Sitting lower than the less powerful Leon FR by 10mm at the front and 5mm at the rear, the Cupra 300 has the same MacPherson strut/multi-link suspension layout but with three-way adjustable dampers (so-called DCC) including a ‘Cupra’ mode that sets everything to firm. As well as weighing some 55 kilos less than the previous Cupra R, the combination of the new car’s variable-ratio steering (dubbed ‘progressive’ by SEAT) and the mechanical diff is said to have knocked chunks off lap times round any circuit.
Where the similarly powerful Vauxhall Astra VXR does its thing in block capitals with a liberal sprinkling of exclamation marks, the SEAT’s approach is more chilled and measured and, as an ownership proposition, probably more satisfying. If less playful, it feels a lighter, lither car than the Focus ST, grippier and more agile.
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Partly, it comes down to the pace it can carry into and out of bends. There’s a degree of looseness to the initial few centimetres of damper travel, giving a very slight sense of remoteness to the body control, but once you’re really into the corner with the car leaning hard on its outer tyres that sense fades entirely. The grip on the standard Continental tyres is very strong, but on the optional Cup 2 rubber there’s enough turn in and mid-corner grip that braking for bends soon seems rather unnecessary. The speed a Cupra 290 Sub8 will carry down a road is truly staggering.
Similarly, the standard brakes are strong, but the huge Brembo items give massive stopping performance, which is sustained over a fast run across a twisting mountain road. The electronically-controlled Haldex-type LSD does a good job of deploying the torque to the road, but something like a Quaife torque-biasing differential would be more effective still.
‘Within the first few hundred metres, the Leon feels more potent than the Civic, pulling with an intensity I’ve never experienced in any other front-driven car. The Leon has two more aces to play. As the corners come thick and fast along this dark, cresting road, it occurs to me that braking in a Sub8 is more-or-less optional – but when you do eventually have to brake, you’ll stand the car on its nose so abruptly that the chasing pack will need to be paying attention.’ Dan Prosser, road test editor, evo 216 (evo Car of the year 2015)