Car Buyers Guide joined SEAT earlier this month at Mondello Park where the brand would show and demonstrate the entire 2011 range to the Irish motoring press. Aside from the full range, other activities were laid on including a skid car control session in a Leon and hot laps along side Irish race driving hero Eoin Murray in his works racing Leon Supercopa. I kicked off by trying my hand at the skid car with my instructor Nikki Meredith, which I must say was fantastic fun. The rear end of the car is basically on ice so it’s all about being smooth and feathering the throttle around each cone, steering into the slide as the rear breaks loose. Tricky but after a few laps we had it dialled and a grin from ear to ear ensued as we tackled the course. After this it was onto the circuit for a few laps in the Leon Cupra FR and Cupra R. The FR is off course powered by VW’s famed 2.0 litre lump that features an advanced electronic traction control system that is linked to the Electronic Stability Programme. I’ve driven Mondello a few times at this stage and not having to learn the track is a serious bonus, you can hit the ground running and open the taps from the word go. Straight away I noticed the traction control system working, each wheel was fed with just the right amount of power to maximise traction, which seriously improves corner speed. Down each straight all 170 horses gallop as you flick through the smooth DSG gearbox, its no slouch by any means any capable of embarrassing many petrol cars in this sector. After my laps were complete it was straight into SEATs flagship hot hatch the Leon Cupra R.
I’d never driven the Cupra before and to be fair straight out of the box it’s an awesome piece of kit. Around Mondello I thought it was sensational fun. Built by the same dudes that prepare the SEAT Leon race cars for world league competitions like the WTCC, the EUROCUP or the national Supercopa Series, the SEAT Leon CUPRA is fitted with a 2.0 TSI 240 hp engine that allows 100km/h to be hit in 6.4 seconds and doesn’t stop until it head-butts 247km/h. The performance is exhilarating but for the first time I actually missed the DSG box and found some of my ragged gear changes on the manual were slowing me down. This is simply an option but for me it would be a must when purchasing. Once again I complete my fair share of laps and then returned to the pits ready for my final jaunt in the Leon Supercopa Race car. SEAT had ferried two cars all the way from Italy along with Valentina Albanese an Italian female race driver to accompany Eoin Murray in demonstrating how a track should be driven. Armed with little more than a dodgy looking helmet I clambered in next to Eoin and belted up. The next few minutes of my life passed and at phenomenal speed as we lapped Mondello’s national circuit in a shade under one minute each time. Yep that’s motorbike speed! The grip is phenomenal and Eoin’s ability use all of the track and then some, is mind blowing. A few violent gear changes and the straight is over, a few movements from your internal organs and the next corner is over and before long we are back in the pits. It was a fantastic experience and for this we thank SEAT.
With a market share of 2.2% here in Ireland the Spanish multinational car manufacturer is growing fast. Last year alone in an incredibly tough year profits were up almost 14%, thanks to an upturn in sales and the market success of each model. Over the coming months we will be testing a lot more SEATs and we look forward to bringing you detailed reviews on each model. It’s one thing having a blast around a circuit but living with each car for a full week should be interesting. Many thanks to SEAT, Elevate PR and Eoin Murray.