SEAT Leon Cupra

Final report: Road tester James Disdale bids our Leon farewell with a sporty day out and 9,955 miles on the clock.

  • The optional Bluetooth phone connection is excellent. It automatically docks with your mobile everytime you climb aboard, and is operated by the simple buttons on the steering wheel. You can scroll also through your address by using the large trip computer screen that sits next to the speedo and rev-counter. Best of all, the sound quality through the speakers is excellent. The only downside is that at £250 it’s quite an expensive option.
  • The ride can be really uncomfortable, particularly around town, where the stiff springing causes the Leon to crash and bang over even small road imperfections. It improves at motorway speeds, but never truly settles down - meaning the SEAT can’t pull off the compromise between road-burner and family hatch that many rivals manage.

The question was simple. How do we give one of the fastest cars on our fleet a fitting send off after six months service? Well, I thought a trip to Brands Hatch race circuit in Kent would be just the ticket!

But our SEAT Leon Cupra wasn’t going to take to the track. Instead, we went to watch its race-bred brothers do battle in the ultra-competitive World Touring Championship.

Sadly, on the day the diesel-powered SEATs were just pipped to the flag by BMW. But back in the real world, our petrol-engined Spanish hot hatch has proved to be a winner.

In fact, you don’t even have to drive the Leon to be won over. The combination of rakish body styling, bright white paintwork and black alloy wheels make the car a real head-turner. Adding a neat boot lid-mounted spoiler (Issue 1,010) only enhanced the distinctive looks.

Fortunately, the SEAT has the performance to match its sporty looks. Its 237bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged motor is a real highlight, delivering searing acceleration in any gear, while still returning decent fuel economy. Despite nearly 10,000 hard miles of motoring, the Cupra has managed an impressive average of 27.8mpg.

The Leon is practical too: it’s five-door layout and large boot making it more versatile than many rapid rivals, while the heavily bolstered front seats are comfortable and the driving position excellent. Other useful features include the brilliantly bright standard fit directional Xenon headlamps.

On the road, the Cupra isn’t the sharpest handling hot hatch, lacking the finesse of the Focus ST and VW Golf GTI. Fortunately, its well-weighted steering and strong grip mean it’s still fun when tackling a series of challenging bends. However, it's ultra-stiff suspension set-up meant my daily commute across London was often a jarring affair.

Shockingly, I nearly didn’t experience any of this at all. While in the hands of former keeper David Ross, the Cupra hit a deer that hadn’t read its Green Cross Code (Issue 1.010). The resulting damage to the car took nearly two months to fix and resulted in a bill of just over £6,000!

But despite this - and a slow puncture that appeared just before SEAT collected the car - our Cupra didn’t put a wheel wrong in six months. In fact, my biggest disappointment was that its time on our fleet seems to have passed by as quickly as the race cars completed a lap of Brands Hatch!

Extra Info

Second opinion - Sam Hardy, Deputy Motoring and Digital Editor

The Cupra doesn’t lack performance and it’s capable of cornering at high speeds. But I’m still not convinced by it. While VW’s Golf GTI – with which the SEAT shares an engine and platform – provides plenty of feedback, the Seat’s driving experience isn’t especially involving. So while it’s fast, grippy and, thanks to the five-door body, very practical, it’s missing that vital connection a hot hatch should have in spades.


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