Shed of the Week: SEAT Leon Cupra

In his job, Shed spends a lot of time looking at online MOT histories. Well, it keeps him off the streets and it stops him looking at much worse online stuff, such as the Donald Trump thread on PH. Plus, MOT histories can tell a story that, with a little imagination, can be every bit as gripping as the sort you might find in your actual paid-for book.

There is a lot of boring stuff there though. Case in point being the odd lingo used to describe upcoming problems, or advisories as they are more popularly known. After poring over possibly thousands of these histories, one phrase has become a sort of earworm for Shed, or eyeworm if you're being pedantic, and it is this: 'constant velocity joint gaiter deteriorated, but preventing the ingress of dirt'. Shed would be willing to bet most of next year's pension on this being the most frequently bashed-in code on the typical MOT tester's oil-caked keyboard.

According to the MOT advisories, the CV gaiters on this week's Leon Cupra Shed have been cheerily preventing dirt ingress, despite their deteriorated state, for at least the last three years. This makes you wonder about (a) the definition of deterioration; (b) the mysterious material these gaiters are made from, and their possible suitability for trousering and other tailoring applications; and (c) the record length of time for ignoring MOT advisories. Surprised there isn't some sort of statute of limitations on them; you know, three ignores and it's a fail, something like that. Not that we want to give the authorities any ideas, so answers on a postcard (if they still exist) to someone else please.

Right, back to the Leon. As any fuel kno, this model of Leon was basically a Mk4 Golf with a different coat on. It was launched in 1997 and, following the arrival of no objections, went on sale in 1998.

The 210hp Leon Cupra R is a great car. It finished 7th in Autocar's 2010 'best hot hatch of all time' reader poll. Unfortunately, Rs don't pop up in SOTW's sub-£1,500 bracket, but the 180hp 20V does a pretty decent impersonation. Tipping the scales at 1300kg or so, it's a practical 140mph front-drive five-seater with a nice big boot, 40mpg on a cruise, and very acceptable handling. Only the braking is on the edge of not good enough if you're planning on giving it the berries everywhere.

This one has lots of nice mats in it, which if you were cynical might get you mulling over the potential state of the Leon's floors, as they are known for getting damp and/or rusty. Put that down to the unusual choice of Haribo as a material for the door seals.

On your way to lifting up the mats, you'll need to open the back doors. Sounds easy, but might not be, as malfunctioning doors are another notorious Leon foible. Sometimes it's a loose cable behind the door card: sometimes you can get in by giving the handle a sharp community-approved whack with a rolled-up newspaper, furled umbrella or good old-fashioned flat of the hand.

If the turbo seems a bit down on pressure, it could well be that the coil packs are on the way out. Many of the packs fitted as original equipment on Leons and Golfs of this era wouldn't have passed muster on a pedal car, let alone one powered by an engine.

Clutches tend to wilt after 80k miles or so, and the one on this car has lived up to that billing almost perfectly by expiring (and being replaced) at 84k. The four-year/60k replacement cycle cambelt is a motor-busting trap lying in wait for the unwary, so again it's good to see that our Shed received a new one just 10,000 miles ago, especially as this can be a slightly longer/more expensive job on the 1.8 20-valvers.

Mass air flow sensors and throttle bodies get dirty and the suspension top mounts can fail. Water enters in the area of the rear lamps and door bottoms. If the rear washer doesn't seem to be working but there's a funny damp smell in the air it means the bloomin' pipe has come off again. That's an annoyance familiar to owners of Mk4 Golfs as well as Leons.

In a joyous SpaceX kinda mood, what with Cupra about to separate itself from the main SEAT launch vehicle and shoot off into orbit as its own brand, maybe the values of old Cupras will go up. Well, maybe not. But you can always hope. In the meantime, just park your elbow on the Leon's door ledge and hum a bit of Bowie.

Here's the ad.

Family friendly hot-hatch.
Golf GTi Mk 4's better looking Spanish cousin.
Better performance, handling, boot space and looks than GTi.
FSH, 104k miles, in regular use, Mot to Aug, no advisories, full cambelt and water pump replaced @ 94k, Full clutch @ 84k, No mods.
Drives well and looks great. Interior clean, floor mats, tailored boot protector mat.
Alpine head unit, amplifier and sub-woofer in boot. Upgraded speakers.
A/C climate control, remote central locking.
Minor age-related marks, no rust.
Good Dunlop Sport Maxx tyres all-round.



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Comments (69) Join the discussion on the forum

  • 2 GKC 09 Feb 2018

    Nothing ruins a dashboard like an after market stereo

    I'll pass on this one

  • alorotom 09 Feb 2018

    Except seat of this vintage have shockingly bland interiors!

    These just scream council to me ... normally seen with tinted lights, dented bodies, crappy ‘zorst

    Not a fan I have to admit

  • Nickp82 09 Feb 2018

    alorotom said:
    Except seat of this vintage have shockingly bland interiors!

    These just scream council to me ... tinted lights, dented bodies, crappy ‘zorst

    Not a fan I have to admit
    The incorrect alloys, unpainted splitter, weird chrome grill bits and aftermarket stereo don't help this one. A nice standard one would make a good buy though, from what I remember they drive well and feel brisk when pushing on.

  • SlowV6 09 Feb 2018

    Is that definitely a real Cupra and not a homemade one? It has wrong wheels (from the facelift) chrome bits on the grill, missing boot badges and the DVLA site isn't even sure!

    I do like these and loved ours years ago but would pass on this one. We never saw anywhere near 40mpg on a run in ours but that's because it just wanted to you to drive it like you had stole it everywhere.

    Just happened to be looking at AT for the next model Cupra last night. 237BHP....

  • Blackpuddin 09 Feb 2018

    Damn these people for not maintaining their cheap everyday motors in totally original condition! smile

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