Is this entry-level hot hatch a game-changer?

While it may wear the ‘entry-level’ label, the Cupra Leon V warm hatch shows the premium small car class that comfort, equipment, and driving agility need not be mutually exclusive – nor break the bank.

What we love
  • Big, new infotainment screen looks brilliant
  • Engaging drive character wills you to go faster
  • Level of standard equipment
What we don’t
  • Deep boot and high load lip for the boot
  • Travel Assist safety system lacks steering wheel sensitivity
  • Wish it was louder

It’s not easy to launch a new car brand in Australia, but the unique sense of style and performance offered by Volkswagen offshoot Cupra has found a niche in the Australian market.

After the brand’s launch off the back end of the pandemic, it now counts a solid range of products from full electric vehicles to potent hot hatches. The brand’s most recent arrival leans towards the latter within the Spanish brand’s stable, with the 2024 Cupra Leon V ‘warm hatch’ hitting showrooms midway through 2023.

While its price and positioning suggest an entry-level premium small hatchback, Cupra’s burgeoning reputation should stand for a sporty drive character and curious style accenting – even in the most affordable variant. We’ve saddled up in a Nevada White example to find out whether the entry-level still delivers strongly on the brand’s promise.

How much does the Cupra Leon cost in Australia?

At its launch in July 2023, Cupra offered a limited-time drive-away offer of $47,990 nationwide for the Leon V. While the brand no longer offers that introductory price, it’s since risen only $1200, meaning anyone can get themselves into a Cupra Leon V for $49,190 drive-away. Its comparative list price is $45,190 (excluding on-road costs).

Though it’s now not quite as attractive as the introductory pricing, and may not represent a the most affordable small hatch available, in the premium end of the marketthe Cupra Leon V still represents a ripper deal for that kind of coin, as you’ll discover throughout the rest of this review.

Do note that the car on test – and depicted in photos – is an MY23 Cupra Leon V. The only difference between it and the new MY24 car is the addition of digital radio (DAB+) as standard.

The Leon V is the most affordable variant of the Cupra Leon range, but more powerful (and better equipped) alternatives are offered, such as the Leon VZ ($57,990 drive-away) or Leon VZe ($61,690 drive-away) plug-in hybrid variant.

The Leon V might ordinarily find a natural rival in the Volkswagen Golf GTI, which starts from around $55,000 before on-road costs. However, the Leon V’s less powerful engine and fewer amenities mean it’s priced more aggressively.

Speaking of which, power comes from a turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that sends 140kW/320Nm to the front wheels. It also features a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. This is a well-worn formula already employed by other variants in the Leon range, as well as the Golf GTI.

There are next to no additional items worth adding to the Cupra’s bottom line, aside from a $2550 Leather and Sound Package that affords leather upholstery, heated front seats, a nine-speaker Beats sound system, copper stitching for the dash, tilting side mirrors, and a driver’s seat with electric adjustment and memory function. You can also add an $1850 sunroof.

Standard fare is generous – Cupras received a new 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system throughout 2023, which the Leon V gets, plus items including a heated steering wheel, wireless phone charging, adaptive damping control, cloth/leather trim sports seats, tri-zone climate control, ambient interior lighting, and keyless entry and start. The LED lights also turn on automatically.

Key details 2024 Cupra Leon V
Price $45,190 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Nevada White
Options None
Price as tested $45,190 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $49,190 (Melbourne)
Rivals Volkswagen Golf GTI | Hyundai i30 N | Audi A3

How much space does the Cupra Leon have inside?

It doesn’t take long to appreciate the level of comfort, equipment, and quietness offered by the Leon V’s cabin. While it might be entry-level in terms of the Cupra range, the interior feel is anything but.

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From the get-go, it’s obvious the Leon V’s front seat space is driver-centric, with a wide centre console that pushes your legs closer to the footwell and sports seats that keep you set firmly in front of the steering wheel. The light-up start button is pure theatre.

Grab hold of any interior panel and there are minimal creaks or rattles, plus the feel of the cloth-insert seats is plush and supportive. Most surfaces are covered in pliant, soft-touch materials, though there’s no felt lining for the door pockets like that offered on some other Volkswagen Group cars.

With the manually adjustable seat controls it’s simple to manoeuvre the front seats into the right spot for a correct driving position. There is great side support from the bolstering and a ‘cupped’ seat base makes the seats feel bucketed.

Storage around the front row extends to a couple of slots in the centre console, which are handy for stowing keys or sunglasses, plus a small tray under the central screen houses a wireless phone charger. The centre console also contains a pair of cupholders (though only one is useable for a standard bottle size) and a lidded bin.

I love all the copper accenting through the cabin. It elevates the space to feel more premium than any old small hatchback and hints at the car’s sporty character. There are minimal other trim inlays to get excited about in the front row, but I think Cupra’s done enough to liven the feel with its selection of choice materials and copper highlights.

The second row is surprisingly spacious behind my own driving position. I’m not short at 194cm, but I found there is good knee space and generous head room. Space for my feet was less comfortable, but at least there’s a good few amenities to keep back-seat passengers happy.

Not only does it have tri-zone climate with controls in the second row, but the Leon V stocks two USB-C ports, map pockets, and a fold-down centre arm rest with a pair of cupholders. There’s also a ski port that tunnels through to the boot.

Materials aren’t quite as nice in the second row compared to the front, though it’s still comfortable and built well.

While checking out the boot, I was saddened to see fake exhaust pipes at the rear – particularly egregious on a performance-leaning hot hatch. In any case, it’s a big 380-litre boot with the seats up and expands to 1210L when the rear seats are folded in 60:40 format.

It’s a noticeably deep boot, which means you’re reaching in to pick out items from the space, plus the high load lip doesn’t make loading in heavy items an easy prospect. Under the boot floor lies a space-saver spare wheel.

2024 Cupra Leon V
Seats Five
Boot volume 380L seats up
1210L seats folded
Length 4398mm
Width 1799mm
Height 1442mm
Wheelbase 2683mm

Does the Cupra Leon have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

A major aspect of the Leon V’s cabin I neglected to mention until now is the massive 12-inch touchscreen display mounted smack-bang on the dashboard. It’s joined by a 10.25-inch digital instrument display in front of the driver, and although there’s no head-up display, between the two screens there’s more than enough in-your-face information.

The main infotainment display presents brilliantly with crisp, clear graphics and sifting through the unit is a breeze thanks to quick processing. It comes with satellite navigation, AM/FM radio receiving, digital (DAB+) radio, and wireless Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Initially it took time to understand what each of the main icons represents (and what sub-section of the system they give way to), but it’s not long before the system begins to make sense. There are icons for the climate control, navigation, radio controls, smartphone mirroring, and settings laid out along the bottom of the screen.

Controlling the climate system is a bit tricky because you’re diving right into the menu system to alter settings and the touch slider to control the temperature doesn’t light up in the dark. So, hopefully Cupra makes some easier user-experience changes next time around, like putting temperature control knobs back on the dashboard.

The digital instrument cluster is brilliant – it can cycle between map views, various gauge displays, and even show information within the gauge displays such as song information, a G-meter, and fuel data.

Is the Cupra Leon a safe car?

The Cupra Leon range was awarded a five-star ANCAP safety rating in 2020, and the Leon V is included in this assessment.

Calling out the particulars, the Leon scored 91 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 71 per cent for vulnerable road user protection (pedestrians and cyclists), and 80 per cent for safety assist technology.

What safety technology does the Cupra Leon have?

Even from the base variant, a whole host of active and passive safety technology (and equipment) is included with the Leon V. This includes 10 airbags: front driver and passenger, driver’s knee, centre airbag between driver and passenger, side airbags for front and rear, and two curtain airbags.

In terms of safety tech, the Leon V gets Front Assist with pedestrian and cyclist detection (autonomous emergency braking AEB), driver fatigue monitoring, adaptive cruise control with lane-centring and stop-and-go assistance, Lane Assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, rear-view camera, and front/rear parking sensors.

In practice, these systems functioned perfectly and there were no false positives for things like the AEB. I like the fact that the blind-spot monitor uses the car’s ambient lighting system to alert of cars behind your shoulder – it’s a neat integration that I’m surprised other manufacturers don’t do.

At times, while using the adaptive cruise-control system and its lane-centring function, the software decided I wasn’t touching the steering wheel and got upset – even though my hands were firmly on the wheel. It seems like the system needs to be just that little bit more sensitive to when a driver is gripping the steering wheel.

How much does the Cupra Leon cost to maintain?

All Cupra models come with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty from the date of delivery. This level of factory backing is generally the industry standard.

Cupra offers a choice of capped-price servicing packages at the point of purchase: $990 for three visits or $1990 for five visits. These services should take place every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first.

As a point of comparison, Volkswagen’s servicing for the Golf GTI costs $1700 for three years’ scheduled servicing or $2950 for a five-year pack.

In addition to the warranty, Cupras come with five years of roadside assistance coverage.

Annual comprehensive insurance coverage for the 2024 Cupra Leon V costs approximately $1757 based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

Compared to that same Golf GTI yardstick used above, the Cupra’s insurance cost is $222 cheaper. Though keep in mind, these two cars are priced at least $5000 apart.

At a glance 2024 Cupra Leon V
Warranty Five years, unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $990 (3 years)
$1990 (5 years)

Is the Cupra Leon fuel-efficient?

For a sporty-leaning hatchback, Cupra quotes a surprisingly low fuel consumption of 6.2 litres per 100 kilometres over a combined fuel cycle. However, its 55-litre fuel tank must be refuelled with more expensive 95-octane petrol.

In terms of actual fuel use, it turns out the claim is not too far off reality. My time spent in the Leon V returned a 6.4L/100km economy across a mix of road types.

Fuel Useage Fuel Stats
Fuel cons. (claimed) 6.2L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 6.4L/100km
Fuel type 95-octane premium unleaded
Fuel tank size 55L

What is the Cupra Leon like to drive?

In keeping with the ‘punches beyond its weight grade’ narrative I’ve peddled throughout this review, the Cupra’s driving experience is another aspect that feels far more cohesive than the sum of its parts.

It can only count on 140kW/320Nm outputs sent through the front wheels – well below other established hot hatches on the market – but the Leon V is sprightlier than you’d imagine.

Though it won’t have the driver’s (or passenger’s) eyes widened with the acceleration from a standstill, the sprint away from a set of traffic lights is quick. It pulls hard throughout the rev range and gearshifts from the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox are slick. I noted a slight lull while swapping gears high up in the rev range, though it’s still more than quick enough to keep the little hatchback – and driver – engaged and entertained.

At freeway speeds, the car has a compliant ride quality that smooths over undulations and bumps, which makes for a refined experience for the nine-to-five. However, there’s a fair amount of tyre noise emanating from the wheel wells at 100km/h.

At slower speeds, the Leon V’s wheels can thud through road cracks abruptly, though not to an uncomfortable extent. It is merely noticeable around suburban surrounds in particular.

Switching things up, I drove the Leon V out to western Victoria for a quick blast and was quickly rewarded for making the effort. Though there’s no outright ‘Cupra’ mode like you’d find in its showroom stablemates, the Sport mode firms up the suspension to keep the car taut through bends. The gearbox also perks up by holding onto gears longer, keeping it within the optimal torque range, and the steering becomes a heftier weight.

It’s not a huge transformation, but the Sport mode makes this car bloody entertaining to drive around a set of twisty roads, and it wills you to go faster after each successive bend. In terms of aural feedback, the Leon V (and its silly fake exhaust cut-outs) doesn’t offer all too much, but other cars in the line-up offer Akrapovic exhausts.

Mid-corner bumps, quick changes in direction, unsuspecting full-throttle kick-downs; the polished Cupra Leon V takes it all in its stride and keeps the driver entertained whether driving sportily or sedately.

Key details 2024 Cupra Leon V
Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power 140kW @ 4200–6000rpm
Torque 320Nm @ 1500–4100rpm
Drive type Front-wheel drive
Transmission Seven-speed dual-clutch automatic
Power-to-weight ratio 95.8kW/t
Weight (tare) 1461kg
Spare tyre type Space-saver
Turning circle 10.5m

Should I buy a Cupra Leon?

As I hope I’ve conveyed throughout this review, the Cupra Leon V presents a strong case for a warm hatch. You’re more than comfy whether you’re seated in the driver’s seat, passenger seat, or even the second row.

As well, I can’t think of any item of equipment that it really misses out on, for its price. I’m a fan of the big, new infotainment screen, I was pleased with the materials used inside its cabin, and I even think it presents far nicer than a base variant should.

Plus, it’s a hoot to drive at whatever speed.

Cupra has made the car $1200 more expensive very quickly after its introduction, but even still, the level of all-round polish you get in return is well worth a look-in.

How do I buy a Cupra Leon – next steps?

After driving the entry-level Cupra Leon V, I think it’s all the car I’d ever need. You can get quicker, better-equipped versions in the VZ, VZx or even go plug-in hybrid, but for the spend I couldn’t see myself going past this range opener.

Cupra representatives suggest stock levels of the Leon are “good” and all stock is viewable online via this link. As at the end of January 2024, the brand holds around 100 Leons in stock, with roughly half of them being entry-level Leon V variants.

If you want to read more about the latest Cupra Leon news visit this link.

Ratings Breakdown

2024 CUPRA Leon V Hatchback

7.7/ 10

Infotainment & Connectivity

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Tom started out in the automotive industry by exploiting his photographic skills but quickly learned journalists got the better end of the deal. With tenures at CarAdvice, Wheels Media, and now Drive, Tom’s breadth of experience and industry knowledge informs a strong opinion on all things automotive. At Drive, Tom covers automotive news, car reviews, advice, and holds a special interest in long-form feature stories.

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