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Shed of the Week: SEAT Leon Cupra

Before it caught SUV fever, the Leon was the Cupra lynchpin. And a former garage warmer for Shed

By Tony Middlehurst / Friday, March 01, 2019

Imagine this. Someone you know and trust comes up to you and tells you that he's got a 220hp car that you can have for £1000 cash, today. He tells you it's a modern hatch with an MOT and no major issues. The only thing is, he won't tell you what it is until you've bought it. It's a dare, kind of.

Would you take it on? If you did, and the car turned out to be today's Shed of the Week, would you feel like you'd had a result? Shed would. He ran a new gen-one 207hp Cupra R for a while and absolutely loved it. It was an easy-driving, everyman sort of motor that was as happy trundling around town as it was bashing hard along an open A-road. The interior was a bit drab, but Shed liked its honest, no-nonsense lack of frippery and its willingness to get on with the job.

The front splitter had an ongoing and noisy relationship with speed bumps, but if you ignored that (as Shed did - it wasn't his car) the Leon's unique deadlifter body hunched over chunky gunmetal alloys looked great, especially in red. And even with 207hp - Seat hoisted it to 221hp a year later - it never felt remotely short of puff.

Our Shed is a 20V T Cupra and not an R, though you'd be forgiven for thinking it was, because not only does it have the very handsome R-style wheels, it's been remapped from the original factory figure of 177hp to something nearer to the second-gen R's 221hp output. Everything else being equal, that should give it a six-second 0-60 time.

Is everything else equal, though? Well, although money has been spent on the motive power there's no mention of any chassis work. It failed the last MOT in August on worn front suspension components (nearside front track rod end ball joint and offside front bushes) and the advisories included a spongy brake pedal plus a nail in the nearside rear tyre, so the next owner might want to have a gander at the underside and maybe chuck a few bob at the running gear to make it even more like a real R, or better.

While he or she is under there, they might notice the 'some surface corrosion' that was scribbled into the advisories box by the tester. In this context 'some' is much better than 'a lot', and 'surface' is a whole lot better than 'rotten as a pear'. It's a shame MOT testers aren't allowed to use flowery language like that. Who wouldn't love to see phrases like 'you're having a laugh', 'I wouldn't touch it with yours', or 'call that a CV gaiter preventing the ingress of dirt?' in the Fail section.

The engine belts on this car are about 20k miles old and presumably came with a metal-impeller water pump, so you should be good in that department for another 30k miles/2 years at least. The remap work was carried out by Scunthorpe motorsport outfit Richtoy, who have got themselves a very handy reputation for quality tuning work and friendly service. The vendor's brave offer of test drives certainly suggests he has faith in the car's integrity.

He shouldn't be held accountable for any of the flawed componentry that blighted not just these Leons but also the Mk 4 Golfs and Audi A3s to which they were closely related, eg MAF sensors, top mounts, throttle bodies and of course coil packs. If the turbo doesn't seem to be delivering top beef it could well be down to the coils.

Potential problems exclusive to the Leon would include non-opening back doors, though as a powerfully built PH director you will naturally be able to smash those in without any trouble whatsoever. In fact a well-aimed Fonzie-style rap on the handle will resolve this one if your doors are sticking as the (commonly experienced) result of a loose cable.

The vendor owns up to a busted passenger window regulator, again hardly unusual for these cars. Repair kits are on Amazon for £8.51 including free delivery, although they are side-sensitive so make sure you get the right one. After that it's simply labour time, which takes between 6m 44 seconds and 12m 31 seconds, depending on which YouTube video you're looking at.

Performance-spec Leon clutches have a habit of quitting at around 80k miles. Looking at the 136k mileage on this car, it's unlikely to be on its original one. If the first clutch lasted for more than its 80k expectation then it's all gravy.

You're unlikely to see a genuine R in this £1500 or less column, so a pretty decent impersonation of a gen-two R for £1150 or less seems like a nifty bet.

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