Now the car is really ready to be driven, and boy is it quick. Cupra has reportedly worked to improve the shift speed of the DSG ’box, but even if you stripped it of half its ratios, you could still cover ground at an absurd rate. There are three main reasons for this. First, almost 300lb ft is delivered from just 2000rpm, and although we’re now accustomed to this kind of performance from hot hatch engines, it never gets any less effective.
The second bit is that the VAQ LSD-alike seems to kill almost any trace of torque steer, to the extent that the Bridgestones will happily take full throttle in second or third gear, even on thoroughly tractor-dredged back roads. Occasionally, there’s a little scrabbling, but the steering – accurate and geared for confidence, but still too uniform in weight – is mostly incorruptible, and the car explosively quick in a straight line.
Finally, there is that suspension, which really hits its stride when you ask a lot of it. It gives the Cupra an especially good blend of control and absorption once you’re up near the national speed limit on challenging roads, keeping the body flat and resisting much in the way of float, but doing so with surprising finesse. The positivity and response in the brake pedal, which controls Brembo calipers and a pair of 370mm drilled discs, also deserves credit.
Criticisms? This isn’t the most playful or communicative hot hatch. It’s rewarding to drive because it responds consistently and capably, but it doesn’t get under your skin in the same way the Civic does. Or the Ford Focus ST, whose 2.3-litre motor has more of the character that the Cupra’s unit so desperately wants to replicate.
The Ford’s slightly elasticated steering and looser handling take more getting used to, but once you’re on its terms, the car is malleable and expressive in a way the Cupra simply isn’t. There are also times – mostly when the Cupra is fully loaded up on the exit of bends – when you have to imagine a proper LSD would operate more cleanly and effectively. That’s quite marginal, though.