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Road test: Seat Leon Cupra

2009-10-28 08:59

Hailey Philander

Seat, Leon, Cupra
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Seat
Model Leon Cupra
Engine 1 984 cm3 four-cylinder, 16-valve with DOHC
Power 177 kW @ 5 700 r/min
Torque 300 Nm @ 2 200 r/min
Transmission 6-speed manual
Zero To Hundred 6.4 seconds
Top Speed 247 km/h
Fuel Tank 55l
Fuel Consumption 8.3 l/100 km (combined cycle)
Boot Size 341 l
Steering electro-mechanical speed variable power assistance
Airbags 6 - front, side and curtain
Front Suspension independent sports suspension with Mcpherson struts and lower wishbones
Rear Suspension multi-link axle
Service Intervals 15 000 km
Service Plan 5 years / 90 000 km
Warranty 3 years / 120 000 km
Price R264 000

What's it about?

The hot hatch segment is a bit crowded at the moment. That's never a bad thing of course, but given the cost of fuel and the environmental fallout from global warming, you'd expect things to be different.

You certainly won't see us complaining about the latest fiery hatch to make its local appearance. Since the fiery Spaniard's name is sculpted from the words Cup Racing, we were definitely expecting some fireworks.

Did the Leon Cupra deliver? Almost definitely.


This car may be the most powerful model to ever roll off a Seat production line, but that certainly does not mean that all the Spanish manufacturer's efforts have been plowed into ensuring Leon Cupra is super quick.

Even if the interior is on the bland side, with a dashboard crafted almost completely from an assortment of hard plastics, it does, however, have a few Cupra-specific details splattered across the cabin.

Of these, the bucket seats with red embossing are perhaps the most prominent. Supportive and firm, they do a superb of job making sure you're properly strapped in when the action fires up.

Other features include aluminium for the gearlever and pedals and a leather-covered steering wheel. One of the only real drawbacks is that Leon Cupra comes with a space-saving spare wheel.

Equipment levels are high and Leon Cupra has bi-xenon headlamps, a multifunction steering wheel with bluetooth and audio controls, cruise control and a host of other details.

Exterior styling is incredibly macho, too, with striking 18-inch alloys doing little to disguise the bright red brake calipers. A honeycombed grille and sports exhaust add to the look.

Under the metal

Leon Cupra uses yet another version of the turbocharged FSI engine with direct fuel injection doing duty in a whole host of VW Group products.

And yes, it’s the same engine used in "glory boy" Volkswagen's Golf GTI, although output has been boosted to 177 kW with the use of a bigger turbocharger and largerinjectors. Torque is a very useful 300 Nm.

According to the manufacturer, this car is able to hit a top speed of 247 km/h and accelerates from 0 to 100 in 6.4 seconds.

It's alsonot as thirsty as you may think. Seat claims an average of 8.3 l/100 km and we averaged just over 15 l/100 km over a week-long test periodwith mostly urban driving.

On the road

The car certainly is very promising on paper, but it delivers, too. There is some lag, but its effects swiftly cancelled out by the shove in the crook of your back from around 3 000 r/min.

And considering all the power is directed at the front wheels, you'd expect torque steer to spoil the fun - not so. There's hardly any, and Leon Cupra tracks predictably and without a hint of impending misadventure.

As expected, there is a touch of understeer in hard cornering, but handling is mostly forgiving, and thankfully, the traction control system is not too intrusive, allowing a fair amount of play before politely rapping you over the knuckles.

Steering through the speed-sensitive electro-mechanical system tracks true and is weighted towards the heavier end of the spectrum for decent feedback and crisp turn-ins when hustling along.

Leon Cupra rides on a sports suspension with independent Macpherson struts and lower wishbones and a multilink rear axle with hellicoidal springs. Concerning the ride quality, this hot hatch is fairly firmly sprung and this is most evident on poor road sections when vibrations are felt shooting up through the chassis.

But, for the most part, the ride is reasonably comfortable and strikes a healthy balance between ride comfort and dynamic agility. The lack of body roll in faster corners is astounding.

Standard Cupra safety gear includes ABS, EBA, EBD and TCS traction control and six airbags covering both front and rear occupants. For those who would benefit from added reassurance, performance Brembo brakes are an option.


Very impressive. This car is quick, smoulderingly sexy and you'd struggle to spot one on every single road.

It also won't disappoint on the performance front; the Seat Leon Cupra is probably as sorted as you'll find on the five-door hot hatch front at the moment.

And since it shares its underpinnings with the all-too-popular Volkswagen Golf GTI, it’s aglaring reminder of just what VW could have achieved with its benchmark-setting hatch.

Awesome power
Great looks
A fair amount of exclusivity; and it's cheaper than the common Golf GTI

You'll be a regular at your local filling station
And at your local traffic department


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