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.