Driving the high-performance Seat you can no longer buy
Seat Leon Cupra R
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbocharged, petrol
Power: 306bhp at 5800-6500rpm
Torque: 280lb ft at 1800-5700rpm
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1453kg
Top speed: 155mph
Fuel economy: 38.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 170g/km
Weâ€™re driving a cult car in the making here. A Seat that was sold just for a short period in the UK â€“ the Spanish factory allocated us just 24 examples of its latest high-performance Leon Cupra R, and they sold out almost right away. We decided to find out what all the fuss is about.
Itâ€™s the most extreme new Leon yet, an Iberian-flavoured take on the Volkswagen Golf R. It uses the same 306bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine, although it doesnâ€™t have four-wheel drive: here, itâ€™s strictly front-wheel drive, with an electronic locking differential taken from the Cupra 300.
Is it too much for challenging British roads? Not a bit of it. Those 24 lucky owners are in for a treat: across bumpy British B-roads, itâ€™s an exceptionally rapid point-to-point machine, with terrific bite despite all the power going to just the two front tyres. You will ultimately notice the sheer traction of the Golf R isnâ€™t quite there, but itâ€™s hardly lacking.
And although the ride is firm, itâ€™s far from harsh. Sometimes, extreme hot hatches are too much for our roads, but the Cupra R copes well, particularly at speed. Again, a Golf R is more forgiving still, but weâ€™d perhaps expect no less, and the Seatâ€™s hardly hindered by its stiffness.
A unique feature of this car is the amount of camber Seatâ€™s engineered into the setup of the wheels. It lets the suspension lean hard onto the tyres â€“ either Continental or, as an option, trackday-ready Michelin Cup Sport 2 rubber. With lightning-sharp front-end response, you can sometimes feel the back end edging out a little, which adds to the excitement.
Donâ€™t worry, because electronic aids are there to keep things under control, but itâ€™s still a very exciting sensation that, if you go into a corner hard and lift off the accelerator, will make you feel like a touring car driver. A suitably loud exhaust adds to the effect, with pops and cracks when you lift off, and an amusing snort each time you change gear.
All UK cars have a short-throw six-speed gearbox. The dual-clutch automatic offered to other nations was denied us, but we donâ€™t think itâ€™s any hardship, as the manual is more rewarding.
But can this focused Leon do the comfort stuff OK too, for when youâ€™re not on it? Surprisingly, it can. Itâ€™s never going to be as comfortable as the standard Cupra, nor a Golf R, but it will still feel docile enough when cruising â€“ although it will remind you that itâ€™s something a bit out the ordinary with a blip of the throttle every time you start it upâ€¦
This is not a cheap car. Â£34,995 is an extreme price tag for an extreme Seat. You can get a Honda Civic Type R for less, and the similarly thrilling Renaultsport Megane is a staggering Â£6000 cheaper. But thatâ€™s not the point. This is the ultimate Leon for Cupra fans, and the fact all 24 UK cars have sold out shows thereâ€™s a small but determined market for it. And the car theyâ€™re getting is unlikely to leave any of them disappointed.