RE: SEAT Leon Cupra R (Mk2) | PH Used Review

RE: SEAT Leon Cupra R (Mk2) | PH Used Review

Monday 26th August

SEAT Leon Cupra R (Mk2) | PH Used Review

The Cupra R was an early go at building a properly quick Leon. How does it hold up in 2019?



Back then...

Seat kicked off this decade by launching its then most potent model, the Leon Cupra R. It was technically similar to the Volkswagen Scirocco R, and shared its 265hp 2.0-litre TSI - but significantly undercut its stablemate on price and offered the notable appeal of rear doors. The model delivered a 25hp advantage over the regular Cupra and was almost as fast as the Mk2 Ford Focus RS straight out of the box. On paper, it was a worthy collection of ingredients.

Admittedly the Focus RS possessed a strong USP in its glorious five-cylinder motor, which had bags of character and 305hp. But the Cupra R's EA113 four-pot (VW was yet to wind its then brand-new EA888 to such heights) had a greater bandwidth of torque, producing a 258lb ft peak from 2,500-5,000rpm, plus the car weighed over 100kg less. Only the Renaultsport Megane 250 appeared to hold a candle to the Leon on the value-for-money front, then, and it needed significant spec box ticking to bring its kit list up to eye level.

Of course the Megane was already on its way to being the doyen of the front drivers, but the Cupra R certainly looked the part with its white 19-inch alloys, Cupra body lettering and pair of centrally mounted exhaust tips. Plus, again, it had both a two-door and power advantage - compelling factors in the never-ending game of hot hatch top trumps.


Nowadays...

The Cupra R remains a competitive performance offering nearly a decade on from its launch - especially in the single powered axle category. Its output still exceeds a Mk7 Golf GTI Performance and the entry-level Hyundai i30N, and, allowing for the obvious advances in technology and trim comfort, the Leon can claim to provide a similar level of practicality and usability. Since Cupra R sales were considerably lower than those of the regular Cupra, it's a rarer sight on UK roads, too.

Being thin on the ground has not had a dramatic effect on used prices. The R is typically cheaper than Mk6 Golf GTI, even with a kit list that includes Cupra-branded leather seats and a similarly basic - to 2019 eyes - infotainment system. It's only when you get going in the Leon that the reason (aside from badge snobbery) for the lower value becomes apparent. It rides firmly on its 235-section tyres, with a jiggling sort of intent tempered only by a very supportive set of front seats. No Golf GTI is so uncivilised around town.

The four-pot though, is a peach. Its elasticity allows for lazy operation of the gearbox and with a less miserly throttle map than you'd find today, peak twist is easily found. The engine's relationship to the current EA888 unit is apparent, but, if anything, its impression of a larger capacity motor is even more persuasive. And should you choose to swap cogs with a bit more vigour, the six-speed gearbox has a pleasingly positive flow through the gate and satisfying click when a ratio is selected.


Given the firmness at modest speeds, it's somewhat surprising to feel the body lift when you launch it at a B road. Where a Mk6 Golf GTI retains its suppleness across the board and a Scirocco R hunkers down, the Cupra R seems to stand up - which has the effect of slightly smoothing out the ride quality, but then falters when a challenging bend appears. Under cornering duress the Leon feels too softly damped, with pitch under braking and noticeable body roll on turn-in. Grip is high nevertheless, but it's often left to the EA113 to add in the zest - particularly as it sounds brilliant, with a high-pitched engine note backed by an industrial, coarse exhaust.

In-gear acceleration is so strong, in fact, that it's easy to arrive at corners quicker than you expected, making it necessary to lean on the 345mm/286mm brakes. Despite its shortfall in body control, the R is clearly from the VW Group's stability-first school of handling and provocation is typically required if you want to upset its glued-down trajectory. The car has VW's old electronic 'XDS' system to split torque, essentially mimicking a limited-slip differential to reduce understeer, and while it does a decent job it can't completely eliminate inside wheelspin, while there's too little feel from the steering to allow you to effectively regulate the throttle. More often than not though, a little slip actually adds to the low-level excitement...


Should you?

If five seats, five doors and a reasonably small outlay are your main requirements, you should probably think about it. The Cupra R is nowhere near as rounded a Mk6 GTI, nor is it as dynamically talented as the RS Megane. But its rough edges are often rubbed smooth by its industrious and endearingly old school engine. For similar levels of both usability and foot-down thrill, you'd probably need to consider a Mk6 Golf R - and they are considerably more expensive.

That isn't to overlook the Leon's conspicuous faults, mind. It likely felt firm in its day; evaluation of it in 2019 is even less kind and considered next to the sometimes choppy handling, making the prospect of many miles seem tiring. Ultimately, that makes it inferior to the better resolved Scirocco R - a truth surely reflected in the Cupra's lower values. The fact is though, it is cheap - and quick and likeable to look at and listen to. A solid secondhand hot hatch option, then.


SPECIFICATION - SEAT LEON CUPRA R (MK2)
Engine:
1,984cc, inline-4 turbocharged
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Power (hp): 265@6,000rpm
Torque (lb ft): 258@2,500-5,000rpm
0-62mph: 6.2 secs
Top speed: 155mph
Weight: 1,375kg
MPG: 34.9
CO2: 190g/km
Price new: Β£25,505
Price now: circa Β£7,500-9,000

Search for a Mk2 Seat Leon Cupra here








Author
Discussion

GTEYE

Original Poster:

1,400 posts

155 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
I had the Mk1 225 Cupra R, for me a massively better looking car....flawed but it looked great for its time and I think it’s looks have held the test of time better than the Mk2.


AJB88

4,201 posts

116 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
I owned one between 2012-2014, the car was originally a press car owned by SEAT UK, It was running APR Stage 2+



The car in the press pictures above (SZ10LCR) was "put back to standard" ie the white wheels taken off before it was sold on by SEAT UK not sure what the registration plate it went on to was.

ToothbrushMan

1,627 posts

70 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
......often owned by narcotic selling middle management???

Court_S

1,169 posts

122 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
I never really got in with the styling of these; they looked like a squashed MPV and I don’t think time has helped either. The mark I was a much better looking car.

the_hood

419 posts

139 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
Court_S said:
I never really got in with the styling of these; they looked like a squashed MPV and I don’t think time has helped either. The mark I was a much better looking car.
Add to that the cheap looking interior. It's a 'no' from me.

soad

30,303 posts

121 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
the_hood said:
Add to that the cheap looking interior. It's a 'no' from me.
Too much plastic? Seats look comfy and supportive.

BigMon

1,687 posts

74 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
Mrs Bigmon bought one new in 2012 and we still have it.

It's been a great car and it looks like we'll be keeping it for a while yet. Don't need anything faster and there's no point getting shot of it while it's reliable.

If it does go we'll probably go for something like an i30N.


jonwm

1,245 posts

59 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
Had a mark 1 and loved it. As said above I think it still looks good today. The MK2 I had was the run out FR+ model. The interior was slightly better than the earlier mk2's but still behind the golf. I really like the seat brand and only got rid of my MK3 Cupra due to wife not keeping up to speed with pill smile

Friend had a mk2 and had it mapped with a uprated clutch. It was savage on acceleration

Drive Blind

3,216 posts

122 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
I'm another who just couldn't live with the looks of the mk2 Leon.

The mk1 shape still looks good today and I've owned a mk3.

AJB88

4,201 posts

116 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
Ive had MK1 (currently got as a daily), 2x MK2 and 1x MK3.

Think the MK1 has aged the best, but I miss my MK2's the most, in terms of fun they were the best.

rastapasta

540 posts

83 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
AJB88 said:
Ive had MK1 (currently got as a daily), 2x MK2 and 1x MK3.

Think the MK1 has aged the best, but I miss my MK2's the most, in terms of fun they were the best.
I had a mk 1 which, while mechanically was excellent, used to let in water into the cabin around both driver and passenger doors down into the footwells. I put it into a hedge one day nearly ten years ago. Looks wise I still consider it the nicest car Ive ever owned.

AJB88

4,201 posts

116 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
rastapasta said:
I had a mk 1 which, while mechanically was excellent, used to let in water into the cabin around both driver and passenger doors down into the footwells. I put it into a hedge one day nearly ten years ago. Looks wise I still consider it the nicest car Ive ever owned.
My current one does that, need to take door cards off and seal it properly.

Mike335i

2,506 posts

47 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
Despite popular opinion, these in FR or Cupra trim were good looking motors. With the right alloys it and body kit, it had a purposeful stance and seemed to work in reality in a way that they did not in pictures. The standard trim levels looked pretty naff though.

I had a red FR TFSI wound up to about 240hp / 260lbft and it shifted nicely. That engine was a great performer but ultimately it was only ever a boosted 4pot.

Handling for normal drivers was a sense of HUGE grip from the front, tyres dependent, but firmly sprung. Seats were great and so concept wasn't a problem. It never got out of shape and therefore wasn't that much fun, but really quite quick.

Interior looked naff, but that doesn't matter when driving the car as the dials were great with the central rev counter, it had buttons and no touch screens (on mine anyway) and the controls were well placed with a consistency that inspired confidence on pressing on, buy no actual feedback as such.

Being a 5 door with a good size boot made it very practical, far more so than my current car.

Overall, they are great cars for the money and well worth a drive if in the market for a budget, modern (ish) hatchback.

n4aat

448 posts

157 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
Good article. I enjoyed my 52 plate version.

Any chance we can drop this silly “twist” word and go back to goog old torques. It feels really contrived and try hard.

Leon R

320 posts

41 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
AJB88 said:
My current one does that, need to take door cards off and seal it properly.
There is a good guide on how to do it which I used recently. If you want me to dig it out let me know.

WJNB

1,967 posts

106 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
Why buy a SEAT or ARMCHAIR or SOFA or whatever?
You will be forever having to justify your choice based on 'value for money' & how boring & suburban is that? Then there will always be the nagging feeling that you should have paid a bit more & got something 'proper' like a Golf or A3.

Augustus Windsock

1,767 posts

100 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
WJNB said:
Why buy a SEAT or ARMCHAIR or SOFA or whatever?
You will be forever having to justify your choice based on 'value for money' & how boring & suburban is that? Then there will always be the nagging feeling that you should have paid a bit more & got something 'proper' like a Golf or A3.
Exactly. Ish. When I got mine after falling out of love with the equivalent era Golf GTi, I took the wheels off to give them a lick of sealant and was presented with the shock absorbers which had prominent Audi badges and part numbers thereon.


Burgerbob

257 posts

22 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
WJNB said:
Why buy a SEAT or ARMCHAIR or SOFA or whatever?
You will be forever having to justify your choice based on 'value for money' & how boring & suburban is that? Then there will always be the nagging feeling that you should have paid a bit more & got something 'proper' like a Golf or A3.
I had a MK2 FR. Apart from a naff dashboard it was a great car.

Didn't want an A3 probably for the exact opposite reason why many people would prefer one. I did look at the golf but couldn't justify the extra expense needed for a car that under the skin was the same. Whilst it does have a better interior I much preferred the looks of the Leon.

If I'd gone for an A3 or golf I would have been forever justifying my choice based on badge snobbery, how boring is that!


Who_Goes_Blue

899 posts

116 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
WJNB said:
Why buy a SEAT or ARMCHAIR or SOFA or whatever?
You will be forever having to justify your choice based on 'value for money' & how boring & suburban is that? Then there will always be the nagging feeling that you should have paid a bit more & got something 'proper' like a Golf or A3.
Only if you're insecure enough to worry what other people think of the car you drive.

Leicester Loyal

1,245 posts

67 months

Monday 26th August
quotequote all
I never liked the Mk2s, but the Mk1s still look brilliant and are easily fast enough.