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SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1: Buying guide and review (1998-2005)

SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1: Buying guide and review (1998-2005) Classic and Performance Car
SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1 SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1 SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1 SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1 SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1 SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1
The SEAT Leon Cupra was a bit of an own goal for the Volkswagen group. Based on the Golf Mk4 platform, the Leon was targeted at a more youthful market and thus featured sportier styling along with a slightly less sumptuously clad interior. It slotted in below the Golf range pricewise, but in terms of driver enjoyment it was a clear winner.
 
Sharing the GTI’s running gear, the Cupra added a level of engagement that was sorely lacking in the Golf and in the final few years of production, Cupra R versions could be had with a slightly detuned Audi S3 motor, giving it serious performance bargain status – especially today.
 

Which Leon to buy?

 
The Cupra was introduced in 1998, featuring the same 180bhp 1.8 20 valve turbo engine as the Golf GTI. Performance was slightly better thanks to slightly lower weight, and handling that was far more engaging too. Drive was to the front wheels through a six-speed manual transmission, and the interior was derived from the A3 – which is no bad thing. 
 
The Cupra R arrived in 2002, sporting 207bhp and uprated Brembo brakes, improved suspension settings and an even quicker steering rack. It was updated in 2003 with the motor from the S3 (slightly detuned to 222bhp) and has become the most desirable of all the Cupra variants. To differentiate between the two models, check for an AMK engine plate on earlier cars or BAM for the 222bhp version. The standard Cupra retained the same engine throughout and was renamed the FR in late 2004.
 
Standard specifications may not have been as high as in the Golf Mk4, but they were generous nonetheless and in the range-topping Cupra models air conditioning, electric windows, traction control and sports seats were all standard fitment. Cupra R models got an oval tailpipe, those Brembo calipers and climate control.
 
Some special versions such as the left-hand drive only four-wheel drive VR6 engined Cupras never made it to our market but in truth the torquey 1.8-litre turbo mills provide at least as much straight line pace and is a lot easier to modify.
 
Many cars will have been remapped to liberate some extra horses from under the bonnet and as long as the work has been done professionally – and not to extremes – do not be put off by a few mild upgrades. Cars sporting uprated turbos, pistons and suspensions should be approached with a bit more caution however, the extra strain on the internals can lead to serious bills down the line.
 

Performance and specs

 
2001 SEAT Leon Cupra R
Engine 1781cc 20 valve DOHC, in-line four-cylinder
Power 207bhp @ 5800rpm 
Torque 199lb ft @ 2100rpm
Top speed 147mph 
0-60mph 6.9 seconds 
Fuel consumption 32mpg 
Gearbox Six-speed manual
 

Dimensions and weight

 
Wheelbase 2513mm
Length 4184mm
Width 1742mm
Height 1457mm
Weight 1350kg
 

Common problems

 
• Parts and spares are well catered for, and there are a number of specialists who have in-depth knowledge of Cupra models. As it’s based on the Mk4 Golf, much of the running gear is interchangeable with other cars.

• Cambelt changes should be carried out every 60,000miles as snapped belts may mean an engine rebuild. Tensioners and dampers should also be renewed at this stage.
 
• Gearboxes are strong and generally only play up if too much boost is channelled through them. 
 
• Water pumps can fail which can lead to warped heads and in extreme cases seized pistons, best to get these replaced with the cambelt to avoid issues.
 
• Turbos last well past 90,000miles if well cared for, but aggressive remapping, hard driving without allowing for a warming up and cooling down periods, as well as infrequent oil changes can all drastically shorten its lifespan.
 
• Coil packs, especially on earlier cars tend to fail rather frequently. A common fault across the VAG range, the newer cars are slightly better in this regard. Spark plugs should be done at least every 40,000 miles too.
 
• The fully galvanised body shells should be rust free, and any bubbling paint could indicate a poorly executed respray. Cupra R splitters are low to the ground and tend to crack.
 
• Three main recalls affected the Leon models, the first was for a potentially defective passenger airbag. The other two were for potential brake failure due to electrical faults or brake pipe cracking. Certain models manufactured up to the end of 2001 were affected so check if yours was one.
 

Model history

 
1998: SEAT Leon Cupra introduced with 180bhp 20v turbo engine. Six-speed manual gearbox and four-door body style standard. Specification includes air conditioning, electric windows and sports suspension.
2001: Cupra R introduced with 207bhp and detail upgrades over standard Cupra including Brembo brakes
2003: Cupra R gets detuned 222bhp engine from S3
2004: Cupra gets rebranded as an FR with no mechanical changes
2005: Final year of production for first generation Cupra models
 
 

Owners clubs, forums and websites

 
• www.seatcupra.net – Cupra enthusiast site
• www.seatowners.club – SEAT owners club
• www.leonoc.com – Leon enthusiast site
 

Summary and prices

 
The earliest Cupras are now languishing under the £1000 mark. While a few clean high-milers may be lurking down there, it’s better to start your search closer to the £2000 mark, which gets you a 2003 model with a proper service history.

Cupra R models, especially with low mileages tend to range between £3000 and £5000. The later S3-engined cars are especially sought after. Offering a desirable mix of pace and practicality, the first gen Cupra is a desirable thing and at these prices it has precious few rivals. 

Words: John Tallodi
SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1 SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1 SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1 SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1 SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1 SEAT Leon Cupra Mk1
Last updated: 23rd Feb 2017
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SEAT Leon cars for sale

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SEAT Leon
0 29999 GBP
  • SEAT Leon

    £25,000 £25,000

    Variant name:Hatchback Cupra Black ,Derivative:Cupra Black ,Variant: 2.0 TSI Cupra Black 290 5dr DSG Seat Leon 2.0 TSI Cupra Black 290 5dr DSG

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 3500 mi
    • Engine size: 2
    For sale
    Marshall Motor Group-Marshall SEAT of Cambridge
    01223 663234 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • Seat Leon Cupra 2007 240bhp

    £5,695 £5,695

    Seat Leon Cupra 1st reg 31/05/2007. 3 former keepers and MOT 13th Sept with no advisories last year. Usual Cupra goodies:- Full electrics, Blue tooth, 6 speed manual. Serviced at 8705m, 18867m, 28672m, 45617m, 54943m, 67746m (timing belt / pump also) and 74880m. The timing chain and tensioner has also been changed just after I bought it as a preventative measure as these can give trouble. Car is in good condition for age and miles. One wheel has light curb mark. Tyres all good. One fog light is cracked but I have a spare you can have. Climate has never worked since I owned and code say's its the pressure switch. its never bothered me. I had a helix stage 3 clutch kit fitted last year as i had thought about tuning. I still have the original available. New ABS pump fitted 2015. New rear caliper / pads 2015. Just had a drop link and front discs. The car has for nothing.  Always run on 98RON fuel. I am not in any rush to sell but feel like a change. Happy to give sensible offers consideion. Please call evenings as i cant answer at work. Leave a message if I dont answer and i will call you back

    • Mileage: 80000 mi
    • Engine size: 1984
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £18,995 £18,995

    Variant name:Sport Coupe Cupra ,Derivative:Cupra ,Variant: 2.0 TSI 280 Stop/Start DSG SEAT LEON CUPRA 2.0 TSI 280 STOP/START DSG 3-DOOR FINISHED IN EMOCION RED METALLIC WITH BLACK CLOTH - LEATHER INTERIOR SPECIFICATION INCLUDES DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT HEIGHT ADJUSTMENT, DRIVER INFORMATION SYSTEM, CRUISE CONTROL, POWER-ASSISTED STEERING, RAKE/REACH ADJUSTABLE STEERING COLUMN/WHEEL, RADIO/CD/MP3, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, REAR WASH/WIPE, ELECTRIC/HEATED DOOR MIRRORS, BODY COLOURED BUMPERS, SPORT CHASSIS, AUTOMATIC LIMITED SLIP DIFFERENTIAL, ROOF SPOILER, FRONT ARMREST, FRONT ELECTRIC WINDOWS, FRONT/REAR HEAD RESTRAINTS, DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT LUMBAR SUPPORT, SEATS SPLIT REAR, HEATED REAR SCREEN, STEERING WHEEL LEATHER, TWO SEATS - REAR SEAT - ISOFIX ANCHORAGE POINT, CUP HOLDER, CENTRE CONSOLE, GEAR KNOB LEATHER, ANTI-LOCK BRAKES, DRIVER, PASSENGER AND FRONT SIDE AIR BAGS, ELECTRONIC STABILITY PROGRAMME, HILL HOLDER, DRIVER AIR BAG KNEE, CENTRE REAR SEAT BELT, PERIMETRIC ALARM, REMOTE CENTRAL DOOR LOCKING, IMMOBILISER, 19IN ALLOY WHEELS AND TYRE PRESSURE CONTROL.

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 13109 mi
    • Engine size: 2
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £27,290 £27,290

    Variant name:Hatchback Cupra ,Derivative:2.0 TSI Cupra 290 DSG ,Variant: 2.0 TSI Cupra 300 5dr DSG SEAT LEON 2.0 TSI CUPRA 290 DSG 5-DOOR HATCHBACK FINISHED IN NEVADA WHITE METALLIC WITH BLUE LEATHER INTERIOR SPECIFICATION INCLUDES DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT HEIGHT ADJUSTMENT, SATELLITE NAVIGATION, CRUISE CONTROL, 6 SPEED AUTOMATIC GEARBOX, FULL LEATHER INTERIOR, RAKE/REACH ADJUSTABLE STEERING COLUMN/WHEEL, FRONT & REAR PARKING SENSORS, DAB RADIO/CD/MP3, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, EIGHT SPEAKERS, CHASSIS, REAR WASH/WIPE, PRIVACY GLASS, ELECTRIC HEATED/FOLDING DOOR MIRRORS, BODY COLOURED BUMPERS, CHASSIS, LIMITED SLIP DIFFERENTIAL, ROOF SPOILER, DUAL CLIMATE CONTROL, FRONT ARMREST, FRONT/REAR ELECTRIC WINDOWS, FRONT/REAR HEAD RESTRAINTS, DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT LUMBAR SUPPORT, SEATS SPLIT REAR, HEATED REAR SCREEN, STEERING WHEEL LEATHER, TWO SEATS - REAR SEAT - ISOFIX ANCHORAGE POINT, CUP HOLDER, GEAR KNOB LEATHER, ANTI-LOCK BRAKES, DRIVER, PASSENGER AND FRONT SIDE AIR BAGS, ELECTRONIC STABILITY PROGRAMME, HILL HOLDER, DRIVER AIR BAG KNEE, CENTRE REAR SEAT BELT, PERIMETRIC ALARM, REMOTE CENTRAL DOOR LOCKING, IMMOBILISER, 19IN ALLOY WHEELS AND TYRE PRESSURE CONTROL.

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 1000 mi
    • Engine size: 2
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £24,490 £24,490

    Variant name:Sport Tourer Cupra ,Derivative:2.0 TSI CUPRA 290 (S/S) ,Variant: 2.0 TSI Cupra 290 5dr SEAT LEON 2.0 TSI CUPRA 290 (S/S) SPORTS TOURER 5-DOOR FINISHED IN MONSOON GREY METALLIC WITH RACE BLACK CLOTH - SUEDE INTERIOR SPECIFICATION INCLUDES DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT HEIGHT ADJUSTMENT, HIGH BEAM ASSIST/LANE ASSIST, ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL + FRONT ASSIST, POWER-ASSISTED STEERING, CAMERA PACK - REAR CAMERA, FRONT/REAR PARKING AID, DAB RADIO/CD/MP3, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, SATELLITE NAVIGATION WITH FULL LINK, SEAT SOUND SYSTEM, HYDRA SUSPENSION, REAR WASH/WIPE, REAR WINDOWS TINTED GLASS, ELECTRIC HEATED/FOLDING DOOR MIRRORS, BODY COLOURED BUMPERS, LIMITED SLIP DIFFERENTIAL, ROOF SPOILER, CLIMATE CONTROL, FRONT/REAR ARMREST, FRONT/REAR ELECTRIC WINDOWS, FRONT/REAR HEAD RESTRAINTS, DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT LUMBAR SUPPORT, SEATS SPLIT REAR, HEATED REAR SCREEN, STEERING WHEEL LEATHER, TWO SEATS - REAR SEAT - ISOFIX ANCHORAGE POINT, CUP HOLDER, GEAR KNOB LEATHER, ANTI-LOCK BRAKES, DRIVER, PASSENGER AND FRONT SIDE AIR BAGS, ELECTRONIC STABILITY PROGRAMME, HILL HOLDER, DRIVER AIR BAG KNEE, CENTRE REAR SEAT BELT, PERIMETRIC ALARM, REMOTE CENTRAL DOOR LOCKING, IMMOBILISER, 19IN CUPRA 280 MULTI BLACK ALLOY WHEELS AND TYRE PRESSURE CONTROL.

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 4300 mi
    • Engine size: 2
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £26,990 £26,990

    Variant name:Sport Tourer Cupra Black ,Derivative:2.0 TSI CUPRA 290 (S/S) DSG ,Variant: 2.0 TSI Cupra Black 290 5dr DSG SEAT LEON 2.0 TSI CUPRA 290 (S/S) DSG SPORTS TOURER 5DR FINISHED IN MONSOON GREY METALLIC WITH GREY VELOUR - LEATHER INTERIOR SPECIFICATION INCLUDES SATELLITE NAVIGATION, BLUETOOTH & DAB RADIO, ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL, HEATED BUCKET SEATS, 6 SPEED AUTOMATIC GEARBOX, LED LIGHTS & RUNNING LIGHTS, SEAT SOUND SYSTEM, FRONT/REAR PARKING SENSORS, RADIO/CD/MP3, EIGHT SPEAKERS, OPENING PANORAMIC ROOF, REAR WINDOWS TINTED GLASS, ELECTRIC HEATED/FOLDING DOOR MIRRORS, CHASSIS, BODY COLOURED BUMPERS, LIMITED SLIP DIFFERENTIAL, AUTOMATIC LIGHTS & WIPERS, ROOF SPOILER, DUAL CLIMATE CONTROL, FRONT/REAR ELECTRIC WINDOWS, FRONT/REAR HEAD RESTRAINTS, DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT LUMBAR SUPPORT, SEATS SPLIT REAR, HEATED REAR SCREEN, STEERING WHEEL LEATHER, TWO SEATS - REAR SEAT - ISOFIX ANCHORAGE POINT, CUP HOLDER, GEAR KNOB LEATHER, ANTI-LOCK BRAKES, DRIVER, PASSENGER AND FRONT SIDE AIR BAGS, ELECTRONIC STABILITY PROGRAMME, HILL HOLDER, DRIVER AIR BAG KNEE, CENTRE REAR SEAT BELT, PERIMETRIC ALARM, REMOTE CENTRAL DOOR LOCKING, IMMOBILISER, 19IN CUPRA 290 MULTI BLACK ALLOY WHEELS AND SPARE WHEEL.

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 6000 mi
    • Engine size: 2
    For sale
  • 2013 Seat Leon 1.6 SE Technology TDI 5dr (Start/Stop) Cupra replica

    £7,000 £7,000

    Cupra replica, ZERO TAX, Grey with Black roof, Double pipe exhaust, ( 105ps ), Service book, 12 month Mot, CAT C, Ready to go, 1 owners, Start/Stop System, Air-Conditioning, Cruise Control, Hill Holder, Electric Windows (Front/Rear), Tyre Pressure Control, Alarm, Telephone Equipment (Bluetooth Interface), In Car Entertainment (Radio/CD/MP3/Usb), Heated Front Screen, Genuine Seat Alloy Wheels (18inch), All Tinted Windows, 5 seats. ** FOR VIEWINGS AND ENQUIRES PLEASE CALL 07553544803**

    • Mileage: 20180 mi
    • Engine size: 1598
    For sale
  • SEAT LEON CUPRA TDi 150HP

    £2,290 £2,290

    SEAT LEON 1.9 TDI CUPRA 150HP Great Sports Car+ PETERBOROUGH + Loaded of extras, and excellent economy (55MPG++) is a great sporty and funny car to drive. His 150 bhp makes it very nippy and fast. Comes with a full 12 months MOT, FSH, brand new timing belt and service done ( it just flew away on MOT without any problems at all). Feel free to come and see the car. Any more info please call on 07572 770300 Louis + PETERBOROUGH +

    • Engine size: 1896
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £7,750 £7,750

    This Stunning 240 BHP Leon Cupra Comes With The Following Spec: Full Service History To Include 5 Stamps At Seat And A Further At Specialist, 18 Inch Alloy Wheels, CD MP3 Radio With Aux In, Cupra Embossed Black Cloth Bucket Style Sports Seats, Rain And Light Sensors With Auto Dimming Rear View Mirror, Cruise Control, Dual Zone Climate Control, Cupra Multi Function Steering Wheel, Electric Adjustable & Heated Door Mirrors With Power fold, Xenon Headlamps, Front Fog Lights, 2 Keys And Much Much More. Parkway Motor Group Are An RAC APPROVED Dealer and All Our Cars Come With 12 Months M.O.T, Service, HPI Certificate and an RAC Warranty. RAC Inspections Welcome, Finance Packages and Extended RAC Warranties Available. For More Photos Visit www.parkway

    • Mileage: 50664 mi
    • Engine size: 2000
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £8,995 £8,995

    Remote Central Locking, Cruise Control, Privacy Glass, Alloy wheels, Full service history Finished In Onvi Yellow With Complementing Anthracite Sports Upholstery. Fitted With Automatic Air Conditioning, Cruise Control, Electric Front & Rear Windows, Electrically Operated/Heated/Folding Door Mirrors, Radio CD Player With Steering Mounted Audio Controls & IPOD Connection, Remote Central Locking With Alarm & Immobiliser, Driver & Passenger Airbags, Fully Adjustable Sports Seats, Reach/Rake Adjustable Sports Steering Wheel, Cup Holders, On Board Computer, Body Coloured Cupra Sports Styling, 18'' Alloy Wheels, Privacy Glass, Sports Suspension, Front Fog Lights. This Lovely One Former Keeper Seat Leon Cupra Has Covered Just 56k Miles And Is Supplied With A Full Service History, 12 Months MOT And Is HPI Checked And Clear With A Report Supplied.

    • Mileage: 56000 mi
    • Engine size: 2000
    For sale
  • SEAT LEON CUPRA TDI, GREY, 2004

    £2,290 £2,290

    SEAT LEON 1.9 TDI CUPRA 150HP Great Sports Car + PeterBorough + Loaded of extras, and excellent economy (55MPG++) is a great sporty and funny car to drive. His 150 bhp makes it very nippy and fast. Comes with a full 12 months MOT, FSH, brand new timing belt and service done ( it just flew away on MOT without any problems at all). Feel free to come and see the car. Any more info please call on 07572 770300 Louis + Peterborough +

    • Mileage: 120000 mi
    • Engine size: 1896
    For sale
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