Motor mouth: Seat Leon Cupra

It offers turbocharged thrills, but not at the expense of an appealing quirkiness.

by Sathnam Sanghera.
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013

Several months ago, at the height of the economic crisis, I was sitting next to the head of design at BMW during dinner and asked him about the latest trends in car design.

His reply was clear: matt black. Suddenly, everyone wanted cars the shade of the Batmobile, he said, and, sure enough, his prophecy has been fulfilled, with west London being flooded with flash motors resembling mini Stealth Bombers.

It's understandable people would want cars in a shade that didn't draw too much attention then. But, now the economy has improved, it makes sense that the last four cars I've been loaned have been, respectively, fire engine red, glossy white, Lucozade orange and, in the case of the Leon Cupra R, 'crono yellow'. And, if 'Seat' is the acronym for Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo, I can only assume that 'crono' is Spanish for 'custard'.

This was one loud hot hatch. Especially as it was stuck on 19-inch Potenza alloy wheels, had leather, bucket-style front seats, gloss black front seatbacks and an extended roof-mounted rear spoiler. You'd get less attention if you strapped George Michael, Andrew Ridgeley and Pepsi and Shirley to the roof rack of a Range Rover, blasted out Club Tropicana and slammed it into your local Snappy Snaps.

But it's fun. I've always regarded Seats as rather bland and so, probably, do other people, given that the company, which is part of VW, had a UK market share of only 1.5% last year. But the Leon Cupra R is lively and full of character. The rear handles are concealed in the doorframe, the wipers produce an unconventional 'butterfly-style' wipe and there's a distinctive multifunction steering wheel positioned so you can't read the speedometer until you're doing at least 50 mph, usually in a 30 mph zone.

Which, given the ferocity of the engine (the same 2.0-litre turbo used in VW's Golf R and the Audi S3), the sport suspension and the souped-up brakes, happens quite often. Indeed, the Leon Cupra R is the most powerful car yet produced by Seat and in driving terms feels like a cross between a Ford Focus RS and a BMW M3. Albeit with added custard.

4 OUT OF 5

Seat Leon Cupra R 2.0 TSI 265 PS
Engine: 1,984 cc four-cylinder petrol, turbocharged
Power: 261 bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 258 lb ft @ 2,500 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Fuel: 34.9 mpg (combined cycle)
CO2: 190g/km
0-62 mph: 6.2 seconds
Top speed: 155 mph

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