The SEAT Leon was originally launched in 1999 as a compact hatchback sharing its underpinnings with the Volkswagen Golf 4. The first generation of the model was sold until 2006 with a wide range of combustion engines, varying from a 1.4-litre naturally aspirated petrol mill to the range-topping 2.8-litre VR6. Somewhere in the middle, the 1.8-litre turbocharged unit offered decent performance mixed with good reliability.
There’s a new video coming from our friends at AutoTopNL, which takes us to the German Autobahn onboard a 2003 Leon Cupra R. This rather confusing name from today’s perspective – Cupra is now a standalone brand – hides a hot hatch with a turbocharged engine and mixed Spanish-German roots. Hence why it was initially offered only in red, yellow, and black as a homage to the flag colours of the two countries.
Under the bonnet, this black example has VAG’s 1.8-litre turbo engine, which was often put on more powerful and performance models from the conglomerate. It was available for many compact and midsize vehicles, including the Skoda Octavia, VW Golf, Audi A3, and others. In this application, it delivers 207 bhp (154 kilowatts) channelled to the front wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox.
By today’s standards, this isn’t a lot of power. Especially when it comes to electric vehicles, it isn’t that difficult to see more power in an even smaller vehicle, but some two decades ago, the Leon Cupra R was a proper hot hatch. And even today, it looks fun to drive and is still capable of reaching its maximum speed of 155 miles per hour (250 kilometres per hour) on an unrestricted section of the German highway.
Judging by the output of the engine, this particular Leon Cupra R was produced between May 2003 and May 2003. Around the middle of 2003, the 1.8-litre engine was replaced with a more powerful mill with the same displacement. The hot hatch was available until the end of the production of the first generation SEAT Leon in June 2006.