PH Fleet: SEAT Leon Cupra R

A few years ago I was lucky enough to get to drive the most expensive SEAT in the range and it was a strange but very enjoyable experience. But it was a trip to the dark side at the wheel of a diesel-powered SEAT Leon world touring car. There are FR-branded road equivalents but, though interesting, to my mind a proper hot hatch runs on petrol and to cleanse myself a year with a Leon Cupra R was prescribed.

A year down the line it is time to say goodbye to the bright yellow R and I am a little upset to see it go. With a back catalogue of, and preference for, rear-drive machines I thought the parting would be one of the easiest, but the Cupra has a certain charm that gets under your skin.

Hottest Leon is great value for money
Hottest Leon is great value for money
Lost in translation
It isn't without a few niggles though. The sat-nav system dropped out of school before gaining its geography certification, as our competition winners found on a trip to Geneva earlier this year. Also the boot does have a little width problem compared with its competitors - but you forgive these minor indiscretions when you have 265hp beneath your foot, and twin pipes noisily playing behind you.

Take it down a B-road and you will be accelerating towards the horizon at hooligan speeds in no time. Fling it into an apex and the front is responsive enough to let you place the nose where you want, and on a dry road doesn't wash out under acceleration. It also achieves this with a subtle ride that handles the bumps well through town and is softer than the Focus RS, for which the chassis engineers deserve praise.

Cop-baiting foglights thankfully extinguished
Cop-baiting foglights thankfully extinguished
We fought the law
The colour is a little loud, so it isn't exactly the most inconspicuous car to fly through the countryside. Having a clean licence, I was hoping for another year of trouble-free motoring, but in the final week of Cupra ownership I saw blue lights in the mirror and had to pull over.

The officer approached the window and went through the standard 'is this your car?' spiel before delivering the reason for the chat. I had been caught red-handed driving around with one fog light on through Kingston town centre. Now, the front foglights look is a common - and annoying - enough sight around town among the bass box brigade, but not one adopted by a respectable citizen like myself.

"They are driving lights," I insisted. "They come on when you turn a sharp corner." I was permitted to demonstrate it and "I've never seen that before" surprise was expressed, with a comment that they were a little bright but I was sent on my way with no further action.

Shiny-backed seats an ... acquired taste
Shiny-backed seats an ... acquired taste
Tearful goodbyes
The farewell weekend for the car was, appropriately, the trip to the PistonHeads annual dinner in Gloucestershire, with a final fling across twisty cross country roads. With the sat-nav set to a location possibly near the venue, the car then pointed me to some awesome country lanes. The traction control left on, as it never intrudes, a full tank and empty roads and the car was back in its element - leaving me with a smile on my face and late to the dinner through over (driving) indulgence.

Riggers predicted back in October that the Cupra would be one of those forgotten hothatches. In 10 years' time would people talk of the Cupra R in the same sentence as the Focus RS or classics such as the Golf GTI? I probably don't think so, but then the Spanish manufacturer has done a great job with this car, if not made it excel in one area.

As such it remains a bit of a need-to-know car and, if we keep that information to ourselves, the crowds can follow the predictable choices, leaving the Cupra R as a bit of a bargain for those in the know. 265hp for £25K new is awesome value - give it a year and they're down to the high teens. I say get one!

2011 SEAT Leon Cupra R
Run by: Racing Pete
On fleet since: December 2010
Mileage: 18,373
List price new: £27,235 (inc. £1,350 Technology pack with nav, Bluetooth, parking sensors,etc and £655 for sunroof)
Last month at a glance: Bit of bother from the cops over the corner-sensing driving lights and a final send-off drive to BTaP...


The Leon arrives on the PH Fleet

Pete's SEAT springs an embarrassing leak

To the Geneva show in the Cupra R

Leon Cupra R vs Chris R's C63 AMG

Summer fun in the SEAT

Cupra R: it's no Golf (cart)

Forgotten hot hatches



P.H. O'meter

Join the PH rating wars with your marks out of 10 for the article (Your ratings will be shown in your profile if you have one!)

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Rate this article

Comments (20) Join the discussion on the forum

  • ThomDean 20 Dec 2011

    Thats a very good looking car. I wonder how many sales are lost to badge-snobbery?

  • Cupradan 20 Dec 2011

    I've only got the "watered" down cupra and I still love it to bits. I've never had that with any of the other cars I have owned. Highlight of the year was a journey to the nurburgring. Plans for next year is Revo stage 1. Power from 240hp to 300hp!


  • djfaulkner 20 Dec 2011

    On fleet since: December 2011 - not had it long then?

  • BigTom85 20 Dec 2011

    I like these latest Cupras. The earlier version had a horrible dash, the climate controls in particular were nasty.


    A small detail but it makes all the difference!

    I agree the boot is a bit pants though, and a colleague had a PD140 Leon Sport that was full of rattles by 40k miles.

    I certainly would consider one.

    Edited by BigTom85 on Tuesday 20th December 17:00

  • ThomDean 20 Dec 2011

    I like the perforated leather steering wheel. Gorgeous.

View all comments in the forums Make a comment