Despite an abundance of firepower under the bonnet and 19in alloys filling the wheel arches, the Cupra is pretty understated. Yes, you get more aggressive-looking bumpers and twin exhausts, but there are no wild wings, huge vents or other boy racer favourites. As with the old Cupra 290, to the uninitiated it could be any other Leon hatch.
That softly, softly approach extends to the driving experience. Considering the skinniness of the tyres' sidewalls and the performance-tweaked suspension, the Cupra is surprisingly compliant when the dampers are left in Comfort mode. Yes, you do feel rough roads and expansion joints, but you’re never jostled around too much.
With an engine that happily pulls quietly from very low revs, it’s actually quite a relaxing mode of transportation, right up until you decide to give it some welly. On a smooth dry road, the Cupra accelerates ferociously, pushing you against the back of your seat and sending the speedo needle soaring. Change up a gear and you'll find a quick and unobstructive shift.
You do get the feeling that maybe there’s a bit too much power for the chassis, though. Leave the traction control on and it’ll stick its oar in all too readily. Turn it off and you’ll still get the odd flash as the Cupra wheelspins through first gear and into second.
Throw in a bump in the road and things get even worse. Under hard acceleration, there’s a bang and a jolt through the front suspension as if some of the bushes are made of Dairylea (other soft cheeses are available). Given that unruliness, we were surprised to find very little in the way of torque steer.
That’s probably because the slippy differential is a particularly weak one. Unlike the hottest of Renault Mégane Renaultsports or the Honda Civic Type R, which will pull you around a corner under power, the Cupra almost seems to rely on electronic interventions as much as the locking of the differential.
So, what about the handling? The first thing you’ll notice is the standard fit Progressive steering system that ramps up the ratio as you wind on lock. It’s certainly a real boon when you’re negotiating a multi-storey car park, but it does rob the steering of feel.
Get past that and you’ll soon find out that the Cupra has tonnes of grip. What it doesn’t have is the kind of delicious adjustability that marks out the very best hot hatches. Overspeed in a corner and you will understeer.
We also found that while you can ramp up the firmness of the adaptive dampers, they work best in Comfort mode on anything other than the smoothest of surfaces. Try Sport or Cupra mode on a B-road and it feels like you’ll pogo into the nearest ditch.