★★★★★ SEAT Leon Cupra R

www.au­to­ex­press.co.uk FIRST UK DRIVE Hot Leon is a win­ner; if you can find one

Auto Express - - New Cars - Richard In­gram Richard_in­gram@den­nis.co.uk @rsp_in­gram

WHILE we must wait for the Cuprabadged Ateca SUV, SEAT’S sports car boffins have hinted at its prom­ise with their most pow­er­ful hot hatch ever.

But as ri­vals turn up the wick with faster, four-wheel-drive fam­ily cars, SEAT keeps things sim­ple and in­cre­men­tal up­grades have en­sured that the Leon Cupra re­mains rel­e­vant. So is the brand’s lat­est ef­fort the best of the lot?

We drove the lim­ited-run Cupra R in Spain last year (Is­sue 1,502), and were im­pressed by the punchy pow­er­train, play­ful chas­sis and sweet steer­ing. In fact, it all but fixed the stan­dard car’s few fail­ings, turn­ing the Leon into a proper Honda Civic Type R ri­val.

Back on UK roads, lit­tle has changed. The Cupra R is a fine hot hatch, feel­ing harder, more re­spon­sive and more com­plete than the age­ing Cupra 300. The 2.0-litre turbo is as ea­ger as ever, of­fer­ing end­less grunt and a fa­mil­iarar growl. It feels in­cred­i­bly­di­bly quick.

Slacken thingsgs off and it will sit on the mo­tor­wayr­way like any other Leon, de­spite the firmer set­tings and big wheels. It’s a bit rough in Cupra mode, but ad­just the set-up and you’ll strike a bal­ance be­tween hard­core hot hatch and comfy cruiser.

The Brembo brakes are sharp and of­fer loads of feel through the pedal, while grip is as­tound­ing. Push too hard from a stand­still and the tyres scrab­ble for trac­tion, but once you’re up and run­ning the R’s front dif­fer­en­tial and wider track al­low alarm­ing cor­ner­ing pace. The six-speed man­ual gear­box of­fers quick and pre­cise changes.

All ver­sions come cov­ered in unique cop­per trim. Th­ese ac­cents aren’t yet avail­able else­where in the cur­rent SEAT range, but are likely to feature on the Ateca Cupra. Our Euro­pean test car’s matt paint isn’t avail­able in the UK. Brits will get a choice of black or metal­lic grey, while 19-inch cop­per­coloured wheels, part-al­can­tara trim and car­bon trin­ketss are stan­dard.

NEED TO KNOW There’s a 4Drivee­quipped Cupra R es­tate on the way

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