Life in the hot SEAT: PH Blog


Apologies to anyone bearing a grudge against us talking about the faster vehicles built by that entity referred to by The Internet as VAG Group. Despite the fact no organisation of that name actually exists. I'd share an exasperated explanation of this once sent (very) off the record by a representative of one of the brands therein but modesty prevents me; I'll leave how that went to your imagination.

Quick and confidence inspiring in a deluge
Quick and confidence inspiring in a deluge
Anyway. MQB is a real thing and the platform underpinning a significant proportion of the hot hatches on sale right now, stretching from the £24,460 Skoda Octavia vRS hatch to the (now discontinued) £40K Audi RS3. Last Friday we very much enjoyed some track time in (for now) the hottest, most exciting version yet spat out by the parts bin randomiser and the one (currently) fastest around the 'ring - the Golf GTI Clubsport S. More - a lot more - on this shortly, with apologies to the VAG haters.

Also in attendance was a SEAT Leon ST Cupra 290 we booked in to compare with James's Skoda Octavia vRS230. And for all the excitement around that fancy limited production Golf, this was possibly the car that impressed everyone the most.

I've just handed it back and can understand why they enjoyed it so much. In my hands and in the space of three consecutive days it went from being among the fastest, most confidence inspiring cars around a sodden Donington National to weekend tip run errands and then a 230-mile motorway schlep. In all three activities it impressed above and beyond expectation. Off the back of this I'd quite happily walk into a SEAT dealership right now and buy one. More realistically if and when I come to replace the Forester one of these would be top of the list and most definitely marked out as one to return to down the line.

Looks pretty sharp too
Looks pretty sharp too
It's funny - since the Cupra 280 came out I've spent plenty of time in various iterations, including the Ultimate Sub8 No Really This Is The One Honest Guv 'ring record spec car. I've always liked them but never really been bowled over. Maybe because in hatch form there are more exciting cars I'd have first - Megane or Civic perhaps - or the pull of heritage/brand snobbery would see me in a Golf GTI Performance if it had to be an MQB car.

Low expectation and over delivery is always a pleasing thing to encounter though and, surrounded by the supposed best of its breed, at Donington the Leon was never less than impressive. OK, it's not exactly playful. But in wet conditions its neutrality into corners and VAQ locking 'diff' enhanced traction out of them made it a hugely effective tool. And it's fast. Really, really fast. Even the fussy wheels looked good with a layer of brake dust on them.

The cabin's nothing to write home about but it all works effectively. In this and the rougher edges of the power delivery and ride there's a pleasing rawness about the SEAT those managing the brand hierarchy in Wolfsburg would never permit in a related product with a VW or Audi badge on the nose.

And it does plenty more besides!
And it does plenty more besides!
Back on the road it feels hatchback compact in the cut and thrust of town driving and supermarket car parks but the boot is big enough for baby and bike clobber. My regular long distance commute combines long and boring sections of motorways interspersed with A-roads demanding on-demand overtaking firepower. The Cupra flitted between refined and spirited in an instant while maintaining a mid-30s overall average mpg. Best SEAT outside the house? As a ticks-all-the-boxes hot estate it'd do me fine, ta. And if anyone's speccing a manual ST Black with the Brembo-braked Performance Pack, give me a shout in a couple of years time.

Dan

Photos: Sim Mainey

Thanks: Bookatrack

Comments (26) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Ryvita 23 Aug 2016

    I believe Dale Lomas (he of Bridge To Gantry) bought one of these with his own money. Can be few higher recommendations surely?

  • geeks 23 Aug 2016

    I drive past one of these everyday on my commute and realy like the styling, seems they go as well as they look, nice to know when the A4 is up for replacement smile

  • Dan Trent 23 Aug 2016

    Ryvita said:
    I believe Dale Lomas (he of Bridge To Gantry) bought one of these with his own money. Can be few higher recommendations surely?
    He has and he's written about it on PH too!

    Dan

  • ORD 23 Aug 2016

    The engine noise is depressing enough to melt the ice caps.

  • dinkel 23 Aug 2016

    Even if this has a lesser engine I'd opt for one. Especially in white.

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