We drove the Seat Cupra 2.0 TSI 290 HP DSG: pure Spanish passion on wheels…

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We really live in delightful times. If you think that modern cars make you less passionate about the art of driving, just take a closer look. At for instance this formidable Seat Cupra we tested here for you.

It truly amazed us how this well made compact five seater reaches a level of performance and handling which a few years ago were exclusively reserved to thoroughbred sports cars. Just read on…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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The art of power

The engine engineers and designers of the VW group know something about creating high performance engines. The TSI engine range has proven its worth already many times, and is now redesigned with dual-injection to develop this mighty 290 HP. Moreover, this 1984 cc four cylinder is also found in the Golf GTI, and shares its excellent properties.

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This engine is a true gem indeed. It is utterly docile in town, and emits a pleasant sounding burble, feeling very well at home in slow moving traffic. We took with this Seat some Parisian friends on a Sunday tour around the city of Antwerp, showing them all the highlights this port city has to offer, pottering around on the narrow inner city streets for more than two hours, and this Cupra (which we believe stands for Club Racing) proved very well up to this job.

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Of course this engine comes even better to its own when you put the throttle just a bit deeper. The four cylinder then emits a delicious roar, sounding every bit a true thoroughbred. It revs beautifully higher, and this with unseen eagerness. Quite logical, if one knows that the 290 HP or 219 kW are developed between 5.900 and 6.400 rpm…

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It is ideally assisted here by the DSG 7 speed transmission, which is of course finely tuned to mate with the “pur sang” character of this engine. You don’t even have to use the gear change paddles on the steering wheel column at all, the box chooses the gears in all situations like an expert racing driver. Also here we live in interesting times. This car is not only talented in itself, it also transfers a lot of its talent to you…

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Under a delicious staccato of high revs and fast changing gears, things get happening of course. What to think of an acceleration from 0 to 100 in merely 5,7 seconds, hurtling further to a top speed of 250  km/h, electronically limited…

The accelerations in the gears are also a pure delight, and yes, it is great fun to use the paddles on winding stretches, just to let you shoot out of that (tight) corner. Indeed, massive torque of 350 Nm is available between 1.700 and 5.800 rpm.

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When driven with restraint, this superfast Cupra then behaves like any other Leon with an efficient petrol engine. The average ECE-norm consumption is merely 6,6 liters/100 km, and indeed it takes little concentration even in urban traffic to stay within the 6 liters range on average. When driven with abandon, consumption is higher, but even then massive progress has been made over the years,  if one considers the sheer performance and the car’s weight.

Last but not least, CO2 emissions are also quite reasonable with 154 g/km.

Driver’s delight

The excellent MQB chassis of the VW group also warrants excellent handling. This state of the art platform is also home to the latest driver assistance electronics. You can select your drive profile with Digital Chassis Control. You have the choice between CUPRA, Sport, Comfort and even an Individual mode in which you can customize and set up anything, from pedal response to the steering torque. Whatever setting you choose, pleasure is yours.

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This Seat steers utterly precise, flat and neutral up to very high speeds indeed. Don’t hesitate to put your foot down at slow speeds: the electronic limited slip differential prevents any power loss due to insufficient grip… Indeed, the Front Axle Differential Lock transfers power to the outer wheel when taking curves, also improving traction.

Of course, the brakes are up to the job. Ventilated disks and generous dimensions let you storm down mountain passes with utter abandon, and the brakes will never ever let you down. We also liked the alloy wheels on our test car, styled in excellent harmony with the angular, elegant styling language of the Cupra.

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Last but not least, we have to stress here that this Cupra is (still) quite a comfortable car. Thanks to the state of the art MQB platform, latest technology sees to it that outstanding performance can be combined with good suspension travel and comfortable damper settings. Even in the more sporting modes, this Cupra never feels harsh.

Sporting pleasure also found in the cabin…

The sporting driver can also nicely monitor what’s going on in his thoroughbred car. Indeed, there is now the CUPRA’s new Sport HMI technology. You can select a screen display with three dials for up-to-the-minute information when driving, the “Sport HMI” displays the oil temperature, turbo pressure admission and G-Force so you know exactly how your car is doing.

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The nice round dials of speed and revs, together with the leather covered steering wheel complete this picture. A word of praise is also fitting for the excellent sporting seats, which provide just that right amount of lateral support.

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We already praised the infotainment system in our previous test of the Leon ST CNG Connect. Linked to the SEAT Media System Plus and Navi System, the new SEAT “Full Link” technology lets you sync emails, social media and all of your favorite digital playlists. It includes MirrorLink™, Apple CarPlay™ and Android Auto™. Say no more…

Conclusion

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This Cupra has it all. A delightful car for the enthusiast, but also quite docile, comfortable and easy to drive by every member of the household. It is roomy and practical, and if you want even more everyday practicality, don’t forget that there is also the Cupra in ST version.

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Just slide behind the wheel of this car, and experience the passion, making you the better driver you always dreamt of…

Hans Knol ten Bensel

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