Inevitably, anything from Seat will find itself compared with its Volkswagen contemporary and so it is with this, the Seat Leon Cupra Mk2, whose closest VW relative is the brilliant Golf GTI Mk5. Both share the same platform and when new were on sale at the same time, although the Leon endured a little longer. They’re each powered by a 2.0-litre engine, albeit a 237bhp TFSI in the Leon and a 197bhp FSI in the Golf.
No prizes for guessing which is the faster, the Leon dispatching 0-62mph in 6.4sec and the Golf 7.4sec. In fact, the Cupra’s strong performance has it reaching for the coat-tails of the Mk5 Golf R32, whose 3.2-litre V6 produces 247bhp. However, in all other respects, that model is very different from the Cupra and examples with reasonable mileage are much more expensive.
So round one to the Leon Cupra, except that, as always when a Golf GTI is involved, things aren’t that simple. In short, the Golf is much better to drive than the Cupra – grippier, spunkier and more involving. It’s also more expensive, with, generally speaking, £5995 buying a 2007 GTI with 100,000 miles but a 2009 Cupra with 70,000. There are exceptions, of course.
For someone looking to buy a used hot hatch, it’s this price advantage and, at least on paper, stronger performance that give the Cupra the edge over the GTI. The Leon is also a good-looking car and comparatively rare, too. Rarer still is the Cupra K1 special edition of 2008, although prices for this model vary hugely. Meanwhile, if you’re into tuning, the Cupra can take some hefty power upgrades. How about a reliable 350bhp from a Revo Stage 2 upgrade? It uses all the standard internals with the addition of an induction kit, an upgraded catalytic converter and intercooler, and associated software. It sounds fun, but here we’re interested in standard Cupras and why not, since a factory-spec model is still an entertaining hot hatch.
It was launched in 2006 and sits above its Leon FR sibling hatch. The FR uses the same 197bhp 2.0 FSI engine as the Golf GTI and is, arguably, the VW’s closer rival. It’s better value than both cars but the Cupra’s extra oomph is that bit more appealing. Standard kit on the Cupra includes 18in alloy wheels, black mirrors, grippy sports seats and white-faced dials. Under the car, the steering knuckles and rear wishbone pressings are alloy rather than steel, saving 7.5kg in unsprung weight.