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Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice

Published:20 July 2018

Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

By James Taylor & James Dennison

Our reviewers: fresh perspectives for inquisitive minds

By James Taylor & James Dennison

Our reviewers: fresh perspectives for inquisitive minds

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.

Seat Leon Cupra R

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.

Of a total production run of 799 cars, only 24 have been allocated for the UK and all have (reputedly) sold out.

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. 

Seat Leon Cupra R

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.

Seat Leon Cupra R

Handling improvements are noticeable, too. Turn in a tricky tightening bend and you'll notice the front end has been sharpened considerably thanks to those tweaks to the steering.

There’s an extra level of finesse to the Cupra R’s steering, and it feels keener to turn in, more ‘darty’, compared with the standard car. It's not quite up there with the Civic Type R for front-end feedback, but it’s a 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, until you get used to the slightly overserved pedal. The top few millimetres of travel is exceptionally sharp, sometimes making it tricky to drive the Cupra R smoothly.

Cars on the press were fitted with the optional super-sticky Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tyres, and we’ve since tried a Cupra R in the UK on less focused (but still soft) Pirelli P Zeroes. The car felt great on the Pirellis, with plenty of feel through the steering, front-end grip on turn in and decent overall lateral grip, although it was tested on admittedly dry, hot summer tarmac.

In terms of suspension modifications, the Cupra R’s adaptive dampers have been given their own unique settings, and it has more extreme camber than regular Cupra models – the latter a key ingredient in the front-end response.

While the ride is firm, it’s not unbearably so on bumpy British roads, even in the most extreme ‘Cupra’ driving mode, and low-speed ride is actually really quite comfortable. On the comfort front, hat-tip also to the grippy, supportive and great-looking seats. 

The electronic locking differential is shared with the regular Cupra, and finds plenty of traction out of slow corners, although there’s enough torque to keep the traction control light winking all the way to the redline in third gear.

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.

Seat Leon Cupra R

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.

Verdict

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

Some may wish Seat had gone a little further with the upgrades, however, especially since so few cars are destined for the UK. The R feels more like a highly-polished, highly-specced regular Leon Cupra than a standalone special.

Specs

Price when new: £34,995
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: 1984cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol, 310hp @ 5800-6200rpm, 380Nm @ 1800-5700rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Performance: 1984cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol, 306bhp @ 5800-6200rpm, 280lb ft @ 1800-5700rpm
Weight / material: 1453kg/steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4281/1816/1435

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  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice
  • Seat Leon Cupra R review: needs more spice

By James Taylor & James Dennison

Our reviewers: fresh perspectives for inquisitive minds

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