The no-nonsense feeling of the Cupra Leon continues when you find some corners. There’s no contrived sportiness here, no needlessly heavy steering, unyielding suspension or complicated four-wheel drive system.

The bottom trim, VZ1, gets 18in wheels with 225-section tyres and passive dampers. We suspect this set-up would harmonise well with the rest of the car’s character. Our VZ2 test car, with its 19in wheels, 10mm-wider tyres and adaptive dampers, will be more representative of how people spec their cars, though.

VZ2 and VZ3 cars ride on 19in wheels with 235-section tyres, while VZ1 has 18s and 225-section rubber. We would happily lose that little bit of mechanical grip for slightly taller and more absorptive tyre sidewalls.

The dampers are adjustable through no fewer than 12 settings. That sort of granularity is overkill, no doubt, but with a bit of experimentation, there is a good compromise in there.

We found that the standard Sport preset soaks up big bumps very adroitly while taming the worst of the body roll. It allows some movement, but in the absence of any real feedback from the steering, that’s quite helpful in gauging what the chassis is doing. Moving the slider further to the right ramps up the control, but also introduces brittleness, so the firmer settings are better left for a smooth track.

On a road with some medium sweepers, the chassis shows itself to be sweetly balanced. The stability control can be turned off, and a well-timed lift of the throttle will make the rear end edge ever so slightly wide. The Leon is no hooligan like a Ford Focus ST and is never going to catch a driver unawares but offers just enough throttle adjustability to make it feel agile and playful.

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Pure-petrol Cupra Leons benefit from a VAQ system on the front axle, which uses a clutch pack on the right driveshaft to mimic a limited-slip differential. On the trickiest roads it’s possible to occasionally detect some slip from the inside front wheel, but mostly it drags the Leon out of corners decisively with no fuss.

If only the steering would give a little more back. At two turns lock to lock, it’s pretty quick but never feels nervous. It’s also perfectly accurate and it’s possible to vary the weight in the driving mode settings. It’s not plagued by unnatural weighting or the elasticated feeling found in fast Fords, so the lack of feedback is never an impediment to fast road driving, but a touch more communication would complete the dynamic picture.

Comfort and isolation

Despite 19in wheels and 35-aspect tyre sidewalls, on its adaptive dampers this hot hatch rides more comfortably than the vast majority of cooking family cars. Put the suspension in its softest mode and the Leon lopes along, flattening most bumps in the road. It’s well controlled too, so never becomes a floaty barge.

That compliance makes it all the more obvious when the suspension does run out of ideas. The lack of tyre sidewall can only be camouflaged so much, and the nastiest potholes will elicit a noticeable bang as the 19in wheel smacks through it. On the rare occasion that you encounter a pothole when the front suspension is already at the top of its stroke, it feels like the strut may come through the bonnet.

On long journeys, the Cupra Leon is about as easy to live with as a hot hatch gets. At a 70mph cruise, our noise meter showed 70dBA, the same as the Ford Focus ST and Hyundai i30 N. The exhaust is a tad boomy at town and motorway speeds but is easily drowned out by the stereo.

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The seats are comfortable and supportive, and even VZ1-spec cars get manually adjustable lumbar support. Aspiring touring car drivers may wish for a slightly lower driving position and a bit more angle on the seat base would have made the driving position perfect, but it’s not far off, anyway.

Track notes

Less sporty cars and SUVs in particular can tie themselves in knots over the crests and through the compressions at Millbrook, but the Cupra Leon feels right at home.

Its 241bhp has absolutely no problem powering the relatively light hatchback up the hills and the brakes make light work of scrubbing off the speed when coming down.

On the relatively even surface, the VAQ differential is indistinguishable from a more traditional unit and drags the car out of corners with little drama. The limit of grip is high, and on a dry track it is made quite clear when it is approaching.

The ESC Sport mode cleverly manages traction and oversteer so that less experienced drivers can start exploring the limit without the car spitting them off. Turn everything off and the Leon behaves much like it does on the road. Some gentle lift-off oversteer is easily induced, and just as easily gathered up.