Roaring around Rockingham in Leon Cupra R

SEAT’s Leon Cupra R packs much punch for your money than any other new car. wheelworldreviews Editor DAVID HOOPER puts it through its paces at Rockingham.

SEAT’s stonkingly quick Cupra R pictured at Rockingham Raceway.

NOW here’s a question? What’s the most powerful new car you can buy for £25,000? With it’s new hot shot Leon Cupra R now in our dealer’s showrooms, SEAT is staking its claim to that with its blisteringly quick 265PS flagship.
It’s the most powerful SEAT ever to hit our shores, and after putting the car through its paces on road and track, I am certain that once word gets out, hot hatch fans are going to find it pretty hard to resist.
Ok, to put one on the road it actually costs £205 more than £25,000, but it will hit he 0-62mph benchmark time in just 6.2 seconds, and has a potential top speed of 155mph. It’s whopping 350Nm torque weighs in at 2,500rpm and really does put the hot back in the hatch market.
Although this new model will be grabbing a few headlines, SEAT itself is having quite a good time at the moment. The Spanish carmaker is currently celebrating its record market share in the UK of 1.66 per cent, and with with help of some impressive new models like the latest Ibiza, and the Exeo, which is based on the previous generation Audi A4, it is capturing the attention and a bigger market share of the all-important fleet sector.
Sporty, design driven brand values aimed at the younger car buyer, SEAT claims to have the youngest average age new car buyer, which has to bode well for its future as its customers grow with the brand into the future.
So let’s have a closer look at the new Cupra R. For a start, it’s a great looking car, and in the Crono Yellow of the launch models, one that can’t be missed out on the road! Sitting on smart 19 in wheels through which you can clearly see the bright red brake calipers, and adorned with plenty of gloss black trim it certainly looks the part, with twin exhaust pipes finishing off the “look”.
Inside, the sporty seats, with a smart glossy backrest, which only the rear seat passengers will really appreciate, are only part of the story. Despite its performance credentials, the new Cupra R is no stripped out racer – it is lavishly equipped with all the mode cons, like climate air conditioning, cruise control, eletric windows and mirrors and a good stereo system, parking sensors and leather seats.

Aerodynamic trimmings and twin exhausts leave little doubt as to what this car is about.

It’s fuel consumption figures stand up to close scrutiny too, with a combined mpg figure of 34.9 meaning it won’t break the bank to run in normal use. The 2.0-litre TSI engine is a very impressive piece of engineering, delivering rapid performance, good economy, and a C02 figure of 190g/km, which is better than anything else that gets close to this car’s performance potential.
What is it like to drive then? In a word – excellent. SEAT have done an superb job with this car and it will keep the track day enthusiast happy at the weekend, and fulfil the school run and family duties during the week just as well.
The suspension is lowered and stiffened as you would expect, but the ride quality out on the road is fine. Yes, it is firm as you would expect, but not overly so and you certainly won’t be in danger of loosening your fillings in this car, unlike some of the more hard-core offerings I could name. Driven sensibly, the Cupra R behaves very well. It’s not chomping at the bit all the time and trying to get away from you, it pulls gently and smoothly, the gear change is good and it steers and stops exactly as it should. Driven within the speed limits, but on some twisting sections of road, rapid changes of direction did nothing to upset the car, and it took everything in its stride, and with its tremendous power output, despatched slower A-road traffic with a quick dab of the throttle pedal.
To really test a car like this though, you need to be off public roads, so credit goes to SEAT UK for providing a suitable test track for the launch event in the shape of the National Circuit at the impressive Rockingham Raceway, in Leicestershire.
I had never driven at Rockingham before, so the first few laps were spent learning the circuit, which is actually quite a technical little track in places, mixed with some fast, flowing sections which, when you get the hang of it, is hugely enjoyable – especially in a car as capable as the Leon Cupra R proved itself to be.
Plant the throttle pedal with a bit of tent, and you are rewarded with a howl from the exhausts as the car heads for the horizon. The gear changes are as slick as they come in a road car and even after several laps, the four-pot Brembo brakes refused to fade, despite heavy breaking points from around a 100mph down to to 20 or 30mph for the tighter corners.
With that amount of power going through the front wheels only, you might expect some problems getting the power down without spinning the front wheels, but the Cupra R is equipped with XDS, and electronically simulated limited slip differential, which quickly sorts out any errant wheels.
The car also features an excellent electronic stability programme, which allows the driver plenty of freedom to explore the car’s handling before it will step in if it senses things are getting out of control. Unlike some systems that insist on nannying you, most drivers would be unaware that it was operating at all in the Cupra R, but on the circuit, at high speed, it was interesting to push the car with the system on, and then turned off, to understand the different feel. I could tell that in some corners, when the system thought the car was in danger of crashing, it was limiting the throttle input, and even applying a bit of braking to some wheels at certain points on the track to keep things safe, but overall, I was very impressed with the way it works.
The Leon Cupra R is a very competent car, and even when I deliberately tried to unsettle it, by lifting off the throttle mid corner, or by trying to throw it into a corner, the chassis responded superbly, refusing to do anything unpredictable or scary. It’s a very safe set-up for road or track use.
Britain enjoys the biggest market in Europe for hot hatches, and this new car, which compliments the existing Sport, FR and Cupra models in SEAT’s line-up, is going to attract yet more fans to the genre.

A roof-mounted spoiler and hidden rear door handles give the Leon a sleek profile.

Rating: ★★★★★★

SEAT Leon Cupra R 2.0 TSI.

SEAT LEON  RANGE: From S 1.4 5dr (£14,060) to Leon Cupra R 2.0 TSI (£25,205).

ENGINE: 1984cc, 265bhp four-cylinder engine, driving front wheels through 6-speed manual gearbox.

CO2 EMISSIONS: 190g/km.

PERFORMANCE: Top speed 155mph. 0-62mph in 9.7 secs.

ECONOMY: City: 26.4mpg.
Country: 42.8mpg.
Combined: 34.9mpg.
Fuel tank: 55 litres.

INSURANCE: Group 18.

WARRANTY: 3 years/60,000 miles.

PRICE: £25,205.