Car International

Friday 1 August 2014

First Drive: SEAT’s hottest hatch ever is a match for GTi

Philip Hedderman

Published 24/03/2014|10:29

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It's the automotive equivalent of Mr Miyagi getting his back side kicked by the young Daniel-san.

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Yes the student has invariably become the master or in this case ...  the grand master.

The mammoth duel we’re talking about is between the mighty GTi and a young pup called Cupra.

Now the Golf as everyone knows is undisputed king of the hot hatch and has reigned supreme for almost 40 years.

Many contenders have come and gone but the VW simply got bigger, bolder and better.

In fact, just late last year I declared that the seventh generation of the iconic badge was indeed the best ever made.

That was until last week when its awesome cousin, the all-new Cupra, exploded onto the scene.

Not only is it more powerful, she's cheaper and better kitted out too.

Take the entry level 2.0litre TSI packing a savage 265bhp – 45 more than the GTi – and costing €1,600 less.

BONKERS

Opt for the even more bonkers 280bhp with the brilliantly precise DSG automatic gearbox and you'll have 60 more horses and almost 2 grand in your pocket over DAS Auto.

You'll even get 0-100 in 5.7 seconds and a top end of 250kph. But more about the performance later.

The Leon has grown up and the Cupra like a fine wine has matured magnificently.

Gone is the garish LBR look (little boy racer) with flared wheel arches, massive air intake scoops and pronounced diffuser with twin exhausts in the centre.

In come very retro and oh so premium LED daytime running lights (standard front and back) colour coded or black wing mirrors and matching rear spoiler.

Throw in 18 inch, 5-spoke alloys, red brake callipers emblazoned with the Cupra logo, lightly tinted windows in the rear and chequered flag emblem underlined with 280 and the heart begins to flutter.

Even the colours have been carefully chosen by a fun-lovin' conservative giving the option of red, black, white, silver, dark and light grey.

Open the door and that racing pedigree continues with half leather/ half Alcantara sports seats, chunky, flat bottomed multi-function steering wheel and aluminium pedal cluster.

It's not left wanting on the technology front either with lights and rain sensors, cruise control, dual zone climate control, parking sensors and touch screen infotainment centre displayed on a 5.8 inch colour console housing Bluetooth, CD/MP3/USB/SD card and AUX connection.

The cabin is so well built one could have easily slipped four rings in place of the SEAT logo and we wouldn't have noticed.

Unlike its pred-ecessor, the new Cupra is a very pleasant place to be with leather and soft touch materials at every fingertip coupled with ambient lighting which highlights the driving mood – red for sport and white for comfort.

Turn the key and the beast is awoken – roaring into life with the rasp of a V6 and at high revs and in the right mood, even a V8.

The not so secret ingredient (engine) is shared both in the GTi and the Skoda Octavia vRS giving oceans of power and huge torque and burying the pedal in the carpet is sure to give a brief face lift.

Persevere above 4,000 rpm and its face-peel time as the Cupra comes into its own with savage acceleration that goes on forever.

Now with that kind of poke torque steer and understeer is inevitable especially at full throttle or hitting a corner at pace.

No here – thanks to the same split differential that comes with the GTi Performance Pack –  transferring power away from the wheel that’s loosing grip (100% in extreme cases) while the suspension, stiffened and lowered by 10mm, plants her firmly to the tarmac.

The variable-ratio steering is light and precise and with four drive settings (Comfort, Sport, Cupra and Individual) she’s as comfy on the motorway as she is raking around a track.

More than a match for the GTi and may even be cheeky enough to one day take on the R32.

Prices start at €33,895.

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