NUMBERS are so important in the hot-hatch game.

Price, colour and design will obviously all play a significant part in the buying process, but the acceleration times, the horsepower and the top speed capability will be key to bragging rights.

Recognising this, Seat has upgraded the performance powertrain for its 2018 flagship Cupra from 290 to 300PS and injected some extra torque to boot.

The result is a raising of the bar for the company’s most powerful series production car.

It will now shoot from 0 to 62mph in 5.8 seconds if you opt for the six-speed manual five-door version and 5.6 seconds if you choose the seven-speed DSG auto alternative. The ST body style with DSG and 4Drive lops virtually a second off the five-door’s impressive sprint time.

Keen to show off its power increase, you will find the 300PS badged at the rear. It provides a reminder to anyone sitting behind the Cupra in a traffic queue that although this car may not look overtly sporty, it has the credentials under its bonnet.

What’s more, the turbocharged 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine enables it to reach 155mph and yet returns a respectable 42mpg if you don’t play too hard with the driving modes.

Those driving modes – together with an electrically controlled front differential that improves high speed cornering response – mean you can treat the Cupra as a regular hatch in eco or comfort modes. Switch to the sport setting and things certainly liven up. And in Cupra mode there’s the potential for the performance to get slightly bonkers.

But this third-generation Leon is not just about the driver. It has a longer wheelbase for improved passenger and luggage space.

Whereas the previous two generations of the car aimed to bring together sporty, coupé-like looks with the flexibility of a single, traditional five-door hatchback layout (particularly the second-generation Leon, with its ‘hidden’ rear door handles), this third-generation Leon has a significantly broader appeal.

Built on the Volkswagen Group’s widely vaunted MQB platform, the Leon Cupra is underpinned by a technologically advanced modular chassis.

It's all wrapped in a package that's extremely practical. A full five-seater with a 380-litre boot, the Leon five-door offers significantly more space than its predecessor – including an extra 39 litres in the luggage compartment and 14 mm more head and rear knee room.

The Cupra is a car whose development was led by the pursuit of dynamic excellence. To that end, it comes with a mechanical front axle differential lock, a progressive steering system that sharpens the turn-in for improved agility, dynamic chassis control to alter the suspension settings and two-stage deactivation of the electronic stability control – including the ability to turn it off.

Changes shared right across the Leon range generate a sportier feel, with a lower, wider bonnet, revised front bumper and wider, more prominent trapezoidal front grille.

But Seat has moved away from an overt, racier image from previous generations of Cupra. There’s discretion about the new Cupra that avoids the hot hatch caricature.

The focus of the Cupra’s interior is on the sports steering wheel. The sports seats, in black Alcantara finished with white stitching, are another highlight. Black full-leather upholstery is also available as an option. The pedals and entry sills are made from aluminium, the latter stamped with the Cupra logo.

As a true sports engine, the turbo unit reacts spontaneously to every movement of the accelerator pedal and is wonderfully high revving. Paired with the exhaust note, it is quite intoxicating.