Seat Leon Cupra R review: Spectacular Spanish speedster

Seat Leon Cupra R review: Spectacular Spanish speedster
Seat Leon Cupra R review: Spectacular Spanish speedster

Driving the high-performance Seat you can no longer buy

Seat Leon Cupra R

Price: £34,995
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
0-62mph: 5.8sec
Fuel economy: 38.7mpg
CO2 emissions: 170g/km

We’re driving a cult car in the making here. A Seat that was sold just for a short period in the UK – 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.

It’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 doesn’t have four-wheel drive: here, it’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, it’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 isn’t quite there, but it’s hardly lacking.

Seat Leon Cupra R review

And although the ride is firm, it’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 we’d perhaps expect no less, and the Seat’s hardly hindered by its stiffness.

A unique feature of this car is the amount of camber Seat’s engineered into the setup of the wheels. It lets the suspension lean hard onto the tyres – 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.

Seat Leon Cupra R review

Don’t worry, because electronic aids are there to keep things under control, but it’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 don’t think it’s any hardship, as the manual is more rewarding.

Seat Leon Cupra R review

But can this focused Leon do the comfort stuff OK too, for when you’re not on it? Surprisingly, it can. It’s never going to be as comfortable as the standard Cupra, nor a Golf R, but it will still feel docile enough when cruising – although it will remind you that it’s something a bit out the ordinary with a blip of the throttle every time you start it up…

This is not a cheap car. £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 £6000 cheaper. But that’s not the point. This is the ultimate Leon for Cupra fans, and the fact all 24 UK cars have sold out shows there’s a small but determined market for it. And the car they’re getting is unlikely to leave any of them disappointed.

Seat Leon Cupra R

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