SEAT Leon Cupra R - SEAT LEON Car Review
Added: 24 Feb 2003
WITH A price tag of seventeen grand, it's not that expensive. With 210bhp under the bonnet, it certainly isn't slow, and with a bright yellow paint job, it sure isn't subtle.
Welcome to the world of the Leon Cupra R, the latest off-spring from the VW Group's academy of performance car building.
The philosophy is simple.
Firstly, take a car with small car architecture - in this case, the SEAT Leon. Secondly, shove in a turbo-charged engine that's tuned up to the hilt. Lastly, stiffen the suspension, fit big 18-inch wheels, price it as low as you can then sit back and watch them pour out of the showrooms as fast as you can build them.
Actually, pour out isn't right. Dribble out would be more accurate, because SEAT are only building 1,500 a year, although half of that very exclusive number will end up on UK shores.
It appears that younger British buyers like the SEAT image and enjoy rushing around in hot hatchbacks. Which begs the question of how well does it rush around? The answer is, very well.
It's funny how VW Group cars all feel reasonably similar. Whether its a SEAT, Volkswagen or Skoda, the brakes all feel a little over-served, although in this case they stop you very well indeed as they're four-pot Brembos. The steering is a bit detached and remote (although it is accurate, fast and kickback-free), the throttle is a bit elasticy and the gearbox (six-speed in this case) is nothing extraordinary.
And when you're rushing around properly, it's not that the Leon is necessarily faster or better than some of its close rivals - the Honda Civic Type R, for instance - it's just that it feels good.
It's very alive and very involving. Just what you want, in fact, from a performance car. Pasting a Leon around a set of tricky corners is a lot of fun and very fulfilling.
The Leon Cupra R is an excellent set of wheels. It goes fast - 0-60 in a fraction over seven seconds - and 147mph top speed. It stops fast and it looks absolutely brilliant.
Normal driving in the Leon is certainly no chore, either. The cabin is about as ergonomically perfect as I think you could make it. You can forget about having to try to get comfortable, because everybody can. Or worry about where the controls are, because they are where they immediately fall to hand. Which allows you to just get on with the driving.
Unlike some three-door hatch-backs, there is enough room in the rear for two adult passengers to travel in reasonable comfort (three would be a squeeze except on the shortest trips) and there is a decent-sized boot for weekend bags, or even bigger luggage for longer trips away.
With its 210bhp turbo-charged engine, the Leon Cupra R (Cupra stands for Cup racing by the way) is a real VW Golf GTI basher. Add to the mix its sporty looks, great cabin decor and its very engaging drive. Put all that together with its fantastic residual values and generally low running costs, and the Cupra R is altogether a great buy.
- Alistair Coull
CIRCUS in town? Not a clown in sight, but the gaudy-coloured SEAT was a bit of a joke.
The livery was psychedelic yellow and, even on a charcoal grey winter's day, you needed shades to filter its dazzling rays.
This is the sporty number from Espana and everything about SEAT's Leon Cupra R is loud, except, surprisingly, for its signature tune which was restricted to a rather modest growl.
Step inside and you swap luminous yellow for a pitch-black interior which provides a dramatic contrast but takes a second or two to get accustomed to.
Settle into the sports-contoured driver's seat, turn the ignition, and as you climb up the six speed box the nightmarish yellow fades into the distance.
Colour blind or not, SEAT has managed to put together a robust contender in the seriously hot hatch sector, and the Cupra R proves an athletic performer. It will, of course, whet the appetite for the young or young at heart, which is where the Spanish car is primed
The special edition model (only 1,500 are expected to be made, with half destined for these shores) certainly looks the business, with lowered suspension, lowered bumpers and skirts. You have to be cautious, however, not to clip the undersides on rough unadopted roads or tracks.
Extra large alloys add to the wow factor of the 20-valve turbo-charged package which more than purrs along.
With a 0-60mph sprint at a whisker over seven seconds, the Cupra R provides some spirited driving. It may not be the best of the hot hatch/sports brigade, but the Spanish contender, at just under £17,000, provides a lot of muscle for the money.
It rivals such models as the Alfa Romeo 147 GTA which costs an extra £6,000. Even the MG ZS, although £1,000 cheaper, doesn't quite match the sporting presence of the Cupra R. Capable of a top speed of 147mph, the Cupra develops a healthy 210bhp and 270Nm of torque.
The Leon's direct, power-assisted steering provides lively feedback, but the slightly fierce braking system, for all its technology, takes some getting used to.
Nevertheless, you never feel compromised. The grip of the Cupra is very reassuring. Road holding and suspension are excellent, even when faced with some challenging B-roads.
Throughout its week-long test, the Spanish hot hatch provided lots of fun driving without being a gas-guzzler - it returned a combined figure of just over 32mpg.
Even without its special livery, the Cupra R would still turn heads.
It's a slightly sculpted package incorporating lots of sporty touches. Of course, the good thing about the Spanish dazzler is its pedigree. It has Volkswagen quality build, but without the high price tag.
- Val Jessop
SEAT Leon Cupra R
Mechanical: 210bhp, 1,781cc, 4cylinder petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-spd manual gearbox
Max speed: 147mph
Combined mpg: 32.1
Insurance group: 16
CO2 emissions: 211g/km
BiK rating: 24%
Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles; 12yrs anti-rust; 3yrs paint
Keywords: SEAT, LEON