PH Fleet


Tuesday 7th June 2011


RacingPete gets tired of winter tyres

We may be only a fortnight away from the longest day, but I have been holding onto some winter footwear just in case. The unpredictable British weather means that it could snow at any time - after all last year we had a deluge of white stuff in May. So thanks to a trip to Switzerland earlier in the year the Seat Cupra R was fitted with winter tyres to comply with the road laws, and they have stayed connected to each corner ever since.

Many people spend fortunes trying to save weight, or add a few horses to the powertrain, but for me the biggest improvement is what rubber you choose. So I was a little worried that the change of tyres would ruin the handling of the hatch, and leave it a little less hot.

The Seat engineers, however, have performed a little bit of magic with the suspension on this Cupra R. Over the street furniture of a modern town the car rides speed bumps, pot holes and man-hole covers with the subtlety of a much softer family car. But point the car at a B-road or vigorously attack a roundabout and the turn-in is precise, with very limited body roll through the corner.

The winter tyres don't hinder this brilliant chassis, and the negative feedback from the cold-weather rubber is nothing more than the odd protest squeal. The grip through a long corner is still excellent, and the feel through the steering wheel isn't woolly at all. No doubt if you put the car on track the winter rubber would melt into its spacious grooves, but for road use it works very well and I wouldn't have a problem to keep running the winter tyres through summer - minus the wear rate - if I had to choose one tyre all year.

One thing the winter tyre has highlighted is the traction control system fitted to the Cupra R. The Seat engineers have either been really clever, or not got the thing working properly. After the recent dry spell and then a deluge of rain, the British road goes all slippery. Accelerate hard in second (and sometimes third) in the Leon Cupra R and you get wheelspin from the winter tyres in wet conditions.

The traction light blinks furiously, but regardless of the setting you select for it you can still spin happily for a good few seconds before the electronics have had enough of your boyish play. Acceleration is the one weak point in the winter tyres' armour as everyday rubber. Trying to get out of a junction at speed you have to modulate the right foot to make sure dash lights aren't flashing away.

As warmer months approach I think it will be only right to cover the 19in alloy wheels with the correct-spec dry 235/35 rubber the car deserves, attack some nice summer roads and get on track to see if this car can really claim to be born straight from a touring car champion - nothing so far in my ownership makes me doubt it won't justify such a claim.


Author: RacingPete