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.
Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)
Nice car, but winter tyres are great for the ...winter, but if the temperature gets too high they will wear out very fast not forgetting they will heat up faster. So, in the UK it may be OK to keep them on in the summer, but further down south, I definitely wouldn't recommend them.
Mr Whippy07 Jun 2011
For all-season use using one tyre, err, all-season tyres make sense.
Or just use summer tyres in winter, they should be fine on a heavy fwd car.
frankthetank207 Jun 2011
They make sense, if you can afford the initial expense. Will be investing in some snow socks this summer. Anyone know if they are any good?
Oddball RS07 Jun 2011
"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"
Its June and in the UK what are you waiting for????
Tom_C7607 Jun 2011
I think it depends hugely on which winter tyres you buy. I've got Goodyear Eagle Vectors on my 150bhp Astra, and for all they're approved as a snow tyre in Canada they seem to he hanging on just fine in the current weather. They provide far more grip on a wet day than the original fit Potenzas too, but as Pete says of his they can be made to squeal a bit in the corners on a hot day.