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Super Cupra Is So Hot, It Sizzles

Jan 31, 2008
SEAT is fast becoming a favorite on British roads as more and more customers warm to Spanish flair linked to Volkswagen excellence.

It's certainly a brand on the ascent, with an impressive 15 per cent sales increase last year.

And the Leon, in particular, had a fantastic 2006 with sales up by an impressive 42 per cent.

Nothing has boosted its image more than the Leon's flagship Cupra - the hot hatch that has captured the imagination of a generation of thrill-seekers but is still recognised as a desirable and practical day-to-day family car.

Now the new Leon Cupra has burst onto the scene and become SEAT's most powerful production model to date.

The rakish and sporty Cupra boasts fantastic looks, with great road presence, and its performance figures are eye-watering.

The five-door hatchback's raw figures give a revealing glimpse of the car's awesome power potential, thanks to a 2.0-litre T FSI turbocharged petrol engine which really does pack a punch - standstill to 62mph in a blistering 6.2 seconds and a top speed of 153mph should be fast enough for even the most demanding enthusiast driver.

Yet SEAT's most potent model can still return around 34mpg on the combined cycle.

The car is also orally exciting, with a low-down menacing burble at low speed that rises to an urgent rasp when it nears the red line.

Like many of today's best engines, the Cupra's power comes through so smoothly and effectively and the car never feels flustered, however much horsepower is flooding through.

The driver is assured of total involvement in all the action, with tight steering, excellent handling and razor-sharp control and feedback, linked to agile handling.

The driving experience is boosted by the Cupra's slick, fast and wristy six-speed gearbox and the Cupra tackles corners with relish, boasting confidence-inspiring grip and control.

Although the ride is firm to hard, and knobbly over bad surfaces, generally the car is equally at home as an everyday workhorse as an exciting weekend racer.

The deeply raked front screen is visually quite alarming from the inside until you get used to it and there is a little blocked vision from the centre B-pillar when glancing over the right shoulder when looking to overtake.

But the Cupra has a generous amount of inside space, bags of rear legroom and a generally airy feel.

SEATs are rightly famed for their huge boot space, and the Cupra is no exception. It's extra deep, with unobstructed full width. Rear seat backs fold down to form an almost flat platform, creating a really useful load area if you really need to fill up, though they don't fully tumble.

Some aspects of the car verge on the quirky, adding to its mystique. I can remember few other cars I have driven that have crab-action wipers that park vertically at either side of the windscreen. And the massive front pillars sweep back at an amazing angle.

A word of praise for the totally simplified ergonomics - this is a car that's easy to find your way around quickly and main dial displays offer clear, precise readout.

I still can't quite understand why the handbrake is sited over the other side of the centre console slightly too far away and my only minor criticism of the car is that the rear wiper only clears the centre of the rear window, leaving the sides untouched.

But at under 20,000, the Leon Cupra is one of the most strikingly original, dynamic and satisfying hot hatchbacks around.

Don't take my word for it - ask all the drivers queuing up to buy it.


# Factfile:

# SEAT Leon Cupra, 19,995.

# Most powerful SEAT production car to date.

# 240PS from turbocharged 2.0-litre T FSI engine, which is exclusive to SEAT, featuring direct injection and 16 valves.

# Similar gearbox to Leon FR but with slightly modified ratios and reinforced to cope with higher torque output.

# 18-inch alloys, aggressive front air intakes with black lower lip, black mirror housings, glossy back B- and C-pillars, trademark oval exhaust pipe, CUPRA badge on bootlid, red painted brake calipers.

# Bucket-style front sports seats, metal-covered pedals, Cupra-branded instrument cluster, steering wheel and gearknob.

# Lowered suspension set-up, lighter front axle through use of aluminium.
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