In 2022, the Australian automotive panorama will acquire a brand new premium European model with a spread of sporty passenger and SUV fashions carrying the Cupra moniker.
However not solely is the intriguing line-up utterly new to the nation, its closest relation, SEAT, hasn’t been bought Down Underneath since a quick tenure within the mid-Nineteen Nineties and the contextual path has since gone a little bit chilly.
If the Australian new automobile market was a rental home, then Cupra can be the suspicious tenant that applies and not using a cowl notice and lists earlier addresses beginning with Her Majesty’s…
Besides this hopeful newcomer has one very respected referee to its title – Volkswagen.
Fully understanding precisely how the Cupra model will slot into Australia, fronting one of many world’s most pragmatic and demanding audiences, must wait till subsequent yr. However its sturdy household DNA and relationship to already high-performing fashions provides a complete glimpse on the potential.
Within the case of the Cupra Leon small hatchback, its underpinnings take the type of the VW Group MQB Evo platform that gives the construction for the current-generation VW Golf, new Skoda Octavia and new Audi A3.
However the automobile you see right here is the high-performance hero 300 model and it shares extra in frequent with the brand new Golf R and Audi S3. So what higher strategy to preview the newest contender within the sizzling hatchback enviornment than pitching it head-to-head with the next-generation Audi S3 that may arrive in showrooms at about the identical time?
The listing of similarities is lengthy. Underneath every bonnet is similar EA888 turbocharged 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol that, on this occasion, produces 228kW and 400Nm. In contrast to the earlier S3, the brand new model (because of Volkswagen’s marketing campaign to reclassify Australia’s local weather from ‘sizzling and dusty’ to ‘reasonably sizzling’) will get the identical full-fat energy output bought in Europe somewhat than a detuned Down Underneath donk.
Its output is fed to the wheels by way of a seven-speed dual-clutch computerized transmission and in every case, the chassis adopts the identical multi-link rear suspension, entrance McPherson struts and electrical energy steering.
Onboard there’s room for 5 with luggage by way of 5 doorways. However except for the apparent distinction in design route and branding, the Cupra and Audi have one key mechanical disparity. Whereas the S3 is obtainable with the corporate’s proprietary Quattro all-wheel-drive system, the Leon should make do with front-wheel drive solely – however extra about that later.
With actual Australian specs for each fashions nonetheless not but determined on the time of writing, there’s little level giving UK market commonplace gear and options greater than a cursory look. There are a couple of fascinating factors to notice nonetheless.
Whereas Australian S3 clients have solely ever been supplied one top-shelf choice, Audi UK provides plenty of S3 variants and the one we’ve got right here is essentially the most inexpensive. It rolls on 18-inch alloy wheels, lacks a head-up show, keyless entry, some driver help methods and, whereas the inside is dressed up in pretty slate-coloured leather-based, there are examples of scratchy plastics you’ll probably by no means see in an Audi Australia showroom.
The listing of similarities is lengthy. Underneath every bonnet is similar EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol that, on this occasion, produces 228kW and 400Nm.
As for the Cupra, it’s introduced in mid-range VZ2 trim which leaves out leather-based and some trick bits such because the cool steering wheel-mounted begin button and drive mode selectors. Anticipate the Australian model to reach in one thing just like the premium VZ3 gear stage. Whereas the Audi’s cabin provides a basic sharp and understated design, the Leon employs a extra daring and unapologetic look.
If the respective interiors have been modeled on laptops, the Audi can be a Area Grey MacBook Air whereas the Cupra can be a water-cooled Alienware with full RGB accoutrements.
The lengthy steady pinstripe of temper lighting that continues from door trim to door trim by way of the sprint, copper accents and half-vinyl/half-cloth upholstery are Leon styling highlights, whereas the Audi stands out with high quality finishes and sharp (however apparently pointless) sprint stitching and supplies.
On the danger of exposing this writer’s age, the Audi’s lodging is definitely concentrating on a extra equal stability of consolation and sports activities enchantment, whereas the Cupra leans towards the efficiency aspect with extra aggressive seating and purposeful ergonomics that may probably enchantment to a youthful viewers.
Virtually talking, with no rear differential to accommodate, the Cupra manages to suit extra into its 380-litre boot and even manages to drop in a space-saver spare below the ground.
The Audi (right here in Sportback hatch guise) has a smaller 325L baggage compartment and the dreaded puncture restore package though it wins again factors for a 40:20:40 cut up rear seat in contrast with the Cupra’s 60:40.
The infotainment methods are prone to divide audiences too.
The Audi’s sharp subtle system seems nice and works as nicely, complemented by the digital cockpit driver’s show. The Cupra additionally has a big central touchscreen and digital instrument cluster from the identical elements bin however its operate is weirdly totally different and would take a little bit getting used to – as would the weird typewriter sound impact that accompanies button faucets.
Much less ambivalent, although, is the driving expertise every automobile provides and the mix of German mechanical engineering that may arrive in virtually unchanged kind for Australian clients.
Cruising out onto attractive Cotswolds roads surrounded by the Arcadian imaginative and prescient of English autumn fields in full harvest, I’m carrying a way of pleasure. In any case, the Cupra I’m piloting guarantees, on paper a minimum of, to be a sensation.
However the anticipation turns to nagging disappointment. The 235/35 Hankook Ventus S1 Evo 3 rubber fitted to 19-inch wheels tugs and tramlines round imperfections within the British bitumen, destroying any sense of leisure. The Audi by comparability may be pushed virtually hands-off regardless of the situation of the street, with a stoic fixation on route.
Add energy into the equation and the variations grow to be even starker. With its full 228kW unleashed by means of simply two wheels and and not using a mechanical limited-slip differential to mediate, the Leon 300 torque-steers like there’s a gale-force wind blowing from the east. The S3 in the meantime can’t be fazed, with all 4 wheels distributing the identical energy and torque by way of a cleverish Haldex system.
The distinction in journey high quality is equally polarising, the bespoke Cupra suspension tune conspiring with the low-profile tyres to crash noisily over street scars and tractor injury, in clear distinction to the Audi’s agency however extra composed nature.
At this level, it’s wanting like a convincing victory to the Audi and proof that the German producer has mastered all the pieces the MQB Evo platform has to provide. However then the roads flip wiggly.
Throw the Cupra right into a nook and it out of the blue all is smart. The seen unfavourable camber on the entrance axle that lends a fidgety nature on straight sections imparts a beautiful positivity and grip in corners and the crashy suspension when loaded turns into completely chic, smoothing mid-corner imperfections and not using a trace of bump-steer and the traction is great if not utterly infallible.
Open the faucets on the two.0-litre turbo mid-corner and there’s a fast manufacturing of torque. The entrance wheels will battle you for a line however in essentially the most agreeable and involving method. Pull the identical stunt within the Audi and it’ll lock onto a course with typical Quattro obedience and can exit any given nook with extra pace, however not essentially extra theatre.
Each vehicles get higher the tougher they’re pushed however in utterly other ways, the S3 giving the motive force extra choices to barter a given nook, whereas the motive force of the Leon wants a method deliberate earlier than entry.
Whereas the Audi has a transparent mechanical grip benefit, the Cupra’s steering is its efficiency centrepiece and utterly good. Its copper-badged ergonomic steering wheel manages to be mild within the hand however provides a sensitivity and accuracy that’s overwhelmed solely by the Honda Civic Sort R and winding lock on and off by means of altering bends is splendidly visceral. Pointing the Audi at corners is just not a thankless activity however the suggestions is mildly numb by comparability.
As you may count on, the Audi’s Quattro transmission wins the drag race with its 0-100km/h sprint accomplished in a claimed 4.8sec versus the Cupra’s 5.7sec declare. However with much less weight to haul, the Cupra feels quickest when up and rolling. Throttle response is equally fast however the inertial benefit of the Leon imparts a better sense of urgency and willingness to go quick.
And whereas many producers plumb in synthesised or augmented engine sound by means of the audio system, the S3’s interpretation is likely one of the perfect. Fairly how the engineers make a four-cylinder sound like a five-pot is past me however bloody hell, it’s efficient.
With the newest technology, Audi has struck the most effective stability of S3 efficiency and practicality, for the primary time delivering the extent of driving dynamics that its S badge has at all times promised. And as an additional bonus, it’s now completely positioned within the A3 vary to not languish within the shadow of the mighty RS3. If there was one automobile out of this pairing to stay with day-to-day and deal with all driving duties, it’s probably the Audi.
However its mechanically comparable sibling provides one thing fairly totally different and equally particular for a wholly totally different set of abilities. With solely two-wheel drive to get its sizeable chunk of energy and torque to the street, the end result is just not a disaster of wheelspin and frustration as anticipated. Quite the opposite, the Leon’s mixture of closely performance-focused suspension tuning, spectacular steering really feel and physique management makes this newcomer the decide whenever you wish to let your hair down.
Finally although, it’s the Leon 300’s pricing that would be the distinction between an costly train in standing out from the group and the efficiency cut price of 2022, however even speculative positioning is troublesome. It has as a lot energy and efficiency because the Golf R and S3 however lacks their all-wheel drive and, as a challenger model to the Australian market, the Cupra Leon flagship lacks premium badge familiarity so merely can not command as a lot as its closest efficiency friends.
If it is available in at $55,000 it’ll be a shade greater than the considerably much less highly effective however vastly widespread Golf GTI and precisely the identical money because the resoundingly wonderful Honda Civic Sort R, which will get precisely the identical energy and a intelligent differential, however severely controversial seems.
However, because the entry Cupra Leon is anticipated to price about $40,000, it’s sure the 300 will price a good chunk greater than that, which implies it’ll be greater than Hyundai’s i30 N, one of many sizzling hatch greats.
Finally although, it’s the Leon 300’s pricing that would be the distinction between an costly train in standing out and 2022’s efficiency cut price, however even speculative positioning is troublesome.
It appears unimaginable, subsequently, that this specific hopeful will take the new hatch market by storm and win over each final fan of the inexpensive efficiency automobile market in a single day. However there’s a poetic significance to Cupra. In historical Greece, the component copper that lends its title to this disruptor model was used primarily to make mirrors, and this enlightening two-car battle confirms that the incoming Leon 300 has the credentials to make some severely competent front-drive efficiency heroes take a protracted laborious take a look at themselves.
2021 Audi S3 vs Cupra Leon 300 specs
|Audi S3||Cupra Leon 300|
|Physique||5-door, 5-seat hatchback|
|Drive||all-wheel drive||front-wheel drive|
|Engine||1984cc 4-cyl, DOHC, 16v turbo|
|Bore/Stroke||82.5 x 92.8mm|
|Energy||228kW @ 5450 – 6500 rpm|
|Torque||400Nm @ 2000 – 5450 rpm|
|0-100km/h||4.8sec (claimed)||5.7sec (claimed)|
|Gasoline consumption||7.4L/100km (mixed/claimed)||6.7L/100km (mixed/claimed)|
|Weight||1575kg (DIN)||1415kg (kerb)|
|Transmission||7-speed dual-clutch auto|
|Entrance suspension||McPherson struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|Rear suspension||Multi-links, coil springs, anti-roll bar|
|Steering||Electrically assisted rack-and-pinion|
|Entrance brakes||345mm ventilated discs, sliding calipers|
|Rear brakes||310mm ventilated discs, sliding calipers|
|Wheels||18-inch (f/r)||19-inch (f/r)|
|Tyres||225/40 R18 (f/r) Goodyear Eagle F1 Supersport||235/35 R19 (f/r) Hankook Ventus S1 Evo 3|
|Worth||$70,000 (estimate)||$54,000 (estimate)|