The value-packed Seat Leon Cupra R led a thriving generation of hot hatches
Back when sending more than 200bhp to the front axle was big news, the value-packed Seat Leon Cupra R led a thriving generation of hot hatches.
Adding 30bhp and 26lb ft to the Cupra with the help of a pair of intercoolers, the Cupra R also had stiffer dampers, stronger suspension mounts and an 8mm drop in rear ride height, while smaller anti-roll bars worked
to improve handling neutrality. There was also quicker steering, 18in alloys with Pirelli P Zero rubber, big ventilated front discs with red Brembo calipers and bodywork embellishments.
Beating the Honda Civic Type R to 60mph and during in-gear sprints, the Cupra R had bags of pace. The engine was short on charisma but never harsh and was easily managed via the slick six-speed manual gearbox. Torque-steer was ably suppressed by traction aids.
Steering was less feelsome than in the Cupra and the firm suspension bump-thumped over poor surfaces, but body control was superb on twisty roads.
The cabin was a black hole, save for cheap-looking white- faced dials and red stitching. The dash showed its age but seemed solid. The optional Recaro seats were fabulously supportive.
What happened next?
A year later, output was boosted to 221bhp. The model ran until the second-gen Leon arrived in 2005, but the Mk2 Cupra R, with 261bhp, didn’t appear until 2010. A 306bhp Mk3 Cupra R arrived in 2017 as a hatch and in 2018 as an ST estate.
There has been no R version of the current Mk4 Leon, but the quickest version, badged under the now standalone Cupra marque, is the 306bhp ST 4Drive four-wheel-drive estate.
Price £16,995 Engine 4 cyls in line, 1781cc, turbo, petrol Power 210bhp at 5800rpm Torque 199lb ft at 2100-5000rpm 0-60mph 6.5sec 0-100mph 18.0sec Standing quarter mile 15.2sec at 92mph Top speed 141mph Economy 23.0mpg