From £25,4958
Spanish manufacturer unleashes the most hardcore iteration of its hot hatch

What is it?

This is the bells and whistles, top dog of the Seat Leon range – the most powerful, most focused and most extreme variant of the brand’s Ford Focus rival. It comes equipped with the same turbocharged 2.0-litre engine as the supercar-aping Volkswagen Golf R, as well as a whole host of performance hardware to make a base-level Porsche Cayman sound under-gunned.

We first drove it in Spain late last year and were impressed by its eye-widening cross-country pace and quickened responses. But now, with all 24 UK-bound examples of the model sold out, we have our first go in one on British roads to really test how the addition of unique adaptive dampers and some pretty extreme (by production car standards) negative camber affect its real-world performance.

The car’s engine produces 306bhp, identical to the Golf R, but there’s no Haldex clutch to juggle power between the front and rear axles here, because drive is sent exclusively to the front wheels. Torque is controlled through an electronic locking differential that’s taken straight from the Cupra 300.

What's it like?

Point to point, even on a bumpy British B-road, the Leon Cupra R can make ground as fast as anything else with seatbelts and a horn. It doesn’t chew into the tarmac under power on corner exits like a Golf R – with two-wheel drive, of course it can’t – but the front wheels bite into the surface with such fantastic levels of traction that the Cupra R’s rampant powertrain can be exploited with enthusiasm.

Often, focused hot hatches can feel overly harsh and brittle on Britain’s busy road surfaces. But the Cupra R, with its uniquely tuned suspension, does a fine job of dissolving the vibrations generated by creases in the tarmac. It’s firm, particularly at low pace, but the faster you go the more effectively the car glides over ridges in the road. That being said, it’s not quite as forgiving as a Golf R, but to be fair, that was to be expected.

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The Cupra R is very obviously more concerned with being driven like your hair’s on fire, so charge into a corner on a trailed throttle and the front end will respond eagerly. The extra negative camber (it’s been almost doubled) allows the car to really lean into its front tyres (our car came with optional Michelin Cup Sport 2 tyres rather than the standard Continental SportContact6s), encouraging the back-end to over-rotate a few degrees. It’s not as laugh-out-loud mobile as the Honda Civic Type R or Renault Sport Mégane (which benefits from four-wheel steering), but it gives the car a more loutish demeanour.

That’s matched by the engine’s tone, which sounds more aggressive than the Golf R’s thanks to a less restrictive (in terms of volume) exhaust that beguiles with pops and crackles off throttle when the car’s set to its top Cupra mode – which is new for the R. Even more satisfying is the snort of overrun when you pull for a quick upshift through the car’s tightly gaited six-speed gearbox. UK buyers aren’t offered a dual-clutch automatic like other markets, but our experience suggests the Cupra is all the more rewarding for it.

Dial things back in comfort mode and the Cupra R is as supple as a warm hatch and as docile as a mid-spec diesel, although it never completely winds back to the same extent as the Golf R. The blip of throttle on start-up is a constant reminder you’re in the hottest Leon to make production yet.

Should I buy one?

The question should be preceded by 'Can I buy one?' because, unless you’re one of the 24 Brits or 775 people from other markets who have already ordered it, you’ll have to wait until the first Cupra R lands on the second-hand market to bag one.

Even if you could buy one, you might have a hard time justifying the price because, as exciting as it is, you are parting with £34,995 for a Leon. Consider that the equally as quick and more playful Civic Type R is £4000 cheaper, while the RS Mégane, which on first impressions could be the Civic Type R’s biggest threat, is predicted to be almost £6000 less, and that figure only seems larger.

Then again, perhaps that’s missing the point. The Cupra R is neither the most extreme nor diversely talented of the class, but it is an explosive model for Seat aficionados and you’d be hard-pressed to find one of those not astounded by its performance.

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Where Surrey On sale Sold out Price £34,995 Engine 4 cyls, 1984cc, turbocharged, petrol Power 306bhp at 5800-6500rpm Torque 280lb ft at 1800-5700rpm Gearbox 6-spd manual Kerb weight 1453kg Top speed 155mph 0-62mph 5.8sec Fuel economy 38.7mpg CO2 170g/km Rivals Honda Civic Type R, Renault Mégane Renault Sport 280

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Comments
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Sundym 6 April 2018

Fascinating discussion about language but...

Everytime the Golf R is mentioned the author has to remind us it's better than the Leon as it's 4wd, cheaper and quite possibly nicer inside . My take on it is the Golf R is cheaper, 4wd and nicer inside ! If you want lurid frontvwheel drive then you've got civic type R at £4k less, Cupra R why would you?
simonali 6 April 2018

It's SEAT, not Seat. It's an

It's SEAT, not Seat. It's an acronym!

abkq 6 April 2018

simonali wrote:

simonali wrote:

It's SEAT, not Seat. It's an acronym!

Language is a living thing. If enough people prefer to write Seat instead of SEAT, then it will become Seat in common usage, aconym or not.

Sam Sheehan 6 April 2018

But...

You read it as Seat, not S.E.A.T. That’s why we don’t capitalise

Peter Cavellini 6 April 2018

Pronunciation.....

 You pronounce it SAY AT......!!?

coolboy 6 April 2018

not really

Sam Sheehan wrote:

You read it as Seat, not S.E.A.T. That’s why we don’t capitalise

Sam, by your metric should be Bmw for Bayerisch Motoren Werk, in place of BMW?

Right, or not? ...It must be totally different due to Brexit, then.

abkq 6 April 2018

coolboy wrote:

coolboy wrote:

Sam Sheehan wrote:

You read it as Seat, not S.E.A.T. That’s why we don’t capitalise

... should be Bmw for Bayerisch Motoren Werk, in place of BMW?

No, 'Seat' is pronouncable and can be made into a word. BMW lacks vowels and cannot be pronounced as a word. So it remains BMW in capital letters and read as three separate letters.

xxxx 6 April 2018

Out of interest

abkq wrote:

coolboy wrote:

Sam Sheehan wrote:

You read it as Seat, not S.E.A.T. That’s why we don’t capitalise

... should be Bmw for Bayerisch Motoren Werk, in place of BMW?

No, 'Seat' is pronouncable and can be made into a word. BMW lacks vowels and cannot be pronounced as a word. So it remains BMW in capital letters and read as three separate letters.

What about NUT (nation union of teachers). 'Nut' is pronouncable and can be made into a word and has a vowel so by your rules its 'Nut'. But the BBC write it as NUT on their website, who's right?  

abkq 6 April 2018

xxxx wrote:

xxxx wrote:

abkq wrote:

coolboy wrote:

Sam Sheehan wrote:

You read it as Seat, not S.E.A.T. That’s why we don’t capitalise

... should be Bmw for Bayerisch Motoren Werk, in place of BMW?

No, 'Seat' is pronouncable and can be made into a word. BMW lacks vowels and cannot be pronounced as a word. So it remains BMW in capital letters and read as three separate letters.

What about NUT (nation union of teachers). 'Nut' is pronouncable and can be made into a word and has a vowel so by your rules its 'Nut'. But the BBC write it as NUT on their website, who's right?  

" 'Seat' is pronouncable and CAN be made into a word" does not mean that it MUST be made into a word.

NUT is not pronounced as such for obvious reason.

There are plenty of examples where pronouncable acronyms are pronounced as words eg. AIDS = Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

  •  
xxxx 6 April 2018

Calm down

abkq wrote:

xxxx wrote:

abkq wrote:

coolboy wrote:

Sam Sheehan wrote:

You read it as Seat, not S.E.A.T. That’s why we don’t capitalise

... should be Bmw for Bayerisch Motoren Werk, in place of BMW?

No, 'Seat' is pronouncable and can be made into a word. BMW lacks vowels and cannot be pronounced as a word. So it remains BMW in capital letters and read as three separate letters.

What about NUT (nation union of teachers). 'Nut' is pronouncable and can be made into a word and has a vowel so by your rules its 'Nut'. But the BBC write it as NUT on their website, who's right?  

" 'Seat' is pronouncable and CAN be made into a word" does not mean that it MUST be made into a word.

NUT is not pronounced as such for obvious reason.

There are plenty of examples where pronouncable acronyms are pronounced as words eg. AIDS = Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

  •  

"obvious reason":- that clears that up then, I think 

Citytiger 6 April 2018

abkq wrote:

abkq wrote:

 

 

 

NUT is not pronounced as such for obvious reason.

NUT may not be pronouced, but it is full of them, very millitant ones damaging our childrens minds and educations, too busy being political when they should be concentrating on teaching.  

atomicus 6 April 2018

Acronyms ARE words, there's

Acronyms ARE words, there's no need to make them in to one, whether it can be pronounced 'all in one' like NASA or NATO, or you have to read each letter, like the FBI or CIA.

I think we can all agree it would look a bit odd if everyone started writing Nasa and Nato, given how used we are to seeing them in all caps, but you're right... if there were some sort of uprising against capital letters, then over time we'd get used to it. It's not that there are any rules, it would just look and feel wrong.

And if anyone doubts that acronysms are indeed words, there are many use (and spell) as regular words without even realising it. For example... 'laser' - Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation; 'scuba' - Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus; 'radar' - Radio Detection and Ranging; and 'sonar' - Sound Navigation and Ranging.”

beechie 6 April 2018

House style

atomicus wrote:

Acronyms ARE words, there's no need to make them in to one, whether it can be pronounced 'all in one' like NASA or NATO, or you have to read each letter, like the FBI or CIA.

I think we can all agree it would look a bit odd if everyone started writing Nasa and Nato, given how used we are to seeing them in all caps, but you're right... if there were some sort of uprising against capital letters, then over time we'd get used to it. It's not that there are any rules, it would just look and feel wrong.

And if anyone doubts that acronysms are indeed words, there are many use (and spell) as regular words without even realising it. For example... 'laser' - Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation; 'scuba' - Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus; 'radar' - Radio Detection and Ranging; and 'sonar' - Sound Navigation and Ranging.”

Most newspapers write Nato and Nasa. What about Alfa Romeo? No-one would write ALFA Romeo.

atomicus 7 April 2018

beechie wrote:

beechie wrote:
atomicus wrote:

Acronyms ARE words, there's no need to make them in to one, whether it can be pronounced 'all in one' like NASA or NATO, or you have to read each letter, like the FBI or CIA.

I think we can all agree it would look a bit odd if everyone started writing Nasa and Nato, given how used we are to seeing them in all caps, but you're right... if there were some sort of uprising against capital letters, then over time we'd get used to it. It's not that there are any rules, it would just look and feel wrong.

And if anyone doubts that acronysms are indeed words, there are many use (and spell) as regular words without even realising it. For example... 'laser' - Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation; 'scuba' - Self-Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus; 'radar' - Radio Detection and Ranging; and 'sonar' - Sound Navigation and Ranging.”

Most newspapers write Nato and Nasa. What about Alfa Romeo? No-one would write ALFA Romeo.

 

I don't know, most of the time I see NATO and NASA, along with many other acronyms that use all caps most of the time. SEAT call/spell themselves as such, and given the potential confusion with the word 'seat', it makes far more sense that caps should be used in its case. As previously mentioned however, there are no rules, people can do as they want.

Alfa Romeo is actually called that, they don't use caps. The company was founded as A.L.F.A but later changed, so that's not a good example as it's no longer considered an acronym even by them.

xxxx 6 April 2018

A better name for a car with 90's styling

The "SEAT LEON Halfords R Special". That and the price (same as a 4WD S3) explains why they only expect to sell 24.