SEAT Leon Cupra : Suspicious suspension

  • Noises from Leon's firm suspension leave our man wondering if Cupra is broken
  • Adaptive chassis dynamics help, but can't mask crashy demeanour when cold
  • Almost all is forgiven when unleasing its 276bhp and 350Nm of torque though

Cars are not living things. People that refer to them otherwise, like a dear ex-girlfriend that got away, or worse still bestow them with names like Doris, Betty or even Bryan irk me. Trust me, each and every car on our roads is a mechanical object, with no feelings to hurt.

That view doesn’t preclude me having a degree of mechanical sympathy though. Waiting for fluids to warm up, letting turbochargers cool down and listening out for any untoward noises is a vital part of a road testers job, especially when driving high-powered machinery.

Just ask Mark Hales about his Ferrari lawsuit.

SEAT Leon Cupra 280

Which is why within just a few hundred yards of borrowing Gareth’s long term Leon Cupra, I was physically recoiling at the goings on underneath me. I’d barely turned right out of the office car parking space when the noises from the suspension had convinced something had broken, and that another chariot for the weekend was required.

By the first speedhump I'd parked up and inspected the undercarriage sure to find slivers of spring or damaged damper littering the Bauer Media block paving. Nothing.  

Knowing the nineteen-inch alloy wheels could be contributing to the noise, shocks and general unrest fed into the cabin I even checked for a flat; no hissing, no bulging rubber and no warnings on the dash. It seems all the banging, rattling and general uncomfortableness emanating from the suspension is normal.

SEAT Leon Cupra wheels

But the Cupra has adaptive dampers, so before setting off again I checked to see what Drive Mode it was sat in, expecting Gareth to have tuned it to Cupra mode, with every parameter turned up to eleven. He hadn't - it was in Comfort. 

A nomenclature that couldn’t be further from the truth.

SEAT Leon Cupra comfort

Within a few miles I’m on the A1 motorway, and things seem to be smoothing out. In fact, compared to the banging and crashing hot hatch of the car park, the Cupra feels like it’s morphed into subtly softer and much more supple.

And then, BANG. The front axle has ‘dealt’ with an expansion joint and fed through each and every last bit of possible suspension movement into the cabin. To be fair, it’s not quite as bad as it was minutes before, almost like the dampers need time to ‘warm up’, but it’s still noticable. And it remains noticeable for the remaining 54 miles of my journey.

But for the last 6 miles of that commute, the car transforms. The superb traction offered by the Cupra differential, so far undiscovered and untested on the first 51 miles, combines with the car’s 276bhp and 350Nm of torque to pull its way out of corners and into sharper ones, all while gaining speed. It really is incredible just how fast this rather un-assuming looking hatchback can cover ground.

SEAT Leon Cupra side

Even the DSG gearbox – for which we’d probably prefer a manual in most instances – makes sense when slicing between switchbacks, the manual gearshift paddles nestled neatly behind the steering wheel. Switching into one of the racier Driving Modes further increases the performance and appeal of the Cupra’s abilities.

Parked on the drive at home, engine, brakes and exhaust ticking as they cool, LED lights glinting back at me after I’ve locked the car, I can’t help but think I’ve been won over by the Cupra. As a hot hatch, driven at near nine tenths (ten tenths would be license-losing in this car) it excels, and there are few rivals quite as capable. I’m smitten.

Until I set off on my 57, mostly motorway, mile commute on Monday morning that is.


Mileage: 5,872                        Economy: 24.2mpg