What’s it like?
On the closed section of Spanish mountain road that made up part of our test route, the Leon felt every bit as potent as its hardware suggests it should. With launch control engaged, acceleration off the line is certainly intense; but it was the car’s massive traction that impressed most. There’s no mucking about whatsoever; no discernable wheelspin, no hesitation from the transmission, nothing. You simply come off the brake, it squats down on its haunches and then proceeds to attack whatever road happens to be directly in front of that rather gratuitous front splitter.
As the motor’s torque is spread from 2000rpm all the way up to 5200rpm, it continues to accelerate even when the rev counter starts to get within teasing distance of the redline. As impressive as this EA888 engine’s flexibility is, though, there’s little aural pleasure to be derived here. Crackles, pops and bangs on the overrun are enjoyable enough but, with the powertrain set to ‘Cupra’ mode, the engine’s muscular timbre can become a touch nasal.
The seven-speed DSG ’box works well, if not well enough to be an actively endearing aspect of the Seat’s construction. Upshifts are delivered in a snappy but smooth manner that doesn’t deliver a kick to the spine. Downshifts are pretty timely, too; but it’s difficult to shake the feeling that a six-speed manual wouldn’t go amiss here – if only for the greater level of control one would bring.
The grip the Seat displayed off the line is present through faster bends, too. It leaves you feeling as though you could send it into just about any bend at speed and still come out in shape on the other side, such is the tenacity with which it clings to the road. Those heavily bolstered Alcantara seats make sure you can keep a hold of the wheel, too. Of course, absolute lunacy will see you come a cropper, but the limits of this car’s grip feel as though they’re immensely high.
That additional negative camber lends the Leon Cupra R ST an almost aggressively pointy front end. Add even a small degree of lock on to the weighty, Alcantara-rimmed steering wheel and you’ll not only be met with near immediate response, but also a surprising amount of tactile feedback. Body roll is tightly contained, too – even with the dampers in Comfort mode. For all of its family-friendly underpinnings, this is a sensationally incisive car. I don’t think a Volkswagen Golf R Estate offers quite the same levels of dynamic zeal.