By Mike Torpey on 2016-10-08 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
SEAT Leon 2.0 TSI
THE big numbers just seem to reach higher as leading contenders on the hot hatch scene keep raising the bar.
And while those increases may be hops rather than leaps they still make a difference.
In the case of the SEAT Leon Cupra that 280PS of wallop that ensured the model was up there with the best - stuff like the Honda Civic TYPE R, Ford Focus RS and Megane Renaultsport 275 - has this year taken a hike up to 290ps.
Doesn't sound much but it makes a very good car an even better one. More specifically we're talking a 2.0 TSI engine with greater flexibility and punch plus a new sports exhaust system to ensure a more rewarding drive.
The Cupra 290 is actually the most powerful SEAT model ever, let alone the quickest Leon, its power coming via the same turbocharged petrol engine found in the Volkswagen Golf GTI but tweaked for extra boost.
Upshot is acceleration of 0-62 in 5.9 seconds and the potential for 155mph plus the bonus of 42.2mpg economy, though if we're being realistic you can knock 8-10 miles off that figure.
A progressive steering system plus dynamic chassis control alters the suspension settings between sports or more comfort-oriented performance, while the Cupra Drive Profile also optimises the car's sportiest settings.
The result is a car that's easy and comfortable for everyday driving in suburban streets yet can become a performance thoroughbred in an instant.
And as with all Leon variants, the Cupra efficiency package includes Start/Stop and energy recovery systems.
Styling sees the SEAT looking more the sports flagship with its large air intakes, mesh grilles, LED headlamps, pair of oval tailpipes and alloy wheels with red brake callipers.
Inside, the flat-bottomed steering wheel has its own Cupra design while the sports seats come in black Alcantara finished with white stitching and there are drilled aluminium pedals.
You also get upmarket kit like Full Link with its three-in-one smartphone integration, MirrorLink, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay plus a media set-up with 6.5-inch touchscreen and DAB radio.
There's plenty of choice in the Spanish car maker's Leon line-up - some 52 models to be exact - and practicality is something evident throughout, particularly with ST estate versions.
Opting for a five-door hatch ensures ample passenger space and a decent sized boot.
SEAT Leon 2.0 TSI Cupra 290
Mechanical: 290ps, 1,984cc 4-cyl turbocharged petrol engine driving front wheels via six-speed manual transmission
Max Speed: 155mph
0-62mph: 5.9 seconds
Combined MPG: 42.2
Insurance Group: 35
C02 emissions: 156g/km
Bik rating: 28%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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