Shed(s) of the Week: SEAT Leon Cupra/BMW 325i

As anyone who has seen Mrs Shed in the not inconsiderable flesh will confirm, there's never much spare food flying around in the Shed household. When things get really bad, Shed has to resort to turning his keyboard upside down.

Yes, that really would appear to be gaffer tape
Yes, that really would appear to be gaffer tape
One of the side benefits of the Lenovo lunch is that it can free up keys that may have been jammed for a while. This can result in surprising forays into the wondrous world of the internet.

While looking for an obscure Leon Russell album the other day, Shed found himself looking at this rather spiffy SEAT Leon 20vT Cupra in black with black leather. That was slightly annoying, but he bookmarked it anyway as a possible Shed of the Week.

Shed's next bit of Googleage, for reasons as yet unknown, was for sites relating to 'Black Magic Woman'. Again to his frustration he found himself shunted into the PH classifieds, and in particular to this ad for a very clean-looking BMW 325i.

Shed took this double snafu as a sign to abandon his immediate plans and set off on an alternative course: a Twin Shed special.

Remember having six cylinders and cloth?
Remember having six cylinders and cloth?
The E46 saloon and the Mk1 Leon Cupra may look about as related as chalk and cheese but they had similar aims when new, namely to offer a bit of naughtiness to the family-saddled motorist.

As all bright PHers know, the Leon was based on the Mk4 Golf, which was launched in 1997 and went on sale in 1998 - the same year that the BMW E46 and the first-gen Leon arrived. The major differences between the silky German and the Spanish temptress are the driven wheels - rears on the BMW, fronts on the SEAT - and the method by which their power was generated - small capacity four-cylinder turbo in the SEAT, bigger displacement big-suck six in the BM.

From that point on the similarities begin to add up. SEAT power and 0-60 time: 180hp and 7.7sec. BMW power and 0-60 time: 189hp and 7.3sec. Very little in it on economy, with mpg figures in the low 30s. Cost in 2017: around £1,200 for these manual-gearboxed specimens (six-speed in the SEAT, five-speed in the E46) showing pretty much identical mileages and pretty much the same degree of care in ownership.

SEAT's turbo lump prime for tuning if you wish
SEAT's turbo lump prime for tuning if you wish
The BMW has had just two custodians, and its MoT history is about as spangly as it gets, with straight passes every year bar one in 2009 when a front lower wishbone bush showed some signs of deterioration. There have been no advisories since. In fact, in the car's entire 12-year history visible on the MoT site there's only been one other warning, for a slightly corroded rear brake pipe in 2014. That was immediately fettled, apparently, as it hasn't popped its crusty little head up since. The overall picture you get is of a car that's had whatever preventative maintenance was required to keep it as close to optimal as possible.

The SEAT has had three owners, the current one for more than 10 years. He's put a lot of time and money into it too. The MoT history is more eventful than the BMW's, with a couple of reds, but most of it is for consumables - i.e. suspension, tyres, brakes and the like, badges of honour really for an enthusiast-owned Cupra.

There's no mention of damp or rusty floors, a built-in Leon problem resulting from the nasty foam door seals that were used instead of proper silicone ones. That non-opening rear door is another classic Leon trait. It failed its April MoT on that, got mended for the pass, but by the sounds of it isn't done bothering people yet. If the coil packs haven't failed on this car at some point, that will be some sort of miracle. Clutches tend to conk out after 80K miles or so, along with top mounts.

One for the bad parking thread...
One for the bad parking thread...
E46s didn't escape the spectre of rust either. The owner is non-specific about the areas needing attention but you assume that one or more of these is involved: boot handle/number plate light, lower bootlid edge, leading bonnet edge, and all the arches. E46 suspension generally becomes a weakness over time. Leaks of oil, coolant and power steering fluid are all common. So are sensor and air-con 'hedgehog' resistor failures.

Both these cars have long MoTs and a very distinct appeal of their own. Which one would you pick?

Here are the ads:

BMW 325i SE Manual
4 Door Saloon, Registered 2001, Metallic Green Exterior, Light Grey cloth Interior, 1 year's MOT, Full Service History, £1,200 ono.

Discs, Brakes and Suspension recently refurbished and fully MOT'd until August 2018, A/C, Cruise Control, BMW Business Radio plus CD multi-changer, Fitted carpet mats and many extras. Two owners since new. Strong V6 engine. Minor blemishes on bodywork, which can easily be rectified, but otherwise very nice, clean and reliable car.

2003 SEAT Leon Cupra
I have owned this car for over 10 years and I have serviced it and maintained it every year without fail.

1.8 Turbo
6 gears manual 
Black leather electric seats
Metallic black paintwork
CD mulitchanger / radio
130k miles (car in use so may go up slightly)
All tyres have lots of life (Hankooks on rear only done 2000 miles)
17 inch 5 spoke original alloys
Genuine car with lots and lots of receipts for its whole life. No current warning Lights.
Service book full of stamps for every year. Last serviced and MOT was May 2017
Cam belt kit and water pump last replaced @115,000 miles in 2014
Front breaks replaced 2015
New Battery Feb 2017 with 2 year guarantee.
Last service @ 128k miles,  May 2017 (oil, filters)

The honest points:
1) Usual age related chips and minor 
scratches. No significant bodywork damage at all.
Rear nearside door can be temperamental to open.
3) Air con needs re-gassing.
4) MOT may 18






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Comments (71) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Uncle John 01 Sep 2017

    Ahh, the classic "Air con needs a re-gas" and "Front Breaks" and the BMW ad mentions a "Strong V6" mmmmmmm........

  • MrGeoff 01 Sep 2017

    "Strong V6", new one on me, must be a rare model then, get it bought!

  • daemon 01 Sep 2017

    Uncle John said:
    Ahh, the classic "Air con needs a re-gas" and "Front Breaks" and the BMW ad mentions a "Strong V6" mmmmmmm........
    Weirdly its listed correctly as a straight six on the gumtree advert

  • Filibuster 01 Sep 2017

    daemon said:
    Weirdly its listed correctly as a straight six on the gumtree advert
    To be pedantic, only listed as "6 cylinder engine", not specified whether inline, or "V", or Boxer, or Flat.

  • Gez79 01 Sep 2017

    I had a 2002 cupra for over 4 years. Great car and torquey engine. My clutch was still going strong when I sold it with over 100k on it too.

    But it did suffer with leaky doors which are such a pain in the ass to fix and dry out. Had to replace all 4 coils too.

    Last I checked it was still on the road(early 2002 model) .

    The bmw looks great value but the colour and boring SE spec don't really do it for me.

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