Monday, 22 April 2019

Recapture joy of driving as gadgets take the back seat

Recapture joy of driving as gadgets take the back seat

IT is all very well admiring cars laden with high-tech equipment until you experience a car that is just great fun to drive.

The new 2019 Seat Leon Cupra Lux 2.0 TSI 209PS seven-speed DSG I have been driving this week falls directly into the latter category. This car’s innate sense of joie de vivre has been as welcome as a breath of fresh spring air.

You can admire great technology in a car and scratch your head as you figure out how everything works.

But when this hot five-door hatch swoops up to 60mph-plus in a matter of seconds with consummate ease then you could be forgiven for feeling a certain liberation from the everyday slog of driving (and gadget overload).

The Leon Cupra also has a rather wonderful transmission — something called a seven-speed automatic DSG unit — and also steering wheel paddles, which makes a choice of gear changing easy and efficient.

I read recently that automatic transmissions are in high demand in smaller cars and I can see why.

I come from a generation where we knew the meaning of double de-clutching — an archaic form of gear changing where you “double-dip” the clutch (unheard of today except in older and classic cars) — so the smoothness of the DSG transmission has been much appreciated.

Of course the Cupra has been Seat’s preeminent performance model: “The Cupra is a refined, high-performance car that combines its expressive dynamics with relaxed long-distance comfort and a high-quality feel. The new Cupra displays Seat expertise in a whole new dimension,” said former Seat President Jürgen Stackmann when announcing the new Leon Cupra way back at the 2014 Geneva Motor Show.

At that show, Seat revealed the prowess of the Cupra: a Leon Cupra 280 had smashed the record for a front-wheel drive production car around the famous Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit.

This was the first time that a front-drive production hatchback had performed this well.

So the antecedents are there and became more apparent to me as I spent time at the wheel of the 2019 Leon Cupra.

There is a techy reason (of course) for the Cupra’s outstanding ability to handle well as you put it through its paces.

Each car comes as standard with a mechanical front axle differential lock, a progressive steering system that improves agility; Dynamic Chassis Control to alter the suspension settings between sportier or more comfort-oriented; and two-stage deactivation of the electronic stability control (ESC) — including the ability to turn it off entirely. The latter means that you get a hairier drive and translates to something very satisfying from this pocket rocket of a car.

So the good news is that the Cupra line-up has been “refocused with a single, more powerful iteration of its proven 2.0 TSI engine, with output up by 10 PS to maximum 300 PS, available with DSG auto transmission”.

Cupra versions of all three Leon body styles are available — SC, five-door and ST, the latter with added traction from 4Drive all-wheel drive.

The Cupra 300 SC, with optional DSG transmission, sprints from zero to 62 mph in just 5.6 seconds, or 5.7 seconds with the six-speed manual gearbox; every Cupra model has a 155 mph limited top speed.

With the added traction of 4Drive, the ST goes even faster from rest to 60 mph in 4.9 seconds.

Now I do not like drivers that break speed limits because on today’s roads it is plain dangerous. But it is undeniable that this electric performance on the Cupra is there if and when you are able to use it.

There is more torque available too, guaranteeing improved pulling power and overtaking flexibility (which I think ultimately makes for safer driving).

Economy is good too with the new Leon Cupra 300 with the SC Cupra 300 DSG model returning 42.2 mpg combined and 153 g/km CO2.


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