PH FLEET: SEAT LEON CUPRA R
Racing Pete bids farewell to his hot Leon
A year down the line it is time to say goodbye to the bright yellow R and I am a little upset to see it go. With a back catalogue of, and preference for, rear-drive machines I thought the parting would be one of the easiest, but the Cupra has a certain charm that gets under your skin.
It isn't without a few niggles though. The sat-nav system dropped out of school before gaining its geography certification, as our competition winners found on a trip to Geneva earlier this year. Also the boot does have a little width problem compared with its competitors - but you forgive these minor indiscretions when you have 265hp beneath your foot, and twin pipes noisily playing behind you.
Take it down a B-road and you will be accelerating towards the horizon at hooligan speeds in no time. Fling it into an apex and the front is responsive enough to let you place the nose where you want, and on a dry road doesn't wash out under acceleration. It also achieves this with a subtle ride that handles the bumps well through town and is softer than the Focus RS, for which the chassis engineers deserve praise.
The colour is a little loud, so it isn't exactly the most inconspicuous car to fly through the countryside. Having a clean licence, I was hoping for another year of trouble-free motoring, but in the final week of Cupra ownership I saw blue lights in the mirror and had to pull over.
The officer approached the window and went through the standard 'is this your car?' spiel before delivering the reason for the chat. I had been caught red-handed driving around with one fog light on through Kingston town centre. Now, the front foglights look is a common - and annoying - enough sight around town among the bass box brigade, but not one adopted by a respectable citizen like myself.
"They are driving lights," I insisted. "They come on when you turn a sharp corner." I was permitted to demonstrate it and "I've never seen that before" surprise was expressed, with a comment that they were a little bright but I was sent on my way with no further action.
The farewell weekend for the car was, appropriately, the trip to the PistonHeads annual dinner in Gloucestershire, with a final fling across twisty cross country roads. With the sat-nav set to a location possibly near the venue, the car then pointed me to some awesome country lanes. The traction control left on, as it never intrudes, a full tank and empty roads and the car was back in its element - leaving me with a smile on my face and late to the dinner through over (driving) indulgence.
Riggers predicted back in October that the Cupra would be one of those forgotten hothatches. In 10 years' time would people talk of the Cupra R in the same sentence as the Focus RS or classics such as the Golf GTI? I probably don't think so, but then the Spanish manufacturer has done a great job with this car, if not made it excel in one area.
As such it remains a bit of a need-to-know car and, if we keep that information to ourselves, the crowds can follow the predictable choices, leaving the Cupra R as a bit of a bargain for those in the know. 265hp for £25K new is awesome value - give it a year and they're down to the high teens. I say get one!
Car: 2011 SEAT Leon Cupra R
Run by: Racing Pete
On fleet since: December 2010
List price new: £27,235 (inc. £1,350 Technology pack with nav, Bluetooth, parking sensors,etc and £655 for sunroof)
Last month at a glance: Bit of bother from the cops over the corner-sensing driving lights and a final send-off drive to BTaP...