The hottest Seat yet is an excellent and potent hot hatch
  • First Drive

    Seat Leon Cupra R

    The hottest Seat yet is an excellent and potent hot hatch

What is it?

The hottest addition to the Seat range, the Leon Cupra R. The Cupra R gets the same 261bhp engine as the Scirocco R and keeps its front-wheel drive setup complete with the electronic ‘XDS’ system that mimics a limited-slip differential to reduce understeer.

Drive is sent through a manual gearbox, and there will not be the option of a DSG ‘box.

What’s it like?

Really excellent. The engine is no less impressive in this installation than it is in the Scirocco, with 258lb ft of torque providing a huge amount of urgency from quite low revs. The redline arrives very quickly if you want it to, so in spirited driving you’ll be making good use of the gearbox but it does the job well. The throw has been shortened for the ‘R’ over the Cupra and it has helped make it a slightly more defined shift as well as quicker.

It’s not flawless. Turn-in could be sharper, as could the steering responses immediately off the dead-ahead at speed, but most frustrating is the too-sharp initial brake response.

Even so, the Leon Cupra R drives like a very well-sorted fast hatch. It’s stable even under extreme braking and copes well with rapid mid-bend steering adjustments, remaining unflustered and benefiting from ample grip. Understeer is evident if you really want to find the Cupra R’s limits, but generally the XDS system does a good job of keeping the Leon’s nose on the desired line.

Ride quality is generally well-judged though there can be quite bouncy over undulating road surfaces and there’s noticeable tyre-roar from the standard 19-inchers. But overall the Cupra R gels well and does a good job of being entertaining without being too hardcore on the road and also well-sorted for track driving if it appeals.

Should I buy one?

You’d thing the Cupra R would be overrun with rivals, but oddly there are very few direct competitors that offer the same five-door practicality and performance at this price.

The Cupra R is not a new handling or performance benchmark, but even with such an array of similar-ish hot hatches around it makes more sense than most. It’s good value, well equipped and focused enough to satisfy enthusiasts looking for an engaging family car that’s worth taking to a track day occasionally.

For a similar price you can get the Renaultsport Megane 250, which is still the better handling car, but if you need the extra usability the Cupra R is the ideal option. Even if you don’t it still won’t disappoint.

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Comments
46

16 October 2009

This will sell by the ship load!,most people who'll buy this car haven't got half the talent of some of your testers, most will be bought for image, posing and that funky green color(which the DVLA will register it as YELLOW!?)yeah i know!, no, whether it handles aswell as an RS or not it'll sell no problem, Seat have the best range of colors at the moment, check out the Orange on the Leon FR !

Peter Cavellini.

16 October 2009

I quite like this car but why if the expected number one market is the UK haven't Seat tuned the chassis for our roads?

It's clearly a good chassis as VW have proven with the Golf GTi so why do Seat and Audi seem to have so many problems getting it right?

16 October 2009

Might just be me but i've never found the firm ride of cars such as this a problem at all. I dont mind the trade off of a car that's more harshly sprung so long as it handles well. I loved the first generation Leon Cupra R and didnt find it too harsh at all.

I'm also loving the Kiwi Green in the picture (which as above get's classed as yellow, maybe i'm colurblind)

16 October 2009

One question must be answered. 110,000 miles down the road and my original Cupra R needs replacing. Will I be disappointed by the new version?

16 October 2009

At about seven thousand pounds cheaper than the focus RS though you could hire Lotus to design and build you your own custom suspension tailored to your car.

I also note its weight 1320kgs compared to fords 1467kgs, 147kgs difference thats 2 adult males even before real people are put in! with that kind of low weight the seat has the potential to completely obliterate the ford in terms of road holding, dynamics, comfort, grip, subtleness etc.

going back to aftermarket suspension you could get a full kit for £700 +fitting to make it softer sprung,more travel, softer damping and rebound. fully adjustable.

16 October 2009

[quote Jazz2]One question must be answered. 110,000 miles down the road and my original Cupra R needs replacing...[/quote] What a discerning fellow/lady - always good to hear from a fellow Mk1 LCR owner! Would be interested to learn more re your 110k of LCR motoring - do you post on SeatCupra .net? PS To answer your question: FWIW, I fancy a Mk2 LCR (despite the lack of Brembos, the silver-plastic dash trim & chavvy gearknob). [quote beachland2]...you could get a full kit for £700 +fitting to make it softer sprung,more travel, softer damping and rebound. fully adjustable.[/quote] Good plan!

16 October 2009

Just to spoil the Ford RS sales whilst not tarnishing the Golf GTi's image?

If the image is right many people will buy and will not really care that the power cannot be fully deployed or that the handling is not quite there.

This was amply demonstrated many years ago in the hot hatch sector until the 205GTi and than the 5GT Turbo demonstated cheap, chic and competent was possible in the same package.

16 October 2009

[quote rodenal]Might just be me but i've never found the firm ride of cars such as this a problem at all.[/quote]

Perhaps it's just the quality of my local roads, but generally the firmer a car's suspension the more it seems to jump around when cornering and the less I enjoy it. So from my perspective at least, a good ride is essential for a car to handle well in the real world.

17 October 2009

[quote Autocar]the turbos whistle and whine over a multi-layered combustion growl.[/quote]

so Mr Saunders' version was a special multi-turboed one, eh?

'price as tested: £19,990' - the car is not on sale till Nov. and the price hasn't been announced. It'll be more than the price you give, that's for sure. Slack reporting.

17 October 2009

[quote 6th.replicant]you could get a full kit for £700 +fitting to make it softer sprung,more travel, softer damping and rebound. fully adjustable.[/quote]

If they offered that through the dealers at time of sale it could cost less and increase the sales prospects in the UK.

To get the most out of softer springs on a Seat it is probable that the torsion beam would need to be uprated as well However when I tried to solve my Passat VR6 suspension troubles some years ago it was stiffer torsion beam I was looking for - these were only available for Golfs through the amateur rally kit programme.

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