The hottest Seat yet is an excellent and potent hot hatch

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.

See all the latest Seat reviews, news and video

Join the debate

Add a comment…
JezyG 27 June 2010

Re: Seat Leon Cupra R

Straight Six Man wrote:

Visibility in the Leon is extremely poor - very thick A-pillars, very high window sill, rising beltline, tiny rear window... and then there's that MPV-like profile. The 1 is the best-proportioned hatch on sale today.

Your having a laugh now are you not????? I own a Leon FR CR TDi and visibillity is not extremely poor pillars are not that thick more racked back. As I said they can obstruct the view from certain angles but never had a real issue. High window sill think you must be mistaken with the 1er now that does have a high windoiw sill makes the interior feel slightly dark and claustraphobic. Tiny rear window in now more on the FL as the class goes right across the rear tailgate so no pillars. 1er also has a tiny rear window to go with the tiny boot, although the Coupe has a much better and bigger boot and nearly brought one as our 4th 1er.

Now way is the 1er the best proportined . Those Barvarian glasses are back on I see!!! The bonnet is too long and the top half of the car too narrow the rear and front look great but side on is not so good. As they say it's you opinion but you are soooooo biased it is beyond belife..........I like the 1er but plenty of room for improvment,

Seeing as I have owned both cars had 2 derv and 1 petrol 1ers as well I can be objective on both. The BMW has the better chassis and steering and brakes. Leon has the better gearchange, practicality and grip in the wet (no horrid RFT's) also the 1er's rear suspension can start to bounce/float at higher speeds were the Leon feels more planted, but 1er fights back by more grip in the corners. Engines are pretty even steven's the VAG CR lump is as smooth as the BM 143/177 lump in fact not having the chain drive makes the VAG lump slightly quiter under load and at idle. Oh and all 1er's have a habit of annoying gear stick wobble at idle due to the direct connection to the gearbox.

JezyG 27 June 2010

Re: Seat Leon Cupra R

Fair play visibility is not poor though swept back windscreen can cause minor issues at certain angles but that is it. You must be the first to quote as nasty proportions now that is something I really cannot see. Pre FL versions did look slightly MPV like. Look at the Alfa Giuleitta and see the resemblance to the Leon from the side and even the boot area.

Its the 1 Series that has strange proportions for a hatch with the long bonnet and then the very small window area looks like a running shoe is the best way to describe it.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder though and I cannot see through your eyes. IMO and many other's the Leon is one of the more stylish looking hatches around.

JezyG 27 June 2010

Re: Seat Leon Cupra R

Straight Six Man wrote:

JezyG wrote:

Good lord if you think the Leon is ugly what is your idea of beauty?????? One of the plus points of the Leon is it is one of the better looking and stylish hatches. I will say the picture angles don't do it justice and is quite a pretty car in the flesh. What must you think of the 1 series.

The Leon looks bloated. The 1-series is a very pretty car by anyone's standards.

Lol I forgot the Leon is not a BMW................. Well all loved the look of all three of my 1er's but the Leon does have the sharper looks and deffo not bloated. As for the 1er being pretty by anyones standrads that is still a no no the number that still cannot get on with what was a foward looking design still amazes me.

I think those Barvarian Tinted glasses need to be stolen by Pedro!!!!!!!