Now the car is really ready to go, and it’s fast. Cupra would have worked to improve the gearshift speed of the DSG box, but even if you took it out of half gear, you could still cover the ground at an absurd rate. There are three main reasons for this. First, almost 300 lb-ft comes from just 2000 RPM, and while we’re now used to this type of hot hatch engine performance, it never gets less efficient.
The second element is that the VAQ LSD seems to kill almost any trace of steering torque, as the Bridgestones will gladly take full throttle in second or third gear, even on country roads completely dredged by a tractor. Sometimes there is a bit of scrabbling, but the steering – precise and designed for confidence, but still too uniform in weight – is generally incorruptible, and the car is explosively fast in a straight line.
Finally, there’s this suspension, which really hits its stride when you ask for a lot. This gives the Cupra a particularly good mix of control and absorption once you’re near the national speed limit on rough roads, keeping the body flat and resisting flutter a lot, but with surprising finesse. The positivity and response of the brake pedal, which controls Brembo calipers and a pair of drilled 370mm rotors, also deserves to be commended.
Criticisms? It is not the most playful or the most communicative hot hatch. It’s rewarding to drive because it responds consistently and competently, but it doesn’t get under the skin the same way the Civic does. Or the Ford Focus ST, whose 2.3-liter engine has more character than the Cupra unit so desperately wants to emulate.
The Ford’s slightly springy steering and looser handling takes more getting used to, but once you’re in its conditions the car is malleable and expressive, unlike the Cupra. There are also times – especially when the Cupra is fully charged out of the corners – when you have to imagine that a proper LSD would work smoother and more efficiently. It’s pretty marginal, however.
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This notice was published: 2021-05-12 23:01:25