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Bought my Seat Leon 1.8 20v T Cupra about three years ago and it has been one of the most reliable cars i have had. Pop the bonnet and the engine bay is covered in hoses and cables stamped with audi and volkswagen badges. You now its going to be reliable with that on them, reputation speaks for itself. I bought this second hand so i am not sure how the car was treated before but from my experience it has never failed me. Three MOT's later and it fails everytime on the exhaust bracket needing to be re-welded. A minor issue for a six year old car. Mine is the yellow colour and that would be the only draw back from the car. The yellow seems to fade quite badly with the difference on the metal and plastic (bumper and bodywork). The engine however never skips a beat and still purrs away like the day we got it. Its a torquey car when the turbo kicks in and you get it up in the revs it is truely a quick car. Brakes are spot on and suspension is stiff but not uncomfortable. This car is truely a wolf in sheeps clothing. Not the most sporty car on the road but certainly acts like one.
I have been looking at cars now for about 2 month and I have made a shortlist of what I am looking to test drive. The Seat Leon is the first car to get the pleasure of my lead foot. The lady at the showroom was very nice and didn't snub me unlike some other manufacturers which I wont name. I began my test drive of the Leon Cupra by driving onto your standard town centre road (full of trafic). 'Oh no' I thought 'please I want to feel what this baby has got to offer'. Whilst I was stuck in trafic I was able to have a look arround the car's interior the first impression is that the interior was a bit bland, not very inspiring. The stearing wheel was in a nice position comfortable and the power steering was not too light. Alas an open road but with the lady from the showroom sat next to me what can I do? oh no on the twisty road I caught an artic. I asked the lady could I drive like I woud if I was to buy the car and she replied of course. The first bit of open road apeared and at 40 m.p.h I droped to second and let her go. My first thought was how fast the Artic seemed to go backwards, whithin a couple of seconds I hit 60 (the roads max speed) so I backed off. The car at 60 m.p.h going arround the bends felt as though it was glued to the road and in 5th gear a touch of the accelerator was enough to jump another 20 m.p.h. to 80. I came to the end of the road and from a standing start onto a motorway I didnt take the car above 5000 rpm. First, second, third, fourth I looked down and the car was a ton up. The car felt solid I would have said I was only doing the 70 allowed on the motorways. After another little test of the acceleration in 6th gear (60 to 80) I thought I need not look at any other cars this has the engine I want. I am still going to test drive the other cars on my list before I make my final decision but it will take an amasing car to beat the experiance of the Leon Cupra. There is a down side to the
tale tho, with me having a family (one child and a second on the way) the boot space is a little small but what do you expect from a sports hach?
PREFACE: This opinion was written when I was thinking of buying. Since then I have bought one. IT DOES NOT DISAPPOINT. I am very pleased with my purchase, and will update the opinion to provide more detail later. This opinion is on the basis of lots of research and a single test drive. I don’t drive a Cupra regularly, but the test drive was so impressive that I feel moved to write an opinion. You should also know that I am not a motoring “hack” – if you are looking for writing that explains how understeer can, if provoked, turn to mildly understated oversteer in mid-doubdle-declutching when decelerating, you wont find it here – I am just a keen motorist with no special training or aptitude (I made that up, its not true). But I do like cars and driving, and I thought these first impressions might be useful. As you should know if you are reading this, the Cupra is Seat’s fastest Leon. 180bhp (thanks to a turbo) and a claimed 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds. It is based on the same “platform” as the VW Golf, Audi A3 (both of which are more expensive), Skoda Octavia (cheaper) and a couple of other VW Group cars. Essentially, the Cupra’s main claim to fame is that it is f-a-s-t. But it is also practical. I was looking forward to revving the engine and hearing the turbo whine as it winds up. But it didn’t. I was not conscious of the turbo at all – the engine felt and sounded much like any other modern small car. If I tried, I could just about register the turbo lag, but it felt minimal. The acceleration didn’t disappoint. Once on a clear straight road, I tentatively put my right foot down a bit harder, and the car leapt ahead so fast it nearly left me behind. I was impressed. And when I was a bit less tentative, the acceleration was unbelievable! It even felt faster than the TVR Tasmin 280 we used to own, though that may be just a feeling. For
me, the average driver, handling was fine. Unremarkable. Comfortable. The steering wheel is the right size, the car handled satisfactorily at a variety of speeds around bends and roundabouts, and the suspension was not harsh. I’ll be happy to use one routinely. I found that the six-speed gearbox will take some getting used to, as it is not so easy to tell which gear you are in by looking at the gear stick, for example, and you feel like changing gear at points where you might not in a five speed. I suspect I’ll adjust soon enough. With so much acceleration, you need good brakes. At first I was worried – when stationary, the brakes felt very soft. But when moving, they stopped the car more effectively than any other I can remember. Exemplary. The sensation of driving and controlling the power was wonderful. My wife also drove, and commented that she loved it, even though she was not expecting to. In her words, “I think there will be competition between us to drive this” (if we buy it, which I think we will). The interior is a bit bland. I personally don’t much like the grey patterned upholstery (there is no choice); the only alternative is the expensive black-only leather. The dashboard is plain unremitting black (shades of Douglas Adams here…) with no wood trim or clever details to relieve it. The dials are visible enough for me. actually, they are probably visible for anyone, if you specify the electrically-powered seats which remember three different settings, allowing you to put the seats (though not the adjustable steering wheel or electric mirrors) at the push of just one button. The door-mounted rear-view mirrors also can fold in when the car is parked or parking (manually, not automatically) – why don’t all car manufacturers fit this feature? (answer: because they love the income they get from us poor drivers replacing smashed mirrors… but I digress). The minor controls are fine too, though I felt some of the displays were “bitty”. For example, I know this is minor, but putting a small digital clock display in the speedometer means passengers cannot see it. I am a bit concerned that the stereo is not very ergonomic either, with lots of small, similar, labelled buttons and a small LCD – but it does match the dash well, and its eight speakers (yes, eight speakers) sounded great. The car I drove also had a CD autochanger, which is fine so long as you don’t actually want to use the glove box which it fills. The accommodation matters a lot to me. I found the front Recaro seats very comfortable and supportive. The two rear seats were likewise very comfy, and the rear headroom is most impressive for a car of this size and performance. My only reservation is that the “fifth” seat – in the centre at the back – is less comfortable. It is raised up a bit, and despite having a proper headrest plus lap-and-diagonal belt, feels a bit squashed in between the other two. It also has less headroom. Definitely check this out of you are looking for the full five-seater advertised by Seat. There is a cup holder (why only one?) and a couple of other handy storage cubbies. Finally, the boot is large (well, for this size of car), with a high sill. I like the looks, which are especially improved by the standard alloys wheels. It is understated, not “loud” (unless you choose the yellow paint option!) But that is personal preference. One more detail: there are minor differences between the 2000 and 2001 model year cars. The naming is confusing and different, so I won’t try to repeat that here. The differences include absence of automatic dipping mirror and automatic wipers on the 2001 models, and replacing ESP with traction control – maybe other things. Oh, and they slashed the price by over £2,000 too… As I wr
ite this in May 2001, there are still some 2000 cars around (e.g. demonstrators); so if you are buying, do check which you are getting - presumably the 2000 model will be worth slightly less in future resale value. The base price – £14,995 – is superb value. No wonder it won a car of the year award. I think the options such as leather, metallic paint and sunroof add too much though. A quick look at importers on the web suggests they can supply one for a saving of about £2,500, which in turn suggests you might negotiate a better deal with a UK dealer. The delivery time is around 8-12 weeks for a custom order either at a UK dealer or an importer. Of course, purchase cost isn’t everything: a package this fast comes at a price. Do look at the petrol consumption (worse than other Leons, Golfs etc) – not too bad on paper, but I suspect most drivers will burn much more petrol than necessary, just to enjoy the acceleration! And of course the Group 18 insurance will be heavy for some drivers. I am enthused by this car. I think I’ll buy one. If you are looking for a fast, practical, car, you most likely won’t be disappointed