SEAT Leon

The Cupra gets an engine upgrade and suspension tweaks to make it the best Leon yet

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

This new Cupra proves power doesn't always have to corrupt. The blend of engine upgrades and suspension tweaks has created the best sporting Leon yet. It's nearly as involving as the top hot hatches, and faster than most of them, and even comes wrapped in a practical five-door body. If the idea of great pace and value appeals, visit your SEAT dealer.

Hold on to your hats - Seat has unleashed its fastest-ever road car. Not long ago, 200bhp was the benchmark power figure for the hottest hatches.

But the thermostat has been turned up by the likes of the 222bhp Ford Focus ST and 237bhp Vauxhall Astra VXR. Now, the Spanish company has decided to enter the fray with its new range-topping Leon Cupra.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the SEAT Leon

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Under the bonnet is the same 2.0-litre engine that's in the new Golf GTI Edition 30, albeit with 237bhp to the VW's 227bhp. The Leon sprints from 0-62mph in only 6.4 seconds on its way to a top speed of 153mph.

But what's really impressive is the way the Cupra puts this power down. Even if you are hard on the throttle in first and second gears, torque steer isn't an issue, while the car remains superbly composed over undulating roads; the damping seems to get better the faster you go. Grip levels are high, roll is kept well in check by the stiff chassis and the steering is direct, if a little lacking in feel.

Yet from looking at the SEAT, you would not expect such performance and agility. Only 18-inch alloy wheels, an oval exhaust and black wing mirror trim separate the Cupra from the Leon FR. Inside, there are high-backed, heavily bolstered sports seats, while the chunky three-spoke steering wheel and centrally located rev counter get Cupra badging. Other than that, it's standard Leon, which means decent comfort but some cheap plastics.

Still, at £19,595, the newcomer offers a lot of pace for the money. The chassis is excellent and there is a long list of standard equipment to sweeten the deal further. And while the Cupra can't match the depth of quality offered by the GTI Edition 30, it's much better than the crashy and sometimes unruly Leon FR.

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