Why would a car company say that a car is slower than it actually is?
That’s the question that puzzled me for the entire week I drove the brilliant new Seat Leon Cupra 290.
Obviously, with 290hp under the bonnet of what is basically a VW Golf with a different name you’d expect the Cupra to be quick, but I wasn’t expecting the massive blast of power that hit me when I first drove it.
Let’s be honest, here’s a car that’s built for nutters, sorry speed enthusiasts, who’ll want to floor it at the first opportunity they get.
And that’s exactly what I did … in your interests, you understand. I’m sure you do.
It was like walking into a glass door that’s got no labels on it, not even a pull or push sign. And if you’re wondering where I got that parallel from, I got it from reality, because I’ve done it twice, both times at different petrol stations.
The resulting smack in the face comes as quite a shock, because you’re not expecting it.
That was how the Leon Cupra 290 felt.
It’s a blistering, relentless, surge of power that nails you deep into the driver’s seat and doesn’t give up until you take your foot off the throttle – before you drive over the top of an imaginary cliff of doom you feel you’re heading towards.
Believe me, I was quite amazed when I got out of the car. I’ve driven quicker, like the shattering Lamborghini Huracan and Audi R8 V10 plus, but, of course, I got what I was expecting. This time I was totally unready.
I wasn’t ready, either, for the sudden attack of torque steer that came with it, but that made it a car to be dealt with, rather than one that smoothly delivered its shock.
In a way, I enjoyed that, along with handling that would be just as at home on a track as on winding roads.
Pleasantly electrocuted, I dashed indoors to look at the spec list Seat sent to me along with the Cupra 290. What was its 0-62mph time going to be? 5.1s? 5.0s? Maybe even 4.9? I looked at the figure and couldn’t believe it.
The official 0-62 time of this lightning road rocket was stated as exactly six seconds. It couldn’t be? 6.0s? That’s around the same as an old Subaru Impreza, Porsche Boxster or Nissan 350Z. I was fuming, so I rang Seat to tell them there was something wrong with their spec sheet.
No, they told me. That’s the correct figure, so seething with anger and feeling more than a little humiliated I decided to check it myself.
Now at this stage I have to tell you that the car I was testing was a top spec Lux version with a seven speed auto box so you can’t build up the revs then suddenly let out the clutch. No, you have to sit there quietly before you bury the throttle.
I tried that quite a few times and twice achieved 5.3 and 5.4s figures, so it’s not slow. But 6.0s. Sorry, I still don’t believe it, but I can’t explain the logic for the official time either.
Is there anything else you need to know? Obviously not if you’re thinking of buying a Cupra because now you know all you want.
Or is there? After all you can’t drive around all the time trying to break the sound barrier. There are occasions when you’ll want to relax, like when you’re following a police car.
These are the moments when you’ll be able to decide which of its four different dashboard screens you like best, how near to the car in front its adaptive cruise control will let you drive, how its black, white stitched, leather seats are wonderfully comfy and maybe even spot that similar matching trim runs along the length of all four doors.
You could even take pleasure in the fact that its dashboard and doors have soft-touch finishes, that its circular switches have dimpled sides so they’re nicer to grip, or the fact that its got big, roomy, door pockets.
You could, of course, find yourself with passengers, so you’ll be pleased to learn that they don’t just have to be children.
There’s easily enough room in the back of the Leon for adults, but I wouldn’t want to end up sitting in the middle, where I’d have to straddle my legs across its giant eight inch high, six inch wide transmission tunnel.
If you take a load of junk to the tip there’s more room in the back, too. The boot is a usable 80cms (32in) deep, making it big enough for large cases or a mammoth shopping trip, while folding the rear seat backs down leaves a 150cm (five feet) space which allowed me to put a bicycle in it once I’d removed its front wheel.
Opening the boot floor to find a space saver spare tyre was also pleasing, because it showed that the Leon Cupra 290 isn’t just about speed and handling, it’s also about practicality and day to day issues.
You’ve probably guessed, by now, that I liked the Leon Cupra. No I didn’t, I loved it.
Trouble was, I wouldn’t want a family sports car wearing a badge of tradition that took as long as 6.0s to hit 60mph.
Luckily, I didn’t get that.
Seat Leon Cupra 5dr 290 Lux.
REAR MIRROR MONSTER: Chunky and swept back with what looks like a four piece radiator grille but turns out to be three piece on close inspection. Too obviously practical to be pretty.
BACKSIDE BEAUTY: Square sided rear end is protected by a small but clever sticky-out bumper while neat four piece lights cut into the tailgate from the sides. Far from a beauty but definitely sensible and no nonsense.
PLAYTIME PLEASER: Touch screen sat nav, adaptive cruise control with speed limiter, twin zone climate control, rear parking sensors, trip computer, heated leather front seats, keyless entry and start, heated folding door mirrors, heated washer jets, heated folding door mirrors, DAB stereo with CD player, Bluetooth, four USB points, two SD card slots, Mirror Link, Apple Car Play and Android Auto.
NAUGHTY NIGGLES: Lifting shopping over a 28cm (11in) ledge to put it in the boot.
TASTY TOUCHES: Sturdy shopping bag hooks on each side of the boot are the requisite 19 inches above the floor. Map pockets on the backs of both front seats are big enough for wine bottles.
FAST OR LAST: Ridiculously quick.
WONGA WONDA: Phenomenal standard spec list makes it so much more than a mere sports car.
WOULD CHANTELLE LIKE IT? Definitely. It’s Chantelle’s kind of car.
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