Seat Leon Cupra 280, motoring review: Volkswagen has much to fear

 

Price: From £26,940 (range spans £25,690-£28,525). On sale now
Engine: 1,984cc, four cylinders, 16 valves, turbo, 280bhp at 5,350-6,600rpm, 258lb ft at 1,750-5,300rpm
Transmission: Six-speed gearbox, front-wheel drive
Performance: 155mph, 0-62 in 5.8 seconds, 42.8mpg official average, CO2 154g/km

Cars are becoming ever more like each other to drive, which makes reporting on them ever harder. As major unseen components become more standardised, it now seems the only thing you are buying is the brand. The Volkswagen Group has a particularly fragile position here given the underskin similarity of its popular cars. The Golf, the Audi A3, the Skoda Octavia and the Seat Leon are versions of the same basic idea, not that all those smug Audi owners necessarily want to know it. The Golf, though, is the lodestone of this particular grouping, the ubiquitous family hatchback that has also spawned a series of mostly excellent sporting versions over the years.

The Golf GTI has no identity trouble. So it should have little to fear, you would think, from this new, racy version of the third-generation Seat Leon.

Racy Seats bear a Cupra tag, suggestive in their native Spanish of winning cups after successful forays into motor sport. This new Leon Cupra, intended to be the most fun of all the cars made by the VW Group's Spanish brand, dares to upstage the Golf by extracting either 265 or 280bhp from its 2.0-litre, turbo-charged engine compared with the GTI's 220bhp. The choice of Cupra power outputs exists to offer a lower starting point for the price list but, the 265 comes only with a three-door Sports Coupé body whereas the 280 comes with three or five doors. You would think the lower-powered version would come with a family-friendly door count, but no.

This is a good-looking car; it looks racy and ready for a rousing drive. It has high-technology LED headlights and hefty wheels with wide tyres, prompting fears (unfounded) that it might prove harsh over bumps. The interior has the tactile quality and coherence of design typical of a VW Group car, and like the exterior it looks subtle and restrained.

An then you drive it, and discover that this Leon Cupra is without a doubt the most engaging and most entertaining of all the Group's sportified mid-size hatchbacks, as well as the fastest. (Apart, perhaps, from the rare, 300bhp Golf R, which costs almost £30,000.)

How so? Whichever of the two engine outputs you opt for, there's a crisp, clean surge of thrust from a crawl right up to a top speed all but unusable on real roads. There is barely any delay in the response to the accelerator pedal, an impressive feat when a relatively small engine produces a very large amount of power with the help of a hefty turbocharger, and it's hard to detect any difference between the enthusiasm of the two engines.

You have a choice of six-speed gearboxes, a manual or a double-clutch automatic with shift-paddles on the steering wheel for manual control. What really makes this Seat satisfying for the keen driver is the way it powers precisely through twists and turns, always responsive.

Many fast, front-wheel-drive cars have clever electronics which use the brakes to stop wheelspin, but the Seat uses a proper, mechanical, limited-slip differential like a competition car's. That's why it feels natural. I haven't enjoyed a hot hatchback as much as this for quite a while, yet it's also smooth and civilised when you want it to be. A Seat which is better than its Volkswagen Golf equivalent: they won't like that in Germany.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Field Engineer

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company has 30 years of ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Account Manager

    £27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing cloud based I...

    Ashdown Group: Product Marketing Manager - Software & Services

    £35000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Product Marketing Manager...

    Recruitment Genius: Exhibition Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

    £16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An expanding B2B exhibition and...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

    The masterminds behind the election

    How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
    Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

    Machine Gun America

    The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
    The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

    The ethics of pet food

    Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
    How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

    Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
    11 best bedside tables

    11 best bedside tables

    It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
    Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

    Italy vs England player ratings

    Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
    Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    An underdog's tale of making the most of it

    Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

    Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

    Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
    No postcode? No vote

    Floating voters

    How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

    By Reason of Insanity

    Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
    Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

    Power dressing is back

    But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
    Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

    Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

    Caves were re-opened to the public
    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

    Vince Cable interview

    'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat