From £25,495
Cupra gets black belt

Our Verdict

Seat Leon Cupra

New hot hatch promises to outgun its rivals, including the Volkswagen Golf GTI

20 January 2004

We’ve seen the car before; used the engine in a Golf, but that doesn’t mean the Leon TDi Cupra should be dismissed as just another VW parts-bin special. Performance Leons have always been decent cars with a wide spread of talent. And it would be churlish to dismiss a hatch that combines 134mph and 52mpg with a spec list (climate control, six-disc CD player and four airbags) that makes the £16,015 price seem a bargain.

For its hottest diesel Seat has taken VW’s venerable 1.9 turbodiesel in its fruitiest form. That means 148bhp and 236lb ft. The 150 PD lump suffers from more turbo lag than the 130 PD unit and consequently its responses around town can feel lethargic.

However, once on the open road, it’s never a problem and you’ll really appreciate the extra grunt. This is a diesel engine that can be driven almost as if it’s a petrol, letting you hang on to gears without the feeling of slowing down once the rev counter needle approaches four. Seat claims 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds, but that doesn’t really tell you the whole story: in any gear it feels effortlessly powerful.

Leons have always had the ability to turn underpinnings that in a (Mk4) Golf seem dull and lifeless, into an engaging car with genuine cross-country ability. Thankfully, the extra weight of the diesel engine doesn’t upset this version, either. It’s firm riding without ever jarring and grip and body control are both good. The steering, a real VW bugbear, has reassuring weight around the straight-ahead and reasonable feel once on lock.

The Cupra PD concocts a familiarly appealing formula: fast, frugal fun.

Adam Towler

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