seat can be folded down to act like a ski port. This is handy if you’re loading long items into the boot and don’t want to fold down a seat or seats.

Under the boot floor as standard in the Leon VZx is a space-saver spare wheel which is better than having a tyre repair kit or nothing at all.

Thankfully our tester wasn’t equipped with the optional Brembo brake package which subs out the space-saver spare wheel for a tyre repair kit.

What’s under the bonnet?

There are four different powertrains available in the local Cupra Leon range. On test here is the flagship turbo-petrol offering.

Model Cupra Leon VZx
Engine 2.0L 4cyl turbo
Power 221kW
Torque 400Nm
Transmission 7-speed dual-clutch auto
Driven wheels Front-wheel drive
Weight 1503kg (tare)
Fuel economy (claim) 6.8L/100km
Fuel economy (observed) 8.5L/100km (140km mixed urban driving)
Fuel tank size 50 litres
Fuel requirement 98 RON

To see how the Leon compares with its rivals, use our comparison tool.

How does the Cupra Leon drive?

The process of starting up the Cupra Leon VZx feels really special because unlike every other variant in the range you press a button on the flat-bottomed steering wheel. You don’t get things like this in a mainstream car very often.

Once the engine turns over you’re provided with a beautiful snarl. Even the idle sound is good though I wonder how much of it is synthesised because it doesn’t sound the same outside the car.

Setting off it’s apparent there’s a bucket-load of power and torque under your right foot. The full 400Nm of torque is available from 2000rpm so the engine doesn’t have to work too hard to get a move on. You’ll also get pushed back into the seat firmly which is very addictive.

Without too much work you’ll easily beat the majority of other cars at the traffic lights if you’re that way inclined. Just be mindful however as if you’re a little too liberal with the accelerator you’ll get some front wheel slip. This isn’t an Audi S3 or Volkswagen Golf R with the security of all-wheel drive.

There are a slew of drive modes that can be cycled through by pressing the other circular button opposite the engine start-stop button on the steering wheel. These not only change the engine, transmission and throttle calibration, but also the adaptive damper tune.

One of my favourite drive modes is the ‘Cupra’ mode because it’s feels like the most correct way to experience the flagship Leon VZx. It sharpens every part of the car, as well as amplifies the synthesised driving sound and adds some cool pops and crackles on overrun.

A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission is standard in the Leon VZx and it’s a silky smooth unit that provides really rapid gear shifts, even in regular driving.

I’m usually not a fan of dual clutches because they can sometimes be a little hesitant and clunky at low speeds when paired with engines with low torque outputs, however this is particular pairing is one of the most confidence-inspiring combinations I’ve sampled to date.

While the dual clutch provides lightning fast gear shifts when you’re accelerating briskly to keep the engine comfortably within its torque band, it can also keep the revs down very low to maximise fuel economy if you aren’t accelerating super quickly or have reached your desired speed.

It’s thrilling to see how low the engine revs can be held and still be accelerating at a decent pace. The dual clutch will also hold onto a higher gear if it can and only drop a gear if you press the accelerator firmer or head up a hill.

At low speeds the Leon VZx’s steering is really light and fun to twirl. This in turn (if you’ll pardon the pun) makes negotiating tight spaces like carparks very easy and smile-inducing.

Every Leon variant has a progressive steering rack that adds weight as you speed up. The theory is it makes the car easy to handle at low speeds, yet more direct and engaging at higher speeds.

As standard the Leon VZx has front and rear parking sensors, though disappointingly only a rear-view camera with adequate resolution. You can’t get a surround-view camera in any Leon variant currently.

There’s also a semi-autonomous parking assistant that is handy if you don’t feel confident parallel parking for example, but is annoyingly hidden in the touchscreen. This negates its functionality in my eyes.

Around town the suspension is firm but never too firm like some sporty cars can be. You’ll definitely be feeling speed bumps and harsh pot holes but that’s most likely down to the large 19-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tyres.

It’s obvious the Leon VZx is meant to driven quickly. It almost urges you to be driven harder and faster at every given opportunity, which is very fun.

If you do give the car a squirt on some twisty roads you definitely won’t be disappointed. The chassis feels extremely dynamic, plus the engine and transmission combination is capable of delivering that level of performance.

The most surprising thing about driving the Leon VZx dynamically however is it’s very user-friendly – it doesn’t feel like it wants to rip your head off at any given opportunity, which is reassuring.

As much as this car can be driven hard, it can also be dialled back very easily and become a slick highway tourer. The annoying catch however is at highway speeds you get bucket loads of road and tyre noise, which is a common gripe for performance cars with sticky tyres.

The Leon VZx has a transmission decoupling function when you’re coasting to minimise fuel use. When it activates the engine revs drop back to idle and you’ll coast along until you press the accelerator again or press the brake.

This system is good for the most part though you easily pick up speed down hills due to the lack of engine braking. It also sometimes will and and others won’t activate in regular traffic which can makes it hard to gauge how quickly you need to start slowing down.

The fuel-saving transmission decoupling function also works when you’ve got adaptive cruise control on, which sees you speed quickly rise above you’re set speed. Thankfully the car does put the brakes on itself once a certain threshold is reached which recouples the transmission and brings back engine braking.

I found when you’re driving on road with rolling hills when adaptive cruise control is activated it will dip above and below the set speed a bit too much. I know I could do a better job at maintaining a certain speed than the cruise control can.

Thankfully despise this gripe the adaptive cruise control system is very good at judging when a car travelling faster than you is merging into your lane. It won’t slam on the brakes like systems in some cars will.

Above 60km/h regular lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist will activate and it’s good for the most part, though it can get a little confused on some faded lane markings or roads with meandering curves.

I really liked using the Leon’s Travel Assist function which combines adaptive cruise control with lane centring on the freeway because it takes the majority of the work out of what is typically monotonous driving.

Lastly, the Leon VZx gets fantastic LED headlights as standard though disappointingly they don’t have an adaptive or matrix high-beam function. They do have an auto high-beam function however, where it’ll dip the headlights completely when a car’s headlights or tail lights are detected ahead.

What do you get?

The 2024 Cupra Leon is available in four different variants. On test here is the flagship VZx.

2024 Cupra 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 and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto
  • 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster
  • Wireless phone charger
  • DAB+ radio
  • Two front and two 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

VZ adds:

  • 19-inch black-and-silver alloy wheels
  • Aluminium pedals

VZe adds:

  • Tyre repair kit (in lieu of space-saver spare wheel)
  • Mode 2 and Mode 3 charging cable

VZx adds:

  • 19-inch black-and-copper alloy wheels
  • Side skirts
  • Quad-tip exhaust
  • Heated ‘supersports’ leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • Petrol Blue dashboard
  • Petrol Blue leather front bucket seats
  • Heated front seats
  • Power driver’s seat with memory
  • Memory mirrors
  • 9-speaker Beats sound system

Is the Cupra Leon safe?

The Cupra Leon has a five-star safety rating from ANCAP, 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:

  • 8 airbags
  • Autonomous emergency braking (AEB)
    • Pedestrian detection
    • Cyclist detection
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Safe exit warning
  • Rear cross traffic alert
  • Lane keep assist
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Travel Assist (adaptive cruise control, lane centring)
  • Driver fatigue monitoring
  • Reversing camera
  • Front and rear parking sensors
  • Semi-autonomous parking assist

How much does the Cupra Leon cost to run?

The 2024 Cupra Leon is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

Maintenance is required every 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.

The brand no longer offers three years of free servicing, instead 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.

CarExpert’s Take on the Cupra Leon

The Cupra Leon is an oft forgotten vehicle because it started life as a regular SEAT model and lives in the shadow of the related Formentor crossover which is uniquely a Cupra model and dominates it on the sales chart.

Looking at and experiencing the flagship Leon VZx on test here it’s hard not to draw parallels between it and the sporty Audi S3 or Volkswagen Golf R which are all based on the MQB evo platform. Neither of these vehicles however offer front-wheel drive dynamism and inherent lightness at this (still somewhat affordable) price tag.

The fully loaded Cupra Leon VZx feels like the best way to experience this sporty Spanish hatchback. Sure all the variants currently on offer have their merits, but this particular car is fully loaded and has the flexibility to flow between being a dynamic corner carver and a comfortable cruiser very effortlessly.

There are definitely louder and more focussed performance cars on offer in Australia, though hot hatches are a dying breed so get in while you can!

Click the images for the full gallery

MORE: Buy a Cupra Leon
MORE: Everything Cupra Leon

SOURCE

Leave a Comment