PH Fleet Update: Seat Cupra R

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.


P.H. O'meter

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Comments (13) Join the discussion on the forum

  • marcevo1 08 Jun 2011

    changing winter tyres in june?

    i change end of march then put back on mid to end of november in the uk. drive a 156 gta with 250+bhp through the front wheels - brilliant in snow (its got a lsd as well) - funny to see 4x4's struggle as you whip by smile

    they are pretty rubbish when the temp gets above 15 degrees imo

    they wear very well though. Thinking of changing my GTA alfa for a new merc c class - first change will be winter tyres in..... er winter wink

  • slikrs 08 Jun 2011

    Driving around on some proper winter ice/snow tyres in warmer/wet weather is likeled to driving on gravel IMO but then these were cheap ice/snow tyres on a warm hatch...

    No way I would drive around on them for longer than I had to when the weather turned but equally they were a big, no massive improvement in the conditions they were designed for.

    I shudder when I see the number of cars parked in my area still sporting winter rubber - unfortunately these are the same people who happily drive around with half inflated tyres blissfully unaware that they are a danger to everyone.

  • Mastodon2 07 Jun 2011

    I love this car, I just wish Seat had carried over some of the more aggressive looks the older version had.

  • FRMATT 07 Jun 2011

    The traction control does similar things in my Ibiza

  • Denorth 07 Jun 2011

    chrisg330d said:
    I noticed about 5mpg improvement over the few months (and 10'000miles) I had the winters on this year. I put it down to a combination of the reduced rolling resistance and reduced grip (225 rears instead of 255) making me more aware of my right foot.

    Flick of the dsc button and it was very easy to let the back hang out a little if I was feeling brave and yobbish though.... needless to say, they won't last a second winter as I left them on a little too long as well.
    this is very interesting observation. from my experience I remember that during summer time winter tyres were easier to spin and to loose grip, so I was driving 'easier' too. They just didn't have grip on tarmac. Although, have to admit, most winter tyres I used were studded.

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