Seat Leon Cupra R review 2020

The Cupra R is the most extreme version of Seat’s usually sensible family hatchback

£33,617
Average price
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2
Out of 5

Pros

  • Strong performance
  • Sporty interior
  • Great to drive

Cons

  • Remains pricey
  • Styling won’t suit all
  • Hard to find
  • MPG

    0 - 0

  • CO2

    0 - 0 g/km

Model review

While Cupra may have recently split from Spanish brand Seat to carve out its own performance brand entity, for years Cupra served as the in-house tuning brand for this manufacturer. 

So while the latest model might be known as the Cupra Leon, here we’re looking at the older car, which is known as the Seat Leon Cupra. Confusing, we know. 

And the most menacing of all the performance models from Seat were the Cupra R models – that latter letter standing for ‘Racing’ and being reserved for the most extreme versions, which have benefitted from performance tweaks, revised styling and more power. 

Cupra R versions have appeared on all three generations of the Seat Leon so far – the first arriving in 2002, the second in 2010 and the third in 2018. 

Latest model

The latest model is the most exclusive of the lot, and is one of the rarest hot hatches in modern history – Seat limiting the third-generation Leon Cupra R to just 24 units in the UK in hatch form, or 150 in ‘ST’ estate form, which arrived in 2019. 

Models benefitted from a new steering system, modified camber angles, a sportier exhaust and Brembo brakes to improve the way it drives. It also gains a host of styling changes, including carbon fibre details throughout, a host of copper detailing (Cupra’s trademark colour) and a swatch of Alcantara for the interior. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it didn’t take Seat long to sell out of the 24 hatchbacks, though the less exclusive estate model proved a tougher sell, despite its additional practicality. 

Value for money

Given its rarity, exclusive styling and performance tweaks, it’s perhaps not surprising that the Leon Cupra R wasn’t cheap when it launched – being priced from £34,995 when details were announced in November 2017, and ahead of deliveries a couple of months later. Granted, it boasts strong performance, and does come well-equipped – highlights including a Beats sound system, eight-inch touchscreen and heated front seats – but it’s far from a bargain. Estate versions would cost £37,795 when they launched. 

At the time of writing, there was only one hatchback for sale – a 2018 car with 20,000 miles on the clock priced at £27,500, which shows it still commands a steep price increase, and original buyers wouldn’t have lost much money. Estate models have held their value well, too, with the cheapest examples available from £31,000 for a 2019 car. 

Looks and image

The third-generation Seat Leon is a very good-looking car, and Cupra models undoubtedly add to the appeal with their sportier styling. R models will prove a little more divisive, though. All those copper accents and the copper 19-inch alloy wheels are a little garish, but to our eyes does make it look pretty special, and we feel that’s welcome on such a rare car. 

The interior also feels a special place to be, too, with Alcantara seats and a steering wheel and gear knob made from the same material helping to make the Cupra R’s cabin feel and look just as sporty as it is. The copper detailing also features in the interior, though is a little more subtle, while elsewhere you benefit from the Leon’s well laid-out interior, high-quality, and good levels of technology, especially for a car of this age. 

And behind the wheel? Well, while the Cupra R might not feature too many changes from the standard car, the alterations have certainly improved things. The steering is now much quicker and means it’s incredibly accurate to place through the corners, while the Brembo brakes deliver great stopping power. The ride is a touch firmer than the standard car, but remains comfortable and would be easy to live with, should you want to daily drive it. 

Space and practicality

A fundamental to a hot hatch is that it can be practical and roomy enough to use every day. That’s not saying it needs to offer van-like levels of room, but that it could be used as a family car. 

And as the Cupra R retains all the practicality of the standard Seat Leon, it’s an ideal choice in this respect. Its 380-litre boot is a good size (or 1,210 litres with the rear seats folded), while there’s plenty of room in the front and back. If you need more space, there’s always the ST estate model, which offers a large 587-litre boot. 

Engines

The Cupra R only adds an additional 10bhp on top of the regular Leon, and uses the firm’s tried-and-tested turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine, which produces 306bhp and 380Nm of torque. 

Performance is brisk enough, with 0-60mph taking 5.6 seconds and being able to reach a top speed of 155mph. 

All UK examples of the hot hatch feature front-wheel-drive with an electronically controlled differential and use a six-speed manual gearbox. Somewhat confusingly if you opt for the ST model, it instead comes with all-wheel-drive and a DSG automatic gearbox. 

Running costs

You can’t expect super low running costs for the Cupra R, but as performance cars go, it should be quite affordable to run. Seat claims it’ll return 38.7mpg, while CO2 emissions of 170g/km are respectable for a car of this type. It will be quite expensive to insure, though, especially with its exclusivity, so it’s worth pricing up a quote before signing on the dotted line. 

Things to look out for

While the Cupra R might be a different model, it’s important to remember that the majority of its parts and components are used widely by both Seat and Volkswagen, with models like the standard Leon Cupra and Golf R being two popular hatchbacks. 

As with any car, you should look out for a full service history, while looking out for signs of heavy abuse could prevent further issues down the line. 

Rivals

If you’re looking at a Cupra R, it’s probably because you’ve already made your mind up and value its exclusivity. But there are plenty of other hot hatches worth your consideration – such as the regular Seat Leon Cupra, Volkswagen Golf R and Ford Focus RS. The Hyundai i30 N and Honda Civic Type R are also two superb hot hatches. Only the Volkswagen on this list is available in estate form, though. 

Depreciation

While Cupra Rs were expensive new, buyers will be reaping the benefits now, as models have been seen to hold their value well – especially for the rarer hatchback. While it will continue to depreciate, it’ll always be worth considerably more than a non-R version. 

Which Cupra R to pick

Cheapest to buy when new

1.5 TSI 150 V1 5dr Formento

Most MPG

1.5 TSI 150 V1 5dr Formento

Fastest model (0-60)

2.0 TSI 310 VZ2 5dr DSG 4Drive Formento

Trims explained

Just a single grade is available on the R, which comes with a host of standard kit. Highlights are as follows.

Cupra R

All Cupra R's come with 19-inch alloy wheels, Alcantara steering wheel, Alcantara and leather seats and a host of copper detailing. It also comes with an eight-inch touchscreen with satellite navigation and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, along with a reversing camera, keyless entry and start and heated front seats. A 10-speaker Beats sound system is also included, along with adaptive cruise control and a tiredness recognition system.

From £27,500 (used)

Summary

  1. One of the rarest hot hatches around
  2. Just 24 hatches and 150 estate models
  3. Strong performance
  4. Great to drive
  5. Practical interior
  6. Lots of standard kit
  7. Brash styling won’t suit all
  8. Solid-feeling interior
  9. Used prices remain high
  10. An exclusive hot hatch that feels special after every drive

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