Seat Leon ST Cupra R launch report by Steve Rogers


HERE is news to send shock waves through the hot hatch world.

The Seat Leon Cupra is no more.

Fortunately this is one of those good news, bad news stories and the good news is that

the sporting arm of Seat has become so successful it is now a brand in its own right.

A Cupra headquarters is being built alongside its sister company in Barcelona with new models either in place or on the drawing board.

But Seat could not let Leon Cupra go it alone without a final hurrah so it has produced a stonker for its swansong.

The Seat Leon ST Cupra R is powered by a 343bhp 2-litre TSI petrol which propels it to 62mph in 4.7 seconds, just one second slower than an Audi R8 V10. Even better news is the price, less than 40 grand for supercar performance from a car that is essentially a family hatchback.

There is a sting in the tail. Only 150 will be built and a third have already been snapped up.

Cupra guru Khaled Soussi told me they want to create an exclusive brand of sophistication and performance with models that are above the mass market, but not premium.

Soussi said the emphasis is 100 percent performance so Cupra will keep the motorsport and racing spirit alive and has an e-Racer ready for the electric touring car championship.

The first fully designed and engineered Cupra will come next year in the shape of the Formentor, a high performance plug-in hybrid crossover driven by a 150bhp turbocharged 1.4 litre petrol and 115bhp electric motor and featuring the new digital cockpit. To give it even more of a sporting edge and help keep weight down Formentor will have carbon-backed sports bucket seats.

As for the final Seat Cupra, the ST R is a flying machine and offers phenomenal performance for what can be considered a pretty ordinary car. This is no Ferrari or McLaren but is a damn site easier to drive, the sort of car you could happily hand over the keys to your granny and know she will come back safely and with a big smile on her face.

There is nothing to fear when you slam the accelerator pedal, super quick yes but not intimidating. And the engine is mated to the brilliant 7-speed DSG gearbox so what more can you want?

Next year will herald the start of a product offensive on new Cupra Leon models so the pressure is on to go one better.

Seat is going through a purple patch. Sales hit nearly 63,000 last year, 12 per cent more than 2017. It is the fastest growing brand in the UK and has broken into the fleet market’s top 10 for the first time.

In spite of one in three of its sales going to SUVs Leon is still Seat’s best seller and is acknowledged as the car that made the brand along with Ateca which is flying high with 80 per cent conquest sales. That’s some achievement.

Ateca has also been spiced up with a Cupra model, not quite in the same league as ST R, but not too shabby with its 294bhp 2-litre petrol good for 153mph and a dash to 62mph in 5.7 seconds. That is proof positive that its favourite SUV can easily cope with the Cupra treatment.

Although the spotlight is on the Cupra brand there is a fair bit happening at Seat where we will see a big drive towards electric and hybrid models.

Seat is way behind the opposition on this front but it is finally going to happen with the Mii Electric taking the stage as the company’s first all electric car offering a range of 162 miles. Coming next year will be the EL-Born, a five door hatchback with a range between 187 and 262 miles.

Seat say a 30 minute DC charge will yield 162 miles which should help with longer journey planning.