SEAT Leon Cupra - SEAT LEON Car Review

Review

Added: 09 Jul 2003
Last update:

DESPITE operating under the umbrella of the Volkswagen Group, the carmaker SEAT has never lost sight of its Spanish roots when it comes to christening its models.

The Hispanic connection has been remembered in models such as the Marbella, malaga, Ibia, Cordoba and Toledo and, more recently, the Leon.

The Leon range arrived in the UK motoring marketplace in the spring of the Year 2000, almost immediately registering its intent as more than a firm contender in the sportier sector of the five-door small family hatchback segment.

Last September, SEAT followed the usual automotive evolutionary road with a makeover for the Leon range, plus, they introduced even more improvements at the start of this year.

The SEAT Leon comes with a septet of engine options from which to choose, petrol power being represented by 1.4, 1.6, 1.8 125 bhp, 1.8 180 bhp and 1.8 210bhp, plus a brace of 1.9 TDi diesels delivering 90bhp and 110bhp respectively.

Helping to fulfil the SEAT promise of the Leon range having something for everyone, there are four spec levels from which to choose - entry level S which comes with air con as standard, SE, Cupra and Cupra R.

For my recent reacquaintance with the SEAT Leon, my roadway companion was the Cupra which, along with the SE models and the high performance Cupra R, rides on a lowered sports suspension. But more of that later.

Cupra's new look has been designed to reflect both its sporty performance and to link it even more closely to its range-topping stablemate, the event more powerful Cupra R.

A more aggressive countenance has been created with beefed-up front bumpers, while a deeper roof spoiler, chrome exhaust and body-coloured door mouldings complement the high waistline to give an even more purposeful overall effect.

The inside story of the SEAT Leon Cupra opens up with a sporty but comfortable driving position, arrived at via reach and rake adjustable steering wheel and, one of my favourite mechanical bits, a pump action driver's seat height adjuster which also appears on the front passenger side, to avoid you being accused of talking down to your passenger!

You can also get leather seating with electrical adjustment, but this will add a further £1,250 to your final bill, and I have to admit to finding the practical dark-coloured fabric a well-bolstered covering for the front sports seating, which had that quite comforting feel to it.

From this highly agreeable driving position, everything is driver friendly, the three-spoke leather clad tiller and stubby gearstick feeling good to the touch, as do the sloping all-round electric window switches housed in the driver's door armrest, while the white-faced instrument dials backed by SEAT's trademark red back lighting, adds a further touch of this sporting life.

The Cupra comes with a generous standard kit level headed by Climatronic air con, radio cassette and CD autochanger, rear passenger heating vents and front courtesy lighting with two reading lamps, while the accommodating luggage bay also lights up.

Mounted on 17-inch alloys, the Leon Cupra does not hide its light under the proverbial bushel, the 1.8-litre power source houses a broad band of torque which promotes strong pulling power leading to sharp, easy-going progress when roadway conditions demand.

To the accompaniment of an inspiring throaty rumble from the chrome exhaust which is not intrusive, the turbo charged 20-valve engine thoroughly justifies the 180bhp label on the box, combining in seamless fashion with a smooth-slotting six-pack manual gearchange to take you from 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds, en route to an impressive top speed, where legally allowable, of 142mph.

Power steering is hugely responsive and accurate while the standard-fit Electronic Differential System (EDS) and switchable Traction Control System (TCS) behave extremely compliantly with the well sorted suspension setup to neatly ease the Cupra through a series of B road bendy bits in truly confidence inspiring fashion.

Overall, the Golf-sourced SEAT Leon Cupra oozes VW build quality, is truly engaging to drive and its sub-£15,000 price tag represents good value in the sporting hot hatch sector.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Leon Cupra

Price:  £14,995 

Mechanical: 180bhp, 1,781cc 4 cyl turbo charged petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-spd manual transmission

Max speed:  142mph

0-62mph:  7.7secs

Combined mpg:  33.2

Insurance group:  17

CO2 emissions: 204g/km

BiK rating:  24%

Warranty:  3yrs/ 60,000 miles;  12yrs anti-rust;  3yrs paint

Words: Malcolm Robertshaw

Keywords: SEAT, LEON