Rowan Horncastle08 January 2014

New Seat Leon Cupra revealed

276bhp hot hatch is the quickest and most powerful Seat ever. Eat that, Vauxhall Astra VXR

Buying a hot hatch is rather like going to Nandos. You select your hot hatch of choice, then specify exactly how hot you want it to be. It started with the new Golf GTI, and the trend has now moved onto one of its MQB brethren: the Seat Leon Cupra.

Seat's new performance hatch comes with either 261bhp, or 276bhp if you go for the 280 edition (280 stands for the amount of PS). Said power comes from the same two-litre turbocharged petrol engine as the Golf GTI, fettled to eke out more power. 49bhp more to be precise. Which puts the car in the same power range as Vauxhall's potent Astra VXR.

All this power will send you shooting to 62mph from a standstill in 5.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 155mph. If you spend £1,285 on the optional DSG, that is. If you go for the less powerful model and have it hooked up a manual ‘box, you'll do the 0-62mph sprint two tenths slower.

276 horses was always a bit of a struggle for the front wheels of the VXR, where torque steer wanted to spit you into the nearest bush with each prod of the throttle. Seat says it's addressed this with a new mechanical front diff that improves traction, eliminates torque steer and can send up to 100% of the power to one wheel. And if you're feeling brave, there's also the ability to turn the traction control completely off – something you can't do in a Golf GTI.

Visually the car looks a lot angrier than a Golf GTI: large air intakes, angled LED headlights and dual exhausts sprouting out of the rear diffuser. The 280 model comes with bigger titanium paint 19-inch wheels, Cupra lettering on the red brake calipers and an added aero package.

Prices start at £25,690 for the 261bhp version and £26,940 for the more powerful 280 spec. That's the same price as an Astra VXR, but then the Leon comes well equipped with full-LED headlights, DAB radio and automatic wipers and headlights as standard. If the current Leon's anything to go by, it'll be plusher inside, too.

Later in the year we should see a Leon in Nandos worthy ‘Extra Hot' form: the Cupra R. Expect 300bhp plus sticky four-wheel-drive.

One fundamental difference between buying a car and a Nandos chicken dinner does remain: you don't get free refills. Luckily, the Cupra does 42.2 mpg. 

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