How do you outline a scorching hatchback? Ought to it’s a sensible, smart household automobile that may roll up its sleeves and ship a shock punch? Or ought to it’s a race automobile for the street that simply occurs to have 5 doorways and an enormous boot? Or is there an area in between?
The Volkswagen Group has at all times veered in the direction of the previous concept, however that doesn’t imply it may possibly’t change ways. Right here we’re testing two of its newest challengers, the Cupra Leon and the VW Golf GTI Clubsport.
Though Cupra is a well-recognized identify, its function has not too long ago modified. Previously the badge reserved for the most well liked vehicles inside the SEAT line-up, at this time it’s a efficiency sub-brand in its personal proper. Some fashions are associated to the Spanish counterparts, however others, just like the Formentor SUV and electrical Tavascan, will probably be distinctive to Cupra. We have been left impressed by the Formentor on earlier encounters, so will Cupra’s magic apply to the Leon too?
Even when it does, it’ll have its work reduce out on this take a look at, as a result of it’s up in opposition to essentially the most well-known scorching hatchback of all. That is no strange GTI, although, as a result of the Clubsport takes the traits of the regular GTI and provides extra energy and focus to an already-involving bundle.
Which of those rivals will come out on prime? We took each on street and observe to search out out.
|Mannequin:||Cupra Leon 2.0 TSI 300 DSG VZ3|
|Engine:||2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 296bhp|
|WLTP financial system:||37.2mpg/8.2mpl|
|Annual street tax:||£895|
The Cupra Leon is accessible as a plug-in hybrid or a daily petrol mannequin. Right here we’re testing essentially the most excessive model of the hatchback, badged 300. The automobile we’re driving is a Spanish-specification model, however it’s the closest match to the UK-based VZ3 trim, priced at £37,390.
Design & engineering
Whereas it hasn’t been round for lengthy as a standalone model, Cupra has shortly carved out a singular aesthetic. Copper highlights utilized to an in any other case understated physique imply that the Leon manages to set itself other than the remainder of the hot-hatch crowd with out being too lairy. Even beside the Golf GTI, you may virtually name it subdued.
However beneath the differing our bodies, the Cupra Leon and Golf GTI Clubsport are basically very comparable. Each vehicles journey on the newest model of the Volkswagen Group’s MQB platform, with a MacPherson-strut suspension association on the entrance and a four-link format on the again, plus adaptive dampers whose firmness might be managed on a 15-point sliding scale. The vehicles additionally share the identical EA888 evo4 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, which makes 296bhp and 400Nm of torque, and energy is distributed to the entrance wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch computerized gearbox and an electronically locking limited-slip differential. The latter helps the automobile rotate into turns, and likewise permits the entrance wheels to deploy as a lot energy as attainable on nook exit.
Nevertheless, there are a few key variations between the Leon and the Golf. The Cupra’s wheelbase is 64mm longer and the corporate has utilized its personal distinctive tune to the suspension. The brakes are completely different, too, with Cupra turning to Brembo to produce some very beefy-looking 370mm drilled discs gripped by four-piston calipers.
Inside, Cupra spruces up the usual Leon cabin with extra copper highlights, a sports activities steering wheel and closely bolstered entrance seats, though the general look is probably just a little plain.
The encouraging discovery is that these Cupra-specific tweaks have created an engagingly playful – but very fast – scorching hatchback. It begins with the variable- ratio steering which, though lighter than in some rivals, treads a fantastic line between making the automobile really feel agile with out being too darty. It additionally doesn’t take a lot preventing to deploy the total 296bhp and 400Nm of torque by way of the entrance wheels. Torque steer is nearly non-existent right here.
All of this may be stated of the Golf too, however the place the Cupra actually shines is with that suspension tune. Here’s a automobile that has just a bit extra of a wild facet than the VW. Throw it right into a nook and you may get the Leon transferring round; again off the throttle to trim your line and the rear finish feels extra keen to push the automobile tighter into the nook than within the Golf. Get arduous on the facility, and the differential feels clinically efficient with the way in which it hauls the automobile right into a tighter line and on to the following straight.
All of it provides as much as a automobile the place your inputs with the throttle, brakes and steering really feel like they’ve a larger affect over the automobile’s angle than within the VW. In brief, the Leon is the extra rewarding automobile to drive. Because of a fruitier exhaust word, it sounds extra thrilling when pushing on, too.
It’s even barely extra comfy. That may very well be partially all the way down to the longer wheelbase, however roll the dampers in the direction of their softer settings, and the Cupra feels barely any firmer than a typical SEAT Leon. Consolation mode sits a couple of spots away from the softest of the 15 damper settings, Cupra a couple of spots away from the highest, and Sport is true within the center. There’s a definite distinction between the softest and the firmest settings, however even its harshest place continues to be acceptable on the street.
As with the driving dynamics, there’s little or no to separate the 2 vehicles by way of on a regular basis usability. However the one tiny distinction – rear legroom – goes within the Cupra’s favour. Headroom is close to equivalent, as is the very beneficiant inside storage. There are two large cup-holders up entrance, deep door bins and a smartphone slot on the base of the sprint, which incorporates wi-fi charging in VZ3 fashions.
At 380 litres, the Leon’s boot is just six litres bigger than the Golf’s, whereas the rear bench features a ski hatch, so lengthy objects might be loaded by way of while not having to fold the again seats.
Cupra is a brand new standalone model, so our newest Driver Power satisfaction survey couldn’t cowl the possession expertise of its vehicles particularly. Nevertheless, with such shut relations to SEAT, it’s truthful to counsel that it’s going to probably rating equally; a end of 14th out of 30 within the producers’ checklist beat VW’s Nineteenth-place rating. Nevertheless, sellers fared poorly, ending twenty fourth out of 25, and 10 locations decrease than VW’s community.
Since they share the identical engine and gearbox, and weigh inside a couple of kilos of one another, gasoline prices for the Leon and the Golf are more likely to be very comparable. Formally, the Cupra manages 37.2mpg – 1mpg much less the GTI – and our expertise on the street suggests that you simply’ll be capable of get fairly near these numbers in the actual world. Match these financial system figures and the Leon’s gasoline price will complete £3,141 after 20,000 miles. The Golf will probably be very barely cheaper at £3,058.
Falling into the 37 per cent Benefit-in-Kind bracket, neither of those vehicles will probably be low-cost to run for firm automobile customers. Nevertheless, a decrease P11D worth pulls issues barely within the favour of the Cupra. The next-rate earner will probably be deducted £5,299 a yr, which is £220 lower than within the GTI.
“If all this combustion-engined discuss sounds a bit old style, then Cupra has you lined. The Born, revealed final week, is a copper-garnished electrical hatchback with a 335-mile zero-emissions vary. ”
Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport
|Mannequin:||Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TSI 300 DSG GTI Clubsport|
|Engine:||2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 296bhp|
|WLTP financial system:||38.2mpg/8.4mpl|
|Annual street tax:||£555|
The Mk8 Golf is the newest GTI to obtain the Clubsport remedy, including extra energy, improved aerodynamic effectivity, and refined beauty upgrades over the common mannequin. Costs earlier than choices begin from £37,230, though this take a look at automobile has £5,495 of extras, together with “Estoril” 19-inch wheels (£825), the Uncover Navigation Professional system (£1,600) and a rear-view digital camera (£300).
Design & engineering
Initially, VW solely deliberate to construct 5,000 examples of the primary Golf GTI. However 45 years later and now in its eighth iteration, greater than 2.3 million have been produced.
The Clubsport takes the usual GTI formulation and knocks it up a few notches. The two.0-litre turbocharged engine below the bonnet positive aspects 54bhp, with complete output now reaching 296bhp. There’s a brand new aerodynamic bundle on the surface, which not solely provides an additional dose of menace, but in addition generates extra downforce and delivers extra cooling air into the engine.
As lined within the Leon part, these two scorching hatches share a near-identical platform, suspension format and drivetrain association. Nevertheless, there’s a vital distinction within the tools. As customary, the Cupra Leon will get adaptive dampers, whereas these are an elective further for the GTI Clubsport. Earlier expertise with numerous scorching Golfs has taught us that, from a efficiency viewpoint, stepping up from the usual passive objects is an important improve to get the most effective out of the automobile by way of each journey and dealing with. Finest ensure you finances one other £785 past that checklist value, then.
Inside, the Golf’s drive mode change is grouped in a cluster of buttons within the centre of the dashboard, whereas the starter button is simply forward of the gear selector. Neither are as simply situated as they’re within the Leon, which has them on particular spherical steering wheel buttons.
In any other case, the GTI’s cabin is nice. Purple highlights and ambient lighting make it really feel a contact extra particular than the Cupra’s, whereas the seat and steering wheel each supply an enormous vary of adjustment. However the Mk8 Golf feels prefer it’s taken a slight step again from its predecessor by way of general high quality.
On paper, the GTI Clubsport takes a slim lead in opposition to the clock; formally, it’ll dash from 0-62mph 0.1 seconds quicker than the Cupra, taking 5.6 seconds. The engine pulls strongly all through the rev vary, and is linked to a dual-clutch computerized gearbox that snaps by way of the ratios shortly and cleanly.
VW’s chassis engineers say that, from a efficiency viewpoint, there’s little cause to scroll additional than the Sport setting on the 15-way adaptive dampers. Past this, they are saying, the stiffer responses solely serve to make the automobile extra playful, reasonably than faster point-to-point. However even in these firmest settings, the Golf doesn’t ever ship the identical stage of adjustability because the Leon. In brief, it’s merely not as a lot enjoyable – on street or on observe. It may very well be forgiven if this made it simpler round a circuit, however the Cupra’s keener nostril additionally helps it to lap quicker – the Leon managing a forty five.7-second time round Llandow Circuit, to the Golf’s 46 seconds flat. The brakes play a component right here, too. The GTI’s are robust, however the Brembo set-up fitted to the Cupra presents extra stopping energy
and a extra reassuring really feel.
Just like the Leon, our Golf was fitted with 19-inch alloy wheels, though whereas they’re customary on the Cupra, they’re an possibility on the GTI. There are two types obtainable, costing as much as £825. Whereas we’ve but to pattern the usual 18-inch wheels, the elective rims meant the Golf didn’t fairly journey as easily because the Leon. By way of general refinement, although, each the GTI and the Cupra are among the many most grown-up of any of the hot-hatch competitors.
Though the Clubsport is a extra excessive model of the Golf GTI, it nonetheless maintains all of that automobile’s practicality; there aren’t any excessive weight-saving measures right here. There’s nonetheless a superbly comfy rear bench, which splits 60:40, with area for 3 folks. As
within the Cupra, there are even air vents for these within the again, plus a few USB-C charging ports.
Up entrance the Golf and the Leon have the identical primary design of sports activities seat, every that includes distinctive upholstery and solely refined variations across the headrest. They do a fantastic job of holding driver and entrance passenger in place throughout arduous cornering, but stay supportive on lengthy journeys.
An adjustable boot flooring implies that, in its highest place, the Volkswagen’s rear seats can drop down for a very flat load space. Neither the Leon nor the Golf has the ability to tow a trailer.
The Volkswagen Golf vary was examined by Euro NCAP in 2019, and scored a wonderful five-star score – a 95 per cent grownup occupant safety rating was among the many highlights. GTI fashions get a semi-autonomous help system, which might steer the automobile inside its lane on a motorway. The Leon was assessed by NCAP the next yr and likewise achieved a five-star score, albeit to barely stricter requirements.
As fascinating scorching hatchbacks, each of those vehicles handle to cling on to their residual values fairly strongly. The Golf retains a formidable 50.5 per cent of its on-the-road value after three years and 36,000 miles, however that’s topped by the Cupra Leon, which manages to take care of 51.7 per cent. In different phrases, despite the fact that the Golf is barely cheaper to purchase outright, after three years the Leon will probably be value £522 extra.
“Dive into the Clubsport’s drive settings and also you’ll discover a Nürburgring mode. This switches the automobile’s numerous parameters to these used to hit a 7m 54sec lap time across the Nordschliefe.”
First place: Cupra Leon
The primary scorching hatch from Cupra as a standalone model is a winner. The Leon manages to match the Golf GTI Clubsport at its conventional robust factors – refinement, usability and practicality – however beats it in a single important space: driving enjoyable. Cupra’s providing is sharper to drive, and places an even bigger smile in your face. That it’s additionally barely higher worth for cash seals the victory.
Second place: Volkswagen Golf GTI Clubsport
A scorching hatch ought to be capable of ship pleasure and practicality in equal measure. On each counts, the Leon simply edges the Golf. There’s nonetheless loads to love in regards to the GTI Clubsport, with robust efficiency, a handy guide a rough gearbox and sensible cross-country tempo, however
when you issue within the added price of key elective extras, it may possibly’t match its Volkswagen Group rival right here.
Additionally think about…
- Mannequin: Hyundai i30 N Efficiency
- Worth: £35,695
- Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 276bhp
The Hyundai i30 N doesn’t fairly possess the firepower of our two contenders right here, however it stays an exciting scorching hatch. The latest addition of an elective twin-clutch gearbox broadens its enchantment, whereas its sharp drive and aggressive pricing make this Korean scorching
hatch as tempting as ever.
- Mannequin: Honda Civic Sort R
- Worth: £34,415
- Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo, 316bhp
Nice although the Cupra is, the Civic Type R continues to be our hot- hatch king. A 316bhp output delivers large straight-line pace, whereas grip, steering response and braking suggestions are all chic. Whereas an auto gearbox isn’t provided, it compensates with one of many best handbook shifters of any new automobile.
|Cupra Leon 2.0 TSI 300 DSG VZ3||Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TSI 300 DSG GTI Clubsport|
|On the street value/complete as examined||£37,390/£37,930||£37,230/£42,725|
|Residual worth (after 3yrs/36,000)||£19,323/51.7%||£18,801/50.5%|
|Annual tax legal responsibility std/increased charge||£2,650/£5,300||£2,710/£5,420|
|Annual gasoline price (12k/20k miles)||£1,884/£3,141||£1,835/£3,058|
|Value of 1st/2nd/third service||N/A||£386 (2 years)|
|Engine||4cyl in-line/1,984cc||4cyl in-line/1,984cc|
|Peak energy/revs||296/5,300 bhp/rpm||296/5,300 bhp/rpm|
|Peak torque/revs||400/2,000 Nm/rpm||400/2,000 Nm/rpm|
|Transmission||7-spd DSG/fwd||7-spd DSG/fwd|
|Gas tank capability/spare wheel||50 litres/restore package||50 litres/restore package|
|Boot capability (seats up/down)||380/1,210 litres||374/1,231 litres|
|Turning circle||11.2 metres||10.9 metres|
|Fundamental guarantee (miles)/restoration||3yrs (60k)/3yrs||3yrs (60k)/3yrs|
|Driver Energy producer/supplier pos||N/A||Nineteenth/14th|
|NCAP: Grownup/little one/ped./help/stars||92/88/71/80/5||95/89/76/78/5|
|0-62mph/prime pace||5.7 secs/155mph||5.6 secs/155mph|
|WLTP Financial system/vary||37.2mpg/409 miles||38.2mpg/420 miles|
|Precise/claimed CO2/tax bracket||175/171g/km/37%||171/170g/km/37%|
|Airbags/Isofix/park sensors/digital camera||Six/sure/sure/sure||Six/sure/sure/£300|
|Auto field/lane preserve/blindspot/AEB||Sure/sure/no/sure||Sure/sure/sure/sure|
|Local weather ctrl/cruise/leather-based/warmth seats||Sure/sure/sure/sure||Y/y/£2,100*/£2,100*|
|Met paint/LEDs/keyless/pwr tailgate||Sure/sure/sure/no||Sure/sure/sure/no|
|Nav/digi sprint/DAB/on-line companies||Sure/sure/sure/sure||Sure/sure/sure/sure|
|Wi-fi cost/CarPlay/Android Auto||Sure/sure/sure||Sure/sure/sure|