SEAT Leon Cupra review - SEAT Leon Cupra 300 vs rivals

Easily the match of its rivals on paper, and entertaining to drive, but less exciting than some rivals

Evo rating
  • Underlying technical make-up impressive; excellent engine, brakes and chassis tune
  • Feeling its age inside; still not the most playful of hot hatchbacks

The Supertest in evo 241 pitched the SEAT Cupra 300 against its rather more showy rivals from Honda and Ford in the form of the Type R and the Focus RS. In isolation, the SEAT Cupra 300 has all the trimmings required – hot engine and tweaked chassis – to be part of the hot hatch hierarchy, but it looks rather dowdy in this company.

The SEAT’s EA888 engine is a real firecracker, but its dampers, limited-slip diff and traction control struggle to utilise all of the engine’s power, making the SEAT an unruly companion at times. It can be exhilarating for short periods, but tiring after a long stretch.

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Weights, dimensions and performance data

Tipping the scales at just 1347kg, the SEAT’s a useful 65kg lighter than the Type R and a huge 220kg less portly than the chubby Focus RS. It has the lowest power output at 296bhp, but its featherweight nature means power-to-weight ratios are virtually identical.

> Click here for the Supertest

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The Cupra was very hard to get off the line cleanly during our acceleration tests, though, with the traction control struggling to keep up and it recorded a best of 6.2sec to 60mph, 0.4sec off its claimed time and 0.3sec behind the Honda. It trailed the Focus by a huge 1.3sec. Once hooked up though it was very quick and posted the fastest 0-130mph time of the three.

Lap time and track driving 

Given the SEAT’s light weight we expected it to do well around Bedford Autodrome’s West Circuit and in some areas it was usefully rapid, but in the final analysis it came third with a lap time 0.9sec off the Focus RS and 1.6sec behind the Civic Type R. 

Its strong engine and acceleration at high speed meant it was quick through the Palmer curves, but where a faster change of direction was needed – such as at the tighter Hanger Hairpin – its lack of front-end bite and tendency to understeer hampered its progress.

Supertest data and specs table

 

Ford Focus RS

Honda Civic Type R

SEAT Leon Cupra 300

Engine

In-line 4-cyl, 2261cc, turbo

In-line 4-cyl, 1996cc, turbo

In-line 4-cyl, 1984cc, turbo

Power 

345bhp @ 6000rpm

316bhp @ 6500rpm

296bhp @ 5500rpm

Torque

347lb  @ 2000-4500rpm

295lb  @ 2500-4500rpm

280lb  @ 1800-5500rpm

Transmission

Six-speed manual, four-wheel drive, torque vectoring rear differential

Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive, limited-slip differential

Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive, electronically controlled LSD

Tyres

235/35 R19 front and rear, Michelin Pilot Super Sport

245/30 R20 front and rear, Continental SportContact 6

235/35 R19 front and rear, Pirelli P Zero

Height/width

1472mm/1823mm

1434mm/1877mm

1423mm/1810mm

Weight

1569kg as tested (1547kg claimed)

1412kg as tested (1380kg claimed)

1347kg as tested (1300kg claimed)

Power-to-weight

223bhp/ton using test-car weight (227bhp/ton claimed)

227bhp/ton using test-car weight (233bhp/ton claimed)

223bhp/ton using test-car weight (231bhp/ton claimed)

0-60mph

4.9sec as tested (4.7 to 62 claimed)

5.9sec as tested (5.8 to 62 claimed)

6.2sec as tested (5.7 to 62 claimed)

Top speed

166mph (claimed)

169mph (claimed)

155mph (limited)

evo mpg

22.2 (average over duration of test)

26.6 (average over duration of test)

27.6 (average over duration of test)

Basic price

£32,265

£30,995

£30,155

PCP monthly price

£445 (36 months, £3500 deposit, 9000 miles per annum limit)

£491 (36 months, £3500 deposit, 10,000 miles per annum limit)

£409 (36 months, £3500 deposit, 10,000 miles per annum limit)

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