► Most powerful Seat road car ever
► Upgraded engine, exhaust and chassis
► Only 24 examples coming to the UK
The standard Seat Leon Cupra looks too subtle, you say? Fear not. The limited edition R model might just be the answer to your prayers. First unveiled at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, it’s the most powerful road car Seat has ever made and it’s not afraid to shout about it.
Remodelled front and rear bumpers, side skirts and wider wheelarches set the scene, while lashings of carbonfibre on the rear wing, rear diffuser and front spoiler confirm the R as a no-go zone for shrinking violets.
Unique 19-inch black and copper alloy wheels are also included, although, sadly (or perhaps thankfully) the matte paint won’t be available on UK cars. Instead, there’s a choice of either Monsoon Grey or Midnight Black metallic hues, both of which are complemented by copper coloured detailing on the door mirrors and badges.
Nice bodykit, but is it any faster than the standard car?
It certainly should be. Seat’s Cupra division has been given a licence to fettle, with the outcome being a number of technical upgrades to the already accomplished Leon hot hatch. Power is up from 300 to 310hp, giving the R a slightly improved 0-62mph time of 5.8 seconds and an identical top speed of 155mph.
Eagle-eyed readers will note that the acceleration time is a whole 0.9 seconds down on the Leon ST Cupra estate, owing to the fact that the Cupra R is front-wheel-drive and six-speed manual only. Give it the full AWD, DSG auto treatment and you’d be straying inconveniently far into Golf R territory...
Other improvements include a more exciting exhaust note, modified steering and camber angles on the front axle and four-pot Brembo brake calipers. Should owners wish, super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres are available as a cost option.
Enough of the facts, what’s it like to drive?
A lot like a regular Leon Cupra, funnily enough – but with an added layer of urgency and sharpness. Let’s start with the poke. We reckon in a straight quarter-mile race there would be almost nothing to choose between the Cupra R and the regular Cupra, yet the former still manages to feel quicker.
There’s little difference in the low to mid ranges of the rev band, yet take it above 4000rpm and the Cupra R appears freer-revving and keener to pile on the mph. Drivers are given a real incentive to hit the redline thanks to a series of playful parps from the tweaked exhaust when you do.
It’s a small difference, but adds a chunk of character to what was previously an unremarkable exhaust note.
Handling improvements are more measurable, but come with a caveat that we’ll get onto in a second. Turn in a tricky tightening bend and you'll notice the front end has been sharpened considerably thanks to those tweaks to the steering.
Where the standard Cupra lags behind the Golf R for its less positive steering, the Cupra R feels more finessed and darty. It's still not up there with the Civic Type R, and indeed the Golf R, for feedback from the front end, but marks a noticeable step forward from the standard Cupra.
Lean on the brakes and the four-piston Brembos are more than up to the job, hauling off speed smoothly and with neck-jolting bite. The top few millimetres of travel is exceptionally sharp, mind, sometimes making it tricky to drive the Cupra R smoothly.
What was that caveat you spoke of?
Ah yes. See, the press car we drove ran on those super sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, rubber I've not had the chance to try on the standard Leon Cupra.
Will they make that big a difference? Well, without a back-to-back test it will be hard to say for sure but previous experience with the Michelins have shown them to be seriously effective…
Do I get any extra kit over the standard car?
That you do. As well as the already generous equipment list on the regular Leon Cupra, the R gains goodies such as KESSY (keyless entry and keyless go with wireless phone charger), the Winter Pack (heated front seats and headlight washers), the Safety Pack (tiredness recognition and rear seatbelt reminder), a rear-view camera, BeatsAudio sound system, adaptive cruise control and, finally, an upgraded sat-nav.
The exterior copper colour theme also continues on the inside with detailing across the dashboard, centre console, steering wheel logo and door panel stitching. Liberal amounts of alcantara are also everywhere, with the gearstick, steering wheel and front bucket seats all sporting the material.
The Leon Cupra R is a welcome addition to the current spread of more focused, limited-edition hot hatches on the market. It manages to feel that little bit more honed and exciting than the regular Cupra and looks the part too. Some may find it sad that Seat didn't go a little further with the upgrades, however, especially since so few cars are destined for the UK.