2009 Seat Leon Cupra R
Spicy Spanish hot hatch packed with VW Group goodies for less
Just as you can’t call a Polestar a Volvo, or a DS a Citroën, you now can’t call a Cupra a Seat. A clear distinction is being made because there is no room for mundane here. Cupra is all about performance. With the Spanish manufacturer, by way of the all-conquering Volkswagen Group, bound for Australia in 2022, it’s pertinent to look back to where it started. Seat pulled up a seat Down Under from 1995 to 1998. If you tuned in to watch Larry Emdur try to give away the final Showcase each weeknight on The Price is Right, then you might have envied contestants driving away in an Ibiza, Cordoba or Toledo – the only variants that came to Oz. The hottest version was the Ibiza GTI Cupra. It used a 2.0-litre atmo four-pot endowed with 110kW and 180Nm, good enough to propel it to 100km/h in 7.9 seconds. The pin was pulled before the Leon even had a chance to be offered here.
Just before the end of the noughties, and on the back of success on race tracks around the globe, Seat released the Leon Cupra R. Based on the MkV Volkswagen Golf platform, the stove-hot second-generation Leon packed serious heat for the time. The EA113 unit generated 195kW and 350Nm, sending grunt to the front wheels via VW’s XDS system, rather than a mechanical LSD. However, Seat offered it with a sixspeed manual gearbox and it covered the 0-100km/h dash in very respectable 6.2sec.
Aesthetically it isn’t as easy on the eye as the first-generation Leon Cupra. Loud colours and more aggressive body detailing signalled its intent, while some well-placed Cupra badges and metal pedals helped disguise the VW Group origins. The idea was that the Leon was cheaper than its rivals, focusing on the engineering over luxuries and prioritising outright performance over comfort.
Since its separation from Seat brand and into its own entity in 2018, Cupra is now able to attack with an edgier approach. While we sadly missed out on this hardcore Leon, it’s heartening to know that the latest iteration will soon be up for grabs here. As a niche-filler between the front-wheel drive VW Golf GTI and the all-wheel drive Golf R, it makes a lot of sense. Cupra definitely has form so it could very well be the hot hatch to have, if the price is right...
ABOVE The Leon Cupra R version was the first Seat to roll on 19-inch alloys. Cupra stands for ‘Cup Racing’ and the Leon is named after the Spanish city of León
- ENGINE 1984cc l4, DOHC, 16v, turbo
- POWER 195kW @ 6000rpm
- TORQUE 350Nm @ 2500-5000rpm
- WEIGHT 1375kg
- 0-62mph (0-100KM/H) 6.2sec