From £25,4958
An extra 10bhp doesn't add a huge amount to the Seat Leon Cupra 300, but it remains a decent all-rounder in the hot hatch class

Our Verdict

Seat Leon Cupra

New hot hatch promises to outgun its rivals, including the Volkswagen Golf GTI

14 February 2017

What is it?

Spot the flaw in this press release: ‘The new Seat Leon Cupra 300 is the most powerful road car in the brand’s history.’ Err, hang on chaps; back in 2008 there was the Leon 310 special edition – fair enough, only 100 were made and all for the Dutch market, but 306bhp definitely trumps 296bhp in our book. 

Pedantry aside, compared with the outgoing 290, the new Cupra 300 does come with a slice of extra power (10bhp) and an added wedge of torque (22lb ft) – although the latter is available across a marginally narrower rev range. 

Can the Leon handle all that, though? The old car was already a little unruly compared to the most gifted hot hatches out there. Effective, yes - as its brief Nürburgring hatchback lap record, in 280 guise, proved - but in the manner of a slightly wayward tomahawk. To guide it with any degree of accuracy needed an awfully judicious touch on the throttle to avoid the differential spinning away all its power in a haze of tyre smoke and thundering axle tramp. 

However, one could argue that the Cupra’s USP was always the bang for your buck rather than the last word in handling. But now the price, even for the basic manual version we’re driving, has crept ever nearer to esteemed rivals such as the Volkswagen Golf R, Ford Focus RS and BMW M140i. So, is it still worthy of consideration?

What's it like?

With no mechanical changes beyond the extra oomph, it’s the same old Leon Cupra underneath. You’d need a back-to-back comparison to discern that extra pace, but having tried the 300 on the road, as well as on the superbly technical Parcmotor Castellolí circuit near Barcelona, it is definitely mightily quick – providing you focus hard, and employ the kind of delicate touch on the throttle befitting of a Jedi master. The engine picks up smartly from not much over idle, and keeps surging forward at a heady rate all the way to its redline. 

However, you’ll still bemoan the variable steering rack’s slightly mute feel and inconsistency, which leaves you thinking about where you’re placing the car, rather than sweeping it intuitively from apex to apex. The brake pedal is too spiky at the top of its travel, while the Haldex differential still struggles to contain the forces acting through it. 

The fact is, the Leon Cupra's key rivals all feel like they’ve had a fair chunk of extra cash thrown at their engineering budgets, and when you are really trying to motor on over a tricky stretch of road, it still feels a little crude. 

But that’s only to see one side of its armoury. While on occasion the ride is a little brusque, for a performance hatchback it’s actually further towards the comfort end of the spectrum than most. And when you decide to take things at more leisurely pace, slacken off its drive modes, and neuter everything from the adaptive dampers, throttle response to the slightly contrived induction roar, its waywardness recedes and a potent but genuinely sensible everyday hack emerges.

Should I buy one?

It’s this duality of purpose that keeps the Leon Cupra relevant, and it’s worth bearing in mind that four-wheel drive is now available for the first time, albeit on only the ST estate with a dual-clutch gearbox. This negates much of the Leon Cupra’s traction issues, and pushes the performance envelope and usability ever closer to its illustrious Golf R cousin - for a price.

But even in its cheapest guise, don’t discount this car, at least not until you’ve experienced it. It's only then that you’ll be able to decide for yourself whether its breadth of ability as a reasonably priced, quick, all-round family car, makes up for what it lacks to other slightly pricier performance models in outright finesse. 

Seat Leon Cupra 300

Location Spain; On sale Now; Price £29,840; Engine 4 cyls inline, 1984cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 296bhp at 5500-6200rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 1800-5500; Kerb weight 1395kg; Gearbox 6-spd manual; 0-62mph 5.8sec; Top speed 155mph; Economy 40.9mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 158g/km, 28%; Rivals VW Golf R, Ford Focus RS

Join the debate

Comments
13

14 February 2017
In my opinion to have this over it's more powerful VW stable-mates that come with 4 WHEEL DRIVE and MORE POWER for just 10% more in the case of an S3 or around £2,000'ish more for an R Golf. Both of which have just been updated.
Then there's the crazy Focus RS with a 2.5 litre engine and 4 wheel drive and even more power.
Still each to their own but I know what cars are better value are weren't design in the town of dulls-vill.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

14 February 2017
I own a Golf R and anyone who has ever put their foot down in damp/wet/icy conditions will appreciate AWD. Above 200bhp you get torque steer, wheel tramp, wheel spin (especially from tight junctions). For a little extra, you get so much more ability to transfer ALL the power to the road, regardless of conditions.

In the dry, running Cup 2 tyres on a beautiful Portuguese race circuit (which is where they tend to test the FWD hot hatches) you'll have no problem getting all your power down. It's just that in the U.K. we rarely (if ever) get ideal conditions where a FWD hatch shines over an AWD (S3/Golf R/A45/Focus RS).

Drive both and you'll see what I mean...

14 February 2017
Not sure about where you live but from 5 friends who have Audi S cars or Golf R's - ALL have had their houses broken into or cars trying to (and succeeding and one car jacking attempt, horrible) steal the cars. For my money the Cupra ST with it's lower price and less nickable brand wins everytime.

 

 

 

14 February 2017
Deputy wrote:

Not sure about where you live but from 5 friends who have Audi S cars or Golf R's - ALL have had their houses broken into or cars trying to (and succeeding and one car jacking attempt, horrible) steal the cars. For my money the Cupra ST with it's lower price and less nickable brand wins everytime.

Emmm so 100% of the 5 Audi S or VW R car owners (there can't be many people lay claim to fact) in your area have had a serious crime committed against them.
I'd move if I lived in such a crime ridden area. What County is it?? I'd want to keep away from such a **** area.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

14 February 2017
Same where I live, doesn't need to be a '****' area to have a car crime problem - usually the opposite. Golf R, Audi S3 (or A3 TDI will do in some cases) and A45 AMG models targeted locally. They have resorted to taking keys out of people's hands by whatever means rather than just a good old burgling.


14 February 2017
Can you beat 5 friends with R Golfs and S3's.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

14 February 2017
[quote=xxxx]Can you beat 5 friends with R Golfs and S3's.[/quote] Why is that so unfeasible, colleague's at work that I consider friends have some interesting cars, 2x M3s, Subaru impreza P1, 997, 944 s2, s3 so 5 fast vag owning friends is reasonable. Non of my friends have issues regarding jacking or attempted theft though. I actually like both this and the Octavia vrs I've the golf and A3 equivalent as to my eyes they are more interesting to look at and a more individual choice.

14 February 2017
Over the golf and A3 equivalent

14 February 2017
[quote=si73][quote=xxxx]Can you beat 5 friends with R Golfs and S3's.[/quote] Why is that so unfeasible, colleague's at work that I consider friends have some interesting cars, 2x M3s, Subaru impreza P1, 997, 944 s2, s3 so 5 fast vag owning friends is reasonable. ....[/quote] A simple NO would suffice

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

14 February 2017
Sadly it's because I do live in a nice area that it gets targeted for car crime. I'm pretty sure it's not my neighbours that are breaking into our houses to nick the keys of fast German cars!! Of course except for the car jacking the police never come out. They are too busy catching the real traffic offenders who dare to do 55MPH on an empty M1 past the roadworks with n one working at 3am.......

 

 

 

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