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New engines for the Cupra Leon

Aug 7, 2022
New engines for the Cupra Leon

New engines for the Cupra Leon

Although it has become a brand in its own right, Cupra still offers some energized Seat products in its range. This is the case of the Leon, which receives two new engines, where sportiness will be more a state of mind than a reality on the road.

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Previously offered in petrol version 300 horsepower and hybrids 204 and 245 horsepower, the Cupra Leon range is expanded with two much more rational engines. The 5-door sedan and station wagon can now be ordered with the 2.0 TSI petrol engines with 190 hp, and even 1.5 TSI with 150 hp, both automatically associated with the DSG gearbox.

Cupra opts for much less sporty engines for its Leon...
Cupra opts for much less sporty engines for its Leon… – DR

Engines that seem unlikely to bring a lot of driving sensations. The objective is elsewhere, the brand does not make it a secret: the goal is to inflate the sales figures.

Cupra opts for much less sporty engines for its Leon...
Cupra opts for much less sporty engines for its Leon… – DR

“The Cupra Leon is already performing very well, but we are constantly developing the vehicle to maximize the offering for our customers, make it more customizable and grow its sales targets,” said Kai Vogler, vice president of sales and marketing at Cupra. “With the introduction of these engines, our ambition is to achieve great success with the Cupra Leon, as we did with the Formentor.”

To these statements, we will add that the Seat brand is disappearing, quite simply…

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History of Cupra Leon

The SEAT León (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈse.at leˈon]), also spelled Leon in some other languages (named after the city of León, which also means “Lion” in Spanish), is a hatchback compact car built by the Spanish car manufacturer SEAT since October 1999.

The first two León generations used two differing variants of the Volkswagen Group A platform, and shared many components with other Volkswagen Group cars. The third and fourth (current) generation use the Volkswagen Group MQB platform, also used by the Audi A3 Mk3 and Mk4, Volkswagen Golf Mk7 and Mk8 and Škoda Octavia Mk3, Mk4.

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Cupra Leon First generation (1M; 1999)

The initial SEAT León (Volkswagen Group Typ 1M), launched in 1999, available only as hatchback, and the related saloon version was known as the SEAT Toledo. It was based on the Volkswagen Group A4 (PQ34) platform and, as such, shared many components in common with other VW Group models such as the Volkswagen Golf Mk4, Bora and Audi A3. It was mainly produced at SEAT’s Martorell plant with a small number of 13,401 cars assembled in 2000 at VW group’s plant in Belgium.

As SEAT’s first C-segment model as part of the VW Group, the León Mk1 was marketed as a sportier and cheaper variant of the Golf. To reinforce the sporty image, the vehicle had slightly more aggressive looks. The more expensive versions were equipped with relatively more powerful internal combustion engines, along with firmer suspension to improve handling. In the interior, the dashboard was derived from that of the first-generation Audi A3.


Available engines were the 1.4-litre 16 valve petrol engine which produced a 55 kilowatts (75 PS; 74 bhp), a 1.6-litre 8 valve petrol engine 74 kW (101 PS; 99 bhp) (replaced later with a 16 valve 77 kW (105 PS; 103 bhp) unit), and included two variants of the Volkswagen Group’s 20 valve turbocharged 1.8-litre powerplant, (with some countries also getting the 2.8-litre VR6 engine delivering 150 kW (204 PS; 201 bhp).

The original “León 20VT” (which later became known as the “Cupra” and then the “FR”) had a 1.8-litre Turbo with 132 kW (179 PS; 177 bhp), and the “León Cupra R” 154 kW (209 PS; 207 bhp), later becoming 165 kW (224 PS; 221 bhp). It became first available in only three body paints (red, yellow, black), picked as an homage to the colors of both Spain’s and Germany’s national flags referring back to the roots of the joint project the model originally was.

In some countries, there was also a “Cupra 4”; equipped with a 2.8-litre VR6 delivering 150 kW (204 PS; 201 bhp) and equipped with four-wheel drive (4WD), based on the same Haldex Traction multi-plate clutch as the Volkswagen Golf 4motion.

A range of turbocharged direct injection (TDI) diesel engines was available, including a 110 kW (150 PS; 148 bhp) version of Volkswagen Group’s 1.9 TDI engine, originally sold as a “Cupra 4 TDI”, with 4WD, that was sold for one year only, and only in certain countries, then passed to “Evolution” series, then “Top Sport”, and later rebranded as the “FR” (‘Formula Racing’).

In other countries the model was badged “Cupra” and then “FR” before a limited number of cars were fitted with the bodykit from the petrol powered “Cupra R” and named the “FR+”. Lesser diesel versions were available with 66 kW (90 PS; 89 bhp), 81 kW (110 PS; 109 bhp) and 96 kW (131 PS; 129 bhp) outputs.

SEAT León Mk1 instrument panel

All engines over 96 kW (131 PS; 129 bhp) have a standard six-speed manual transmission. Rear suspension was by semi-independent torsion beam for most variants, whilst high-end and 4WD models were fitted with a multi-link independent rear suspension. All versions came with disc brakes on all four wheels (the front ventilated, and in some cars the rear too).


In Mexico, the León became a very popular car with upper class young people. The only problem the León has suffered in Mexico is the fact that the sport tuned suspension of the León is not designed to withstand the constant road imperfections such as potholes and speed bumps that abound in Mexican roads.

In Switzerland, there was another official version tuned by Abt Sportsline of the León called “SEAT León Cupra 4 Kompressor”. This version had the same 4WD and 2.8-litre VR6 but with 206 kW (280 PS; 276 bhp) and 323 N⋅m (238 lbf⋅ft) of torque.

Factory production of the Typ 1M ended in May 2006.However, the appreciation for the SEAT León Cupra R Mk1’s appeal remained clear, still up to the ‘best hot hatchback of all time’ poll, conducted in 2010 by Autocar, in which its readers honoured the Cupra R #7, in the top ten list of hatchbacks of all time in their preferences.

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Cupra Leon Second generation (1P; 2005)

The second generation León, Typ 1P, was released in 2005, with factory production commencing May 2005. It was based on the Volkswagen Group A5 (PQ35) platform, most notably used by the Volkswagen Golf Mk5. It was built in Spain, and had a sharper exterior look with vertically parked windscreen wipers, and the external rear door handles more integrated, in a similar style to that seen on recent Alfa Romeo models. Design was handled by Walter de’Silva, and the car used the same design style that started with the SEAT Altea.

The base model offered was the new 16 valve 1.2-litre TSI petrol engine with 77 kW (105 PS; 103 bhp).[13] In some markets (e.g. Greece, Romania and Italy), the Leon was available with a 1.4-litre MPI engine producing 63 kW (86 PS; 84 bhp). The sportier variants began with the 110 kW (150 PS; 148 bhp) 2.0-litre Fuel Stratified Injection (FSI) and the popular 103 kW (140 PS; 138 bhp) 2.0-litre Turbocharged Direct Injection (TDI) diesel engine.

Both were fitted with a standard six-speed manual transmission, with the six-speed or seven-speed Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG) available as an option. A 136 kW (185 PS; 182 bhp) variant of the 2.0 TFSI unique to the León was later introduced, but despite a low list price and rapid performance – attracted only minimal attention and average reviews, so this was later discontinued to make way for the sportier FR variants.

The first real sporty León within the new range was the León FR with twin-exhaust pipes to left rear, sport seats and gear stick with FR logo to distinguish it from lesser models, was introduced in June 2006, when it finally received the 147 kW (200 PS; 197 bhp) 2.0 TFSI engine from the Volkswagen Golf Mk5 GTI, as well as a 125 kW (170 PS; 168 bhp) variant of the 2.0 TDI unit featured in the Golf and Audi A3. Further standard equipment included climate control air conditioning.

Next in the range was the 2.0 TFSI Cupra model. It features a 177 kW (241 PS; 237 bhp) engine, and a 0-100 km/h (62.1 mph) time of 6.4 seconds. The Cupra came with standard 18″ 5 twin-spoke alloys, red brake calipers, and the standard Cupra oval exhaust, as well as new, unique paint finishes and bolstered sport seats complete with the Cupra logo. Also standard were drilled-aluminium sports pedals.

SEAT León Mk2 pre-facelift interior

SEAT León Mk2 pre-facelift instrument panel

At the top of the range was the 2.0 TFSI Cupra R. This used the same 195 kW (265 PS; 261 bhp) engine found in the Audi S3, Golf R and Scirocco R. Capable of 0–100 km/h (62.1 mph) in 6.2 seconds and a top speed limited to 250 km/h (155 mph).

From 2008, the K1 variant of the León Cupra was introduced in the UK, featuring extensively re-worked front and rear bumpers, side skirts, a more pronounced tailgate spoiler. It also gained a unique chrome-tipped, centrally-mounted, oval exhaust. The K1 was considered to be a limited edition model, only available in the UK market for the year 2008–2009.

In 2009, the SEAT León Cupra was turned into a race car in the SEAT Cupra race mobile game for Apple iPhone/iPod Touch available through the iTunes’ App store. In the same year, the Leon range received a facelift.

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Cupra Leon Third generation (5F; 2012)

The third generation of the León is based on the Volkswagen Group’s latest MQB platform, which is shared with the seventh generation Volkswagen Golf.

Compared to the previous generation, the León Mk3 is shorter by 5 cm (2 in) and lighter by up to 90 kg (198 lb); however, because its wheelbase has been extended by 5.8 cm (2.3 in), it has a roomier cabin with greater shoulder room for the front and rear passengers, more rear legroom and 380 litres (13 cu ft) of boot space. The first official information and pictures of the car were released on 16 July 2012, with its public debut at the 2012 Paris Motor Show in September. It is the second car to be based on the MQB platform.

It features new safety equipment, such as driver knee airbag, and a number of new safety systems, including (often as standard) a multi-collision braking system to automatically brake the car after an accident in order to avoid a second collision, a lane-keeping assistant, and driver fatigue detection. The braking system includes a hill-start assistant.

In the interior, there is a driver-oriented centre console hosting a 5.8-inch touch-screen infotainment display with some models featuring a proximity sensor, also used in the Volkswagen Golf, as well as ambient lighting.

A new feature available for the first time in its class are the optional full-LED headlamps combined with a full beam assistant. The full-LED headlamps offer numerous advantages over standard halogen bulbs such as improved illumination, a close to daylight colour temperature, lower energy consumption and an extended service life. The front fog lights can include a cornering feature.

The higher specification also have a new “SEAT Drive Profile” system which allows the driver to choose between four different driving settings: eco, normal, sport, and an individual setting. This system controls the behaviour of the engine, steering, and DSG gearbox. Additionally, the 1.8 TSI 180PS and 2.0 TDI 184PS engine-equipped models will vary their engine sound via a sound actuator, as well as their interior ambient lighting between white (normal, eco and individual) and red (sport).

SEAT announced in early 2012 that the range would include for the first time three-door and estate models in addition to a five-door.

In September 2013, SEAT officially unveiled the León ST (estate model) at the Frankfurt Motor Show. The León ST extends the León’s maximum load capacity to 1470 litres and is available in Europe in three different versions and eleven different engine options. On 23 June 2014, SEAT revealed an off-road version of the León ST called the X-PERIENCE.

In August 2018, SEAT discontinued the Léon SC due to lower demands for three-door hatchbacks.


Cupra Leon Fourth generation (KL1/KL8; 2020)

A fourth generation of León was presented on 28 January 2020. It shares the MQB platform with the Volkswagen Golf Mk8, Skoda Octavia Mk4 and Audi A3 Mk4. It has an all digital cluster, is full LED-Light equipped and will have a wide range of gasoline, diesel, plug-in hybrid and electric engines.

The fourth-generation León is 16mm narrower and 90mm longer than the previous generation of León. The five-door León boot capacity of 380 litres has remained unchanged, and the Estate’s storage is increased by 30 litres to 617 litres compared to the previous generation.

Engine options are two petrol TSI engines – a 1-litre three-cylinder producing 108 bhp and a 1.5-litre four-cylinder with either 128 bhp or 148 bhp. The TDI diesel option is a 2-litre producing either 113 bhp or 148 bhp.

Also available is a (CNG) compressed natural gas 1.5 litre TGI unit that produces 96 kW/130PS of power giving the CNG-powered SEAT León a CNG range of 440 km (273 miles). When CNG tanks are depleted, the engine switches automatically to run on petrol until the next CNG refuelling.[74]

The eTSI mild hybrid has a 48v electric motor and is available with either the 109 bhp 1-litre or 148 bhp 1.5 litre petrol engine. The system allows the León to coast with the engine switched off during some driving scenarios and recover energy under braking which is then stored in a 48V lithium-ion battery.

Plug-in Hybrid (eHybrid) 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine electric motor with a 13kWh lithium-ion battery to produce 150 kW/204PS of power, switching to petrol only when its battery needs recharging to produce an electric-only 60 km (38 miles) range. Charging is quoted at just 3.5 hours via a 3.6 kW AC socket; it takes 6 hours to charge it from a 230V socket.

The engines can be chosen with a six-speed manual, a six-speed DSG (direct shift gearbox) automatic transmission or 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission on smaller engines that have a torque output of up to 250Nm/184 lb ft. The 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission’s dry clutch technology results in weight savings, reduced fuel consumption and emissions.

Standard equipment include: “Kessy” automatic locking and starting system, electronic parking brake, an eight-inch infotainment system, 2 x USB points, LED headlights with automatic high beam, electric and heated side mirrors, cloth upholstery, leather steering wheel and gear stick, and SEAT Connect.

The León is available in seven trim levels, starting with: SE with 16″ alloys wheels, 8.25″ touchscreen media system and rear parking sensors; SE Dynamic adds 17″ alloys wheels, digital Cockpit, 10″ touchscreen media system and Park assist (including front and rear parking sensor); FR adds FR Styling, sports suspension, automatic headlights, and Rain sensing wipers; FR First Edition adds 18″ alloy wheels, predictive & adaptive Cruise Control, rear view camera and wireless phone charger; FR Sport adds heated front seats, Lane Assist and rear tinted windows; XCELLENCE adds microsuede upholstery and KESSY Advanced (keyless entry and start); and XCELLENCE Lux adds 18″ Aerodynamic Performance alloy wheels, leather upholstery and interior wraparound lighting.

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