SEAT Leon Cupra R

Flagship Spanish hot hatch ups ante again

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.0 out of 5

There’s lots to like about this hot Leon. The 2.0-litre TSI engine is a great performer, the chassis isn’t short on grip and kit is generous. But for a flagship hot hatch, the R just doesn’t excite in the way rivals do. And it’s difficult to justify the premium over the already very capable Cupra.

COSWORTH isn’t the only company to turn up the wick on a hot hatchback – SEAT is at it, too! And the new Leon Cupra R is the Spanish firm’s most powerful car ever.

Under the bonnet lies the same 2.0-litre TSI four-cylinder turbo as is found in VW’s Golf R and the Audi S3. It’s not short on punch, producing 261bhp at 6,000rpm and 350Nm of torque from just 2,500rpm.

That propels the SEAT from 0-62mph in 6.2 seconds – only three-tenths slower than Ford’s mighty Focus RS. In-gear response is strong with lots of low-down urge and sustained pull right to the red line.

Surprisingly, the Cupra R is also quite efficient, delivering 34.9mpg combined economy and putting out 190g/km of CO2. Thanks to uprated brakes, sports suspension and the same XDS electronic differential as you get on a Golf GTI, it handles well, too. Body roll is virtually eliminated and there’s plenty of grip – but the ride is firm and the steering numb.

It costs £3,705 more than the standard 237bhp Cupra, too, yet this range-topping R version doesn’t bring many visual tweaks. It gets a new front grille, gloss black door mirrors, larger rear diffuser finished in the same gloss effect and twin central exhaust pipes. R logos and 19-inch alloys complete the package.

Inside, the white diamond-stitched leather sports seats stand out most, while the squared-off steering wheel and aluminium pedals add to the car’s sporty persona. Standard kit is impressive, and the rest of the cabin feels well built. So, is the R a worthy flagship? We can’t criticise its performance potential, but the regular Cupra is nearly as fast, and much cheaper – and looks far more tempting. 

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