SEAT Leon Cupra 300 First Drive

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One of the cars I was most looking forward to at the new SEAT Leon drive was of course the Cupra 300. This is the most powerful road car SEAT has ever made and boasts 10 more PS than the outgoing model. 296bhp is on offered by the new model and can be fitted to either a 6-speed manual gearbox or a DSG flappy paddle setup. You can also select an estate model with four-wheel drive.

I actually inadvertently stepped in to the five door model with the DSG gearbox, but once I noted the lack of a third pedal I soon set on the hunt for a manual model. Yes, the DSG will accelerate a bit quicker, but a hot hatch should have a manual if you ask me. Thankfully a three door model (with the 6-speed manual) turned up almost instantly, so I jumped in that for a quick blast.

SEAT Leon Cupra 300
Too quick for the camera!

This Is More Like It

If you’ve read my views on the 1.4 litre FR, you’ll know that I found it lacking some excitement. Thankfully, the Cupra 300 was able to make up for it and then some. The manual model will race its way to 62mph in just 5.9 seconds, which may be slower than its rivals, but in the real world it stills feels rapid. Well it did from where I sitting. The first stretch of open road proved that when I planted my right through the pedal and in to the carpet.

SEAT Leon Cupra 300

Compared to the FR it was like pressing a warp drive button – the front wheels spun with Spanish fury as I moved my way through the gears to 60. Did it feel like it almost took 6 seconds? No, it certainly didn’t let me tell you that. The 6-speed manual gearbox is a sweet tool in which to change gears and the steering has got a nice weight to it as well. The bucket seats are well bolstered and trimmed with a lovely mix of leather and alcanatara.

One Or Two Niggles Though

Although the seats are very nice, I felt like I was sat higher compared to the seating position in the Kia Pro_Cee’d GT I tested recently – review coming soon. The inside does feature some nice Cupra details including the dark headlining as well as Cupra badges on the steering wheel, gearstick and dials, but the inside is rather toned down in all honesty. It’s well put together and refined, don’t get me wrong, but I would like it to be a bit bolder.

Another nitpicky comment I need to make is the Cupra driving mode. The dash has a button with a Cupra badge on it which is where you have the chance to select four driving modes – comfort, sport, individual and Cupra. This is actually fine of course, but I was expecting a bit more visual drama when you select Cupra. Yes, there is a little race track graphic and the drive mode button glows orange, but I would have liked the dials to change colour and a bit more fan far.

My last slight niggle – I’ll stop soon I promise – is the exhaust. It makes a nice enough noise, but I was hoping for some pops, crackles and bangs, but I felt a bit let down. However, I found if you lift off quickly at high revs you can get a little bang, so not all bad I suppose.

Back To The Good Stuff

Right, enough nitpicking, as there is plenty to like about the Cupra 300. It may not be the quickest hot hatch to 62mph, nor is it the fastest overall, with its top speed maxxing out 155mph. It is cheaper than its rivals though, with prices starting around £30,500. It may be down on power compared to its rivals, but I was still able to get wheelspin in second, so it’s still most certainly a beast.

SEAT Leon Cupra 300

As it’s turbocharged, the power comes in rather quickly and it gives you a satisfying surge and you face towards the redline and the way in which is picks up speed is bound to make you smile. It may be feeding a lot of power to the front wheels, but I couldn’t detect any torque steer, so it seems that SEAT has done a good job with the chassis.

Speaking of which, the Cupra 300 is very capable in the corners, it grips well and and you really take liberties with it in the corners. As I’ve already said, the flat-bottomed steering wheel has a nice weight to it and it’s a decent tool in which to direct the Cupra around windy roads. It feels nimble and alert, meaning you feel like you can stick the car where you really want.

SEAT Leon Cupra 300

The car is lower than the FR, but even in Cupra mode the ride is not going to break your spine on to little pieces. I virtually drove the whole journey in Cupra mode and I was perfectly fine, even though I must admit the roads were pretty smooth around the test route. Despite this, I believe that the Leon Cupra 300 could easily be used a daily driver. And what a daily driver that would be.

Final Thoughts

Is it the best hot hatch money can buy? Not when you have cars like the Focus RS, Golf R and the new Civic Type R in the market. However, that is not to say the Leon Cupra 300 is not worth looking at, because it is a very capable car and it was great fun to drive. It’s the most powerful road going car SEAT has made and my word, do you notice it. It’s also a car that should be on your list if you’re looking for a truly potent hot hatchback.

SEAT Leon Cupra 300

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