Over the past couple of decades, Seat has slowly been building a reputation as a purveyor of surprisingly decent hot hatches. There was the first Ibiza GTi, with its strong VW Golf-sourced engines and terrier-like handling. The 180bhp Leon 20VT was a surprisingly rapid tool, too, while the first Leon Cupra R was a genuine cut-price alternative to an Audi S3 (albeit two-wheel drive).
The Cupra R certainly has the pace part licked. Its 2.0-litre turbocharged motor (which engine fans will recognise as near-identical to the motors that power the Golf R, Scirocco R and Audi S3) kicks out 261bhp and 258lb ft of torque (a useful lump more than the 237bhp, 221lb ft non-R Cupra manages), meaning that the fastest Seat can sprint to 62mph in just 6.2secs and has to be electronically restrained at 155mph.
As for poise, the Leon has always been a reasonable handler, thanks to a modern MacPherson front, multi-link rear suspension set up, but faster versions have traditionally suffered from rather uncouth manners. The Leon Cupra for instance - the previous range-topper - had a nasty habit of spinning up an inside front wheel out of tighter corners, or of skipping across the road under hard out-of-corner acceleration, almost a front-wheel-drive version of axle tramp.
The XDS is quite effective, too. You can feel it tugging at inside wheels out of tight corners and, although it's not as instant as a mechanical LSD would be, and does interrupt the flow of your driving slightly, there's no doubt that it works, and turns the Cupra R into a genuinely accomplished performer, and possibly the best-handling Seat yet.
Inside you get plenty of kit as standard, including supportive and comfy leather bucket seats (although the gloss-finish plastic backs are not particularly pleasant) and a proper manual gearbox (praise be!), but the general feel of the interior is a bit dark, dated and generally low rent for a £25k car.
Still, that £25,205 price tag makes it precisely £3,100 cheaper than a Scirocco R. That could pay for a lot of track days...