Previously, we put the five-door, DSG-equipped, SEAT Leon Cupra 280 through its paces. It’s the most expensive model in the Cupra range – but what if you don’t have quite as much cash at your disposal?

Go for the three-door SEAT Leon SC Cupra manual and you’ll save £300 for the removal of the rear doors, plus £1,285 for ditching the six-speed DSG.

The car we drove was still fitted with the more potent 276bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, although a less powerful 261bhp version is also available that slashes another £1,250 from the price. Rather than detracting from the Cupra’s abilities, choosing a cheaper model actually has a number of benefits.

For starters, the manual gearbox has a light but precise action, so it’s a pleasure flicking it around the gate. It’s a bit of a tired cliche now that manual boxes offer more interactivity between driver and machine, especially when modern DSG gearboxes are so fast and compromise- free – but in the Cupra’s case it’s true.

The SC also benefits from a 35mm shorter wheelbase than the five-door (although it has the same 380 litres of boot space), which gives it a more squat, powerful stance, but also makes it more agile.

The way the front-wheel-drive Cupra spears into corners and finds traction on the way out – thanks largely to the standard front differential – is remarkable.

Pace from the 276bhp engine is frantic, but in reality, the loss in performance on the 261bhp car is negligible. In its pursuit of VW Golf GTI-slaying speed, SEAT hasn’t forgotten about refinement, either.

Back off the throttle, switch the three-stage dampers to their comfort setting and you could be driving a £17,720 Leon SC 1.4 TSI. And that’s our only problem with the Leon Cupra – when it’s good it’s very good indeed, but it doesn’t always feel special enough for that £26,940 price tag.

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