The deer shunter

An unfortunate encounter with the rural wildlife has left our SEAT Leon Cupra in tatters. The poor deer came off worse – but we’re also mourning the extended loss of one of the most exciting cars on the fleet.

  • PAINT White is making a comeback as a desirable colour for new cars, and our Leon looks fantastic with its contrasting black alloys.NEW SPOILER Some colleagues have labelled it as over the top, but I think the rear wing is superb and helps our SEAT stand out from the crowd even more. COMFORT It didn’t make it to Barcelona, but I’ve covered lots of miles in the Leon, and it has been relaxing on long journeys.
  • SAT-NAV At around £1,600, the sat-nav is pricey, and it’s slow and dated. SEAT now offers VW’s new touchscreen system instead.

It should all have been so different. I had big ideas for my second long-term report on our Leon Cupra.

The plan had been to drive the SEAT to Barcelona in Spain for a holiday, and while there take it to its spiritual home at the nearby Martorell plant – where it was built. I’d booked the trip months ago and everything was in place.

But instead of sunny Spain, our Leon is stuck in Oxford, where it’s currently in bits. The cause? British wildlife – or a deer to be more precise. Just 10 days before I was due to set off, I hit one on the way home one evening.

At the time, the dark country lane that leads down to my village seemed innocuous enough. But on a slight bend I saw, through the bushes, a glint of an eye reflected by my headlights.

A fraction of a second later, and despite my best attempts to recreate the famous ‘elk test’ swerve, I collided with the poor animal with a mighty thud. I immediately stopped and got out to check the damage, but in the pitch black could see very little. Thankfully, the deer was killed instantly, so it didn’t suffer – and I could at least still drive the Leon. I limped home with most of the warning lights on the dashboard illuminated.

Under a street lamp outside my house, I was able to survey the damage, and it came as a real shock. I thought it would be no more than a broken headlight and some minor damage to the bumper, yet was distraught to find a mangled left wing, dented door and a fairly comprehensive rearranging of the front end.

The chip to one of my prized black alloy wheels was the least of my concerns, as there was even animal fur stuck firmly between the wheel and tyre! The situation wasn’t good.

I instantly had flashbacks to the lengthy repairs we had carried out to the Cupra’s predecessor – the yellow Leon FR TDI. They took nearly two weeks, but simply involved a new tailgate and some slight bumper scuffs. The Cupra’s damage was more than superficial, and fixing it would be much more involved – there was no way it could be driven in the UK, let alone abroad.

So that was my plan in tatters. No lovely pictures of the Leon, its white paintwork glistening in the sun, resplendent in front of the massive SEAT factory. Instead, it’s currently having its front end rebuilt and the list of parts is astonishing, not to mention the cost. Along with a new wing, bumper and headlight, it needs a replacement bonnet, door and wheel. In total, the repairs are expected to set us back an incredible £4,500. I suppose that’s the price of running a hot hatch!

And all this left me with a quandary about how to get to Spain. In the end, I managed to acquire a facelifted Ford Focus ST for my break. It’s one of my favourite hot hatches, thanks in part to its characterful five-cylinder engine and exhaust note, which puts the muted Leon’s 2.0-litre turbocharged engine to shame. The Ford also has endless pace and a superbly compliant ride.

But it just wasn’t the same as the Leon. I’d pick the Spanish car over the ST every time, if only for the great styling. From the UK all the way down to the Spanish coast and back, the Focus barely turned any heads, and in Barcelona itself, no one even noticed it.

It would have been a very different story in our Cupra, which makes it even more of a shame that I wasn’t able to take it. For now our Leon is off the road, but I can’t wait to get it back in one piece. And hopefully keep it that way!

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