In the ever increasingly populated world of hot hatches, you’d be forgiven if you walked right past the Seat Leon Cupra R. Unlike most that have bulging bonnets and excessively flared arches, the Cupra R looks remarkably understated. I like this, its a good thing. Walk around the car and the first thing you will notice are the huge 19 inch wheels that it wears. Aside from them, there’s not much else to give away the fact that this 2.0 litre car is packing 265 bhp. The rear shows just one large exhaust tip and only a subtle R badge. Its not covered in vents & louvres, quite the opposite. This truly is a Q-car.
Climbing in and you’ll notice the alcantara sports seats are supportive without feeling like you’ve sat into a full on race car. The steering wheel will be familiar to anyone who has driven any performance cars from the VAG Group and is the perfect size. One of my pet hates are sporty steering wheels that are just that bit too large, so well done Seat on getting this combo just right. As you’d expect from a halo model like this, all the usual multi-funtionality is housed on the wheel including stereo and phone controls. Ahead of the wheel, the clocks are clear and well laid out. The rev counter is nestled in the middle with a large speedo on the right, which incidentally reads to 300 km/h. Their white illumination looks great at night too.
Twist the key and you’re greeted by a subtle burble. Depress the light clutch and select the first of six gears and the Cupra R pulls away with zero fuss or commotion. The on-board trip computer tells me that my full tank will bring me 430kms – we’ll soon see how accurate it is. I stab the throttle and all of a sudden Mr. Hyde has appeared. This monster is gobbling up tarmac at a phenomenal rate as it races through the gears. The sound is phenomenal. Through some bends at speed, its pretty nailed to the road and although we may be reaching some people’s limits, there’s no real hint of the car’s driver aid systems arriving to break up the party. This is what a driver’s car should be like.
I found the Cupra R’s suspension to be one of the best features of the car. Yes this is a full on hot hatch with bundles of power, yet the car’s ride when driving normally was very compliant and soft. I did half expect this to all fall apart when you try to push the Leon hard but no, its works just as well as speed and always gives a pretty good feedback of what the car is doing under you.
Naturally this range topper has all the spec that one could ask for; from the usual three letter acronyms like ESP, EBA, DSR & XDS to the one thing that helps make the car sound so good – a ‘Sound Actor’. Yes, unfortunately that aural delight that you experience is helped along a little by a device that keeps the driver’s ears happy whilst also keeping the EU environmentalists satisfied. Yes, it would be an easy thing to criticize, but if you didn’t know it existed you wouldn’t care. Either way it still sounds great. Another neat little touch is the front fog lamps also double up as cornering lights depending on what way you’re turning. Helpful, especially at lower speeds. Other nice touches in the cabin include both USB & Aux connectors.
So, what did I really think? Genuinely a superb car to drive – its feels alive and not like its being ruined by nanny-like systems. All the power is always there with the needs to keep activating a sport mode yet its perfectly capable of being driven everyday in absolute comfort. The biggest plus for me being the subtlety of the exterior. Seat thankfully still understand what a Q-Car should be! Incidentally, that 430 km range actually turned into 364 mms, not too bad considering that included some spirited driving. If you’re contemplating on a Golf GTI or even GTI-R purchase, rule out the Cupra R at your peril.
Test Drive Distance: 431.6kms
Price as tested: €39,650
Road Tax band: F – €630