Review: SEAT Leon Cupra R (2010 – 2013)

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Strong performance, manages to put its power down very cleanly, understated looks, great handling, relatively economical, forgiving ride. Chain cam engine.

Doesn't look very different from the standard Cupra.

SEAT Leon Cupra R (2010 – 2013): At A Glance

Sitting at the pinnacle of the Leon range is the SEAT Leon Cupra R - a car that manages to put even the standard Cupra and sporty FR in the shade. This is a cut above a 'hot hatch' and offers amazing performance thanks to a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine with power boosted to 265bhp, giving this Leon a 0-62mph time of just 6.2 seconds.

It really is as blisteringly quick as it looks, with amazing acceleration across the rev range. But what is most impressive is the way the Leon Cupra R manages to put all that power down on the road without scrabbling for grip or feeling twitchy at the front.

Unlike the Volkswagen Golf R - which uses the same engine with slightly more power - the Leon doesn't have four-wheel drive, instead it's a standard front wheel drive set-up. But you'd rarely know it. It feels incredibly surefooted, even under hard acceleration, so driving quickly but smoothly is a genuinely enjoyable experience.

But the Leon Cupra R is more than just outright pace. It's sharp and agile in corners, plus has an impressively forgiving ride for a performance hatch. It's also easy to drive at low speeds with decent fuel economy of 34.9mpg, making it a great all-rounder that's as refined as it is quick. And while it's the most expensive model in the Leon range, when you compare it to other hot hatches with this much power the Cupra R looks good value.

SEAT Leon Cupra 2010 Road Test and Video

Looking for a SEAT Leon Cupra R (2010 - 2013)?
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What does a SEAT Leon Cupra R (2010 – 2013) cost?

List Price from £38,300
Buy new from £34,168
Contract hire from £338.88 per month

SEAT Leon Cupra R (2010 – 2013): What's It Like Inside?

Length 4309 mm
Width 1768 mm
Height 1443 mm
Wheelbase 2578 mm

Full specifications

The Leon Cupra R builds on the already neat design of the Leon cabin, which was revised in 2009 with a far sleeker interior. There are some key differences though which make it stand out, most notably the bucket seats with their unusual quilted black leather trim, giving them an almost Bentley-style look. Then there's the chunky sports steering wheel which is as good to hold as it looks. The metal trim and flat-bottomed shape add to the high performance feel in the cabin.

Quality is good too, reflected in the precise feel of the climate control switches and the leather trimmed gear lever. There are also unique dials and aluminium trimmed pedals, while anyone sitting in the back get the same quilted seats plus striking gloss black front seatbacks, which really stand out.

From behind the wheel, it's easy to find the perfect driving position with height adjustment in the seat and plenty of reach movement in the steering column. Those sports seats are superb too, comfortable enough for everyday use but with plenty of side support for indulging in more enthusiastic driving. The Leon Cupra R is also a useable performance hatch with good head and legroom for passengers in the back and a large boot.

But what's most impressive is how refined the Leon Cupra R is. This is no unforgiving hot hatch despite the superb performance on offer, and it's as easy to drive at low speeds as a standard SEAT Leon, helped by the firm but forgiving ride. Even at higher speeds, there's little wind or road noise, so long journeys needn't be a tiring experience as in some hot hatches. It's a car that's as happy on the school run as it is tackling twisting country lanes.

Equipment from launch (June 2010):

There is just one version of the Cupra R and as the high performance Leon, it comes suitably equipped with exclusive Cupra R bucket seats upholstered in quilted black leather, gloss black front seat-back, Cupra R bumpers, twin central exit exhaust pipes, gloss black rear diffuser, rear parking sensors, automatic headlights, rain sensitive wipers, 19-inch alloy wheels, the XDS electronic differential) ESP stability control with EBA emergency brake assist, sports suspension, aluminium pedals, dual zone climate control, dark tinted rear windows, CD stereo with steering-wheel mounted controls, combined USB/Aux-in port, eletrically adjustable folding door mirrors, trip computer, cruise control, electric windows, an alarm and immobiliser, front fog lights with a cornering function and rear-seat Isofix child seat mounting points.

Child seats that fit a SEAT Leon Cupra R (2010 – 2013)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the SEAT Leon Cupra R (2010 – 2013) like to drive?

Making a high performance hatchback is about more than merely fitting a powerful engine, but naturally, it's a key ingredient. The Leon Cupra R uses the same 2.0-litre turbocharged engine as the Leon Cupra with power boosted to 265bhp. This is an increase of 25bhp but what makes more of a noticeable difference is the increase in torque - up by 50Nm to 350Nm - that's more than a Porsche Cayman.

This means the Leon Cupra R is immense when accelerating in gear but doesn't need to be revved to the red line to get strong pace from it. In fact, it's at its best through the mid-range, where it feels incredibly responsive and hugely enjoyable. Exploiting all that power is made easy thanks to a wonderfully precise and positive six-speed manual gearbox which has a shorter shift than the standard Cupra, helping deliver even snappier changes.

As a result, 0-62mph comes up in just 6.2 seconds and although this is only marginally quicker than the standard Leon Cupra (which manages it in 6.4 seconds), it certainly feels quicker on the move. The revised engine in the Cupra R also has a very different nature with a more responsive turbo which results in a rather unusual suction sound from the rear when accelerating. It's not too intrusive and actually sounds pretty good when combined with the deep burble from the twin exhausts which are exclusive to the Cupra R.

But the Leon Cupra R is more than just sheer power. It's also a very civilised performance hatch and one that's very impressive to drive. Despite being front wheel drive, it manages to put all that power down cleanly, without scrabbling for grip - even from a standstill. The front always feels planted to the road and the steering wheel doesn't tug from side to side as it can in hot hatches like the Mazda3 MPS.

This gives you plenty of confidence in corners too, helped by the perfectly weighted steering which offers a decent amount of feel. There's minimal body roll as you'd expect, yet it's not crashy even on rough roads thanks to an impressively forgiving suspension set-up. True, it's quite firm - this is a performance hatch after all - but it's never uncomfortable or bouncy.

It's incredible nimble too and deals amazingly well with quick changes of direction, feeling reassuringly stable. Thanks to that great front end grip, accelerating away from slow corners is effortless and on a long twisting road, the Cupra R really flows from bend to bend in a hugely rewarding fashion. This is helped by XDS - an electronic system which uses the ABS to mimic a traditional limited slip differential.

Yet in everyday driving, whether it's in town or on the motorway, the Cupra R is as docile and as comfortable as a standard Leon making it a great all-round performance hatch. And with only 500 built every year, you're guaranteed a bit of exclusivity too. This is a car guaranteed to put a grin on your face every time you get behind the wheel.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
2.0 TSI Cupra R 35 mpg 6.2 s 190 g/km

Real MPG average for a SEAT Leon Cupra R (2010 – 2013)

Real MPG was created following thousands of readers telling us that their cars could not match the official figures.

Real MPG gives real world data from drivers like you to show how much fuel a vehicle really uses.

Average performance


Real MPG

25–28 mpg

MPGs submitted


Diesel or petrol? If you're unsure whether to go for a petrol or diesel (or even an electric model if it's available), then you need our Petrol or Diesel? calculator. It does the maths on petrols, diesels and electric cars to show which is best suited to you.

What have we been asked about the SEAT Leon Cupra R (2010 – 2013)?

Every day we're asked hundreds of questions from car buyers and owners through Ask Honest John. Our team of experts, including the nation's favourite motoring agony uncle - Honest John himself - answer queries and conudrums ranging from what car to buy to how to care for it as an owner. If you could do with a spot of friendly advice before buying you're next car, get in touch and we'll do what we can to help.

Ask HJ

Which hot hatch?

I am looking to buy a hot hatch for under £20,000 used that must match four criteria: More than 200bhp, Traction control can be fully disengaged (car will be taken to trackdays), a towbar can be fitted (so no central exhaust like on Ford Focus ST and Megane RS), boot must be over 350 litres. So far I have a shortlist of a BMW 125i M Sport, Kia Proceed GT, Vauxhall Astra VXR, and Mk6 Volkswagen Golf GTI (post 2012 for the ESP thing) Are there any other cars that match this criteria, and which one of my shortlist would you consider best?
Presumably talking used here as well as new. The Astra is the fastest but most leery. The Proceed GT is surprisingly good. The BMW needs to be a 135i Msport. Used, a Leon Cupra is usually better value than a Golf GTI, but carries less status. New, the latest Leon Cupras have only just been announced so aren't for £20k. An Audi S3 should be on the list. A Mountune Fiesta ST should be the most fun, but I don't think a towbar will fit.
Answered by Honest John
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What Cars Are Similar To The SEAT Leon Cupra R (2010 – 2013)?

Key attributes of the this model are: Keen handling, Sporty, High performance, Petrol engine and Hot hatchback.

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