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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
945 27990 GBP
  • SEAT Leon

    £17,995 £17,995

    Variant name:Hatchback Cupra ,Derivative:Cupra ,Variant: 2.0 TSI Cupra 280 5dr Seat Leon 2.0 TSI Cupra 280 5dr

    • Year: 2015
    • Mileage: 20154 mi
    • Engine size: 2
    For sale
    Donnelly Group-Honda Dungannon
    028 8744 0717 VIEW CONTACT NUMBER
  • SEAT LEON 2009 CUPRA K1 TSI Manual 47000 Petrol White

    £10,995 £10,995

    Seat Leon 2.0 TFSI Cupra K1 5drGBP 10,995 ;;(Full Seat Service History);; 2009 (09 reg), Hatchback ;;47,000 miles;Manual;1984cc;Petrol;;;Full Seat Service History (Tracker Fitted), 6 months warranty, Next MOT due 13/03/2018, Last serviced on 19/04/2017 at 45,237 miles, Full dealership history, Velour interior, Cruise Control, Climate Control, In Car Entertainment (Radio/CD/MP3), Tinted Glass, Electric Windows (Front/Rear), Alarm, Tyre Pressure Control, Computer, Alloy Wheels (18in), Anti-Lock Brakes, Cruise control, Electric windows, Front Fog Lights, Immobiliser. 5 seats, White, ((GBP 99 Admin Fee Which includes A National Parts And Labour Warranty)), VIEWING BY APPOINTMENT ONLY, CLOSED SUNDAYS.

    • Mileage: 47000 mi
    • Engine size: 1.984
    For sale
  • SEAT LEON CUPRA R

    £3,250 £3,250

    Overall:   Excellent condition throughout, no expense spared and meticulously maintained! This is still a standard car apart from a resonated Milltek rear box that isn't loud by any means, but just gives a nice tone to add to the great driving experience this car provides. Still looks like the standard exhaust. It's a great all-rounder for usability and of course fun!   Mechanical:   Drive's absolutely faultlessly and is a brilliant all round car. Mechanically spotless as being owned by a vehicle technician, I have changed the oil every 6000 miles along with the previous owners. Recently had a reconditioned TURBO along with a new clutch, dual m flywheel and rebuil GEARBOX! Gearbox still has 1 year left on its warranty. Loads of receipts to prove this car has been maintained to the book. Mostly genuine SEAT parts fitted in my ownership including a full CAMBELT KIT INC WATER PUMP in the last 3000 miles. Doesn't drink any oil between services. Recently had the underneath wax oiled as a preventive repair. Have recently had all 4 plus the full size spare alloy wheels fully refurbished by Spit n Polish who do a brilliant job, along with GoodYear Eagle F1 tyres all round. I believe this in one of the best CUPRA R's on the market mechanically. New genuine front dampers with improved powerflex top mounts and bearings. New rear brembo pads and discs along with a genuine O/S/R caliper. All four brake calipers have been brought back to life with Foliatec life time high temp paint. The brembo 4 pot front brakes are very effective. Still 50% life in the front pads and discs.  Plenty of service history, the book is stamped to 2011 and after that I have the receipts of the services and parts fitted.   Bodywork:   Body work is showing a few signs of age with a couple stone chips and dents. It is to be expected on a 13 year old car. It still polishes up extremely well with Autoglym. Being silver it also stays looking clean for a while compared to other colours. The red B panels are vinyl and are to my taste as they match the calipers. Although if they are not to your taste then they will peel off easy with a bit of heat.   Interior:   The interior cleans up well as hopefully you can see in the pictures. The front seats are supportive and comfortable as are the rear seats(so im told). The boot is big and with the rear seats down you can easily fit a mountain bike in there. The spare wheel is located under the boot carpet and comes with a jack and all the relevant bits. The vehicle stamp is still in the boot confirming it is a BAM engine code.   I could chat for days about this car.. any more information then feel free to ring me!! A MUST see!! I would her bank transfer to cash.

    • Mileage: 99700 mi
    • Engine size: 1781
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £21,990 £21,990

    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 GREY VELOUR - LEATHER INTERIOR. SPECIFICATION INCLUDES DRIVER, PASSENGER AND FRONT SIDE AIR BAGS, ANTI-LOCK BRAKES, 19IN ALLOY WHEELS, BLUETOOTH STREAMING, ELECTRONIC STABILITY PROGRAMME, LED LIGHTS & RUNNING LIGHTS, BLUETOOTH, ADAPTIVE CRUISE CONTROL, DUAL CLIMATE CONTROL, FRONT/REAR ELECTRIC WINDOWS, TWO SEATS - REAR SEAT - ISOFIX ANCHORAGE POINT, PERIMETRIC ALARM, SATELLITE NAVIGATION, FRONT/REAR PARKING AID, CHASSIS, ELECTRIC HEATED/FOLDING DOOR MIRRORS, REMOTE CENTRAL DOOR LOCKING, CHASSIS, FRONT/REAR ARMREST, DRIVER AIR BAG KNEE, FRONT/REAR HEAD RESTRAINTS, BODY COLOURED BUMPERS, ROOF SPOILER, 6 SPEED MANUAL GEARBOX, DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT LUMBAR SUPPORT, REAR WASH/WIPE, EIGHT SPEAKERS, STEERING WHEEL LEATHER, IMMOBILISER, RAKE/REACH ADJUSTABLE STEERING COLUMN/WHEEL, DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT HEIGHT ADJUSTMENT, SEATS SPLIT REAR, GEAR KNOB LEATHER, DAB RADIO/CD/MP3, HEATED REAR SCREEN, REAR WINDOWS TINTED GLASS, HILL HOLDER, CENTRE REAR SEAT BELT, CUP HOLDER AND LIMITED SLIP DIFFERENTIAL.

    • Year: 2016
    • Mileage: 5999 mi
    • Engine size: 2
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £23,600 £23,600

    DRIVER, PASSENGER AND FRONT SIDE AIR BAGS, ANTI-LOCK BRAKES, DYNAMIC ROUTE GUIDANCE WITH 3D MAP DISPLAY, 19IN ALLOY WHEELS, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, HEATED FRONT SEATS, TRACTION CONTROL SYSTEM, POWER-ASSISTED STEERING, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, CRUISE CONTROL, CLIMATE CONTROL, FRONT/REAR ELECTRIC WINDOWS, TWO SEATS - REAR SEAT - ISOFIX ANCHORAGE POINT, PERIMETRIC ALARM, TRIP COMPUTER, FRONT/REAR PARKING AID, CHASSIS, ELECTRIC HEATED/FOLDING DOOR MIRRORS, REMOTE CENTRAL DOOR LOCKING, CHASSIS, FRONT/REAR ARMREST, DRIVER AIR BAG KNEE, FRONT/REAR HEAD RESTRAINTS, BODY COLOURED BUMPERS, ROOF SPOILER, FRONT SEATS SPORTS, REAR WASH/WIPE, EIGHT SPEAKERS, STEERING WHEEL LEATHER, IMMOBILISER, RAKE/REACH ADJUSTABLE STEERING COLUMN/WHEEL, DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT HEIGHT ADJUSTMENT, SEATS SPLIT REAR, GEAR KNOB LEATHER, RADIO/CD/MP3, HEATED REAR SCREEN, REAR WINDOWS TINTED GLASS, HILL HOLDER, CENTRE REAR SEAT BELT, CUP HOLDER, LIMITED SLIP DIFFERENTIAL, AUTO-DIMMING REAR VIEW MIRROR, TYRE PRESSURE CONTROL, Leather interior

    • Mileage: 100 mi
    • Engine size: 1984
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £27,990 £27,990

    Variant name:Sport Coupe Cupra ,Derivative:2.0 TSI Cupra 300 DSG ,Variant: SEAT Leon Sport Tourer 2.0 TSI Cupra 300 5dr DSG 4WD SEAT LEON ST (2016) 2.0 TSI CUPRA 300 DSG FINISHED IN WHITE WITH BLACK CLOTH - LEATHER INTERIOR SPECIFICATION INCLUDES SATELLITE NAVIGATION, DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT HEIGHT ADJUSTMENT, ON-BOARD MONITOR, CRUISE CONTROL, 6 SPEED AUTOMATIC GEARBOX, POWER-ASSISTED STEERING, RADIO/CD/MP3, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, FRONT FOG LIGHTS, ELECTRIC HEATED/FOLDING DOOR MIRRORS, SPORT CHASSIS, LIMITED SLIP DIFFERENTIAL, READING INTERIOR LIGHTS, FRONT/REAR ARMREST, FRONT/REAR HEAD RESTRAINTS, FRONT SEATS SPORTS, SEATS SPLIT REAR, AUDIO/GEARS STEERING WHEEL MOUNTED CONTROLS, TWO SEATS - REAR SEAT - ISOFIX ANCHORAGE POINT, CUP HOLDER, CENTRE CONSOLE, GEAR KNOB LEATHER, ANTI-LOCK BRAKES, DRIVER, PASSENGER AND FRONT SIDE AIR BAGS, TRACTION CONTROL SYSTEM, HILL HOLDER, DRIVER AIR BAG KNEE, CENTRE REAR SEAT BELT, DEADLOCKS, IMMOBILISER, 19IN ALLOY WHEELS AND TYRE PRESSURE CONTROL.

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 5503 mi
    • Engine size: 2
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £23,990 £23,990

    Variant name:Hatchback Cupra ,Derivative:2.0 TSI Cupra 300 DSG ,Variant: 2.0 TSI Cupra 300 5dr DSG SEAT LEON 5DR (2016) 2.0 TSI CUPRA 300 DSG FINISHED IN NEVADA WHITE METALLIC WITH BLACK LEATHER INTERIOR SPECIFICATION INCLUDES DRIVER/PASSENGER SEAT HEIGHT ADJUSTMENT, SATELLITE NAVIGATION, ON-BOARD MONITOR, CRUISE CONTROL, POWER-ASSISTED STEERING, RADIO/CD/MP3, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, BLUETOOTH INTERFACE TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT, FRONT FOG LIGHTS, ELECTRIC HEATED/FOLDING DOOR MIRRORS, SPORT CHASSIS, LIMITED SLIP DIFFERENTIAL, READING INTERIOR LIGHTS, FRONT/REAR ARMREST, FRONT/REAR HEAD RESTRAINTS, FRONT SEATS SPORTS, SEATS SPLIT REAR, AUDIO/GEARS STEERING WHEEL MOUNTED CONTROLS, TWO SEATS - REAR SEAT - ISOFIX ANCHORAGE POINT, CUP HOLDER, CENTRE CONSOLE, GEAR KNOB LEATHER, ANTI-LOCK BRAKES, DRIVER, PASSENGER AND FRONT SIDE AIR BAGS, TRACTION CONTROL SYSTEM, HILL HOLDER, DRIVER AIR BAG KNEE, CENTRE REAR SEAT BELT, REMOTE CENTRAL DOOR LOCKING, IMMOBILISER, 19IN ALLOY WHEELS AND TYRE PRESSURE CONTROL.

    • Year: 2017
    • Mileage: 8075 mi
    • Engine size: 2
    For sale
  • SEAT LEON 2.0 TSI Cupra R - Full Main Dealer Service History 2010

    £9,995 £9,995

    2010 (60) SEAT Leon 2.0 TSI Cupra R;;Full main dealer service history !;Has covered just 66k mls!;One Previous owner!;;Fantastic example and not to be confused with a standard Cupra.;This is the R edition and currently the best value one in the country that we can find so don't miss out!;;As an RAC Dealer all cars come complete with: ;6 months RAC warranty (extendable) and 12 months free RAC membership.;All cars also undergo a fresh mot test completed at a local main dealership for complete peace of mind!;;Benefits from having two keys, remote central locking, power steering, tilt steering, multifunction steering wheel, electric windows, electric wing mirrors, touch screen CD Player with AUX and USB capabilities, touch screen Sat Nav, duel control interior fans, air conditioning, 6 speed gear box, full black Cupra seats, full main dealer service history, all round parking sensors and 19" alloy wheels.;; Part ex welcome at GBP 9,995 and low rate finance is available just ask one of our members of staff for details. ;;Finance Example;;Cost of vehicle = GBP 9,995;Deposit = Zero;Payments just GBP 217.39 Per Month*;;Payments can be spread over 12 – 60 months subject to age of vehicle;;Monthly payment price is subject to deposit amount and length of term;Please enquire for tailored quotes;;* Total Price GBP 9,995,00. Deposit GBP 0.00. Total Amount of Credit GBP 9,995,00. First Payment of GBP 0.00, Followed by 59 Payments of GBP 217.39, with a Final Payment of GBP 316.39. Duration of Agreement is 61 Months. Fees of GBP 99.00 are included in the payments shown. Interest Charges of GBP 3048,4. Annual Fixed Interest Rate of 6%.

    • Mileage: 66977 mi
    For sale
  • SEAT Leon

    £7,950 £7,950

    Climate Control, Bluetooth, DAB Digital Radio, Cruise Control, Multi-function Steering Wheel, Powered Folding Mirrors, Auto Lights, Isofix Child Seat Preperation, Adaptive Lights, Bi-Xenon Headlights, Tinted Windows, ABS, Traction Control, Power Steering, Remote Central Locking, Electric Windows, Multiple Airbags, CD Player, Aux - in 2 Owners, Full K1 BTCC Bodykit, Exclusive Cupra Sports Seats, 18 Inch Orion Cupra Alloy Wheels, Recent Cambelt, Full Service History

    • Mileage: 65000 mi
    • Engine size: 1984
    For sale
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