Ever since there has been a Leon, there has been a warm version, and this, the new Leon Cupra, is the warmest series-production variant of the Leon yet.

The Leon was the first C-segment hatchback the company produced under the stewardship of Volkswagen, which mooted the idea that the Spanish manufacturer would become the group’s youthful, dynamic brand.

It hasn’t always quite managed that (cough, Altea XL, Toledo, cough), but in the Cupra versions of the Leon, there’s little denying that Seat has provided admirably fiery flagships.

Seat started identifying its performance models with the Cupra badge in 1999. Hot Cupra versions of the original Leon and the second-gen Ibiza were introduced that year, the former with 177bhp.

The latest is available with either three doors – badged 'SC' – or five doors or in estate form and is only available in full-fat 290 form.

That puts the new Cupra very near the top of the front-wheel-drive hatchback pile, an area patrolled by the not inconsiderable muscle of the Ford Focus ST, Renault Mégane RS 265 and, most shove-worthy of all, the Vauxhall Astra VXR.

Today’s new Cupra enters the hot hatch fray with even more grunt than the last Cupra R (it had 261bhp), leaving room for a future Cupra R to go even bigger. But it’d need to have more power than the 306bhp Holland-only Leon Cupra 310 special edition of 2008 in order to be the hottest Leon ever.

The job here is to see whether the Cupra will fit right in among its current competitors, or receive a thorough shoeing. Read on to find out.

Save money on your car insurance

Compare quotesCompare insurance quotes

Top 5 Hot hatchbacks

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Suzuki Swift Sport 2018 long-term review hero front
    First Drive
    16 July 2018
    The Japanese hot hatch is all grown up in terms of character, technology and price, but is it still a fun-loving kid at heart? Let’s find out
  • Tesla Model S 75D 2018 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    16 July 2018
    New starting point for revised Model S line-up is still the electric saloon to beat
  • Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer longterm review on the road
    First Drive
    16 July 2018
    How suited is this estate to the demands of the business traveller? We aim to find out
  • Ford Fiesta ST Performance Pack 2018 UK first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    16 July 2018
    Latest Fiesta to wear red ST badge is more refined than predecessor and more satisfying to drive over a range of speeds than any of its rivals
  • Hyundai Nexo 2019 first drive review hero front
    First Drive
    13 July 2018
    Designed from the outset to use a hydrogen fuel cell powertrain, this front-driven crossover provides a taste of the future today