Although we always advise you to look for a full service history, in this instance that doesn’t necessarily mean through the official SEAT dealer network. Specialists for VW Group cars are not only often a cheaper option, but some of them are also very well respected.
Register on SEATcupra.net and you’ll be able to post on the forums to find out which are the best specialists in your area. The site will also show you how to fix many things yourself and advise on the most effective non-OEM parts and upgrades.
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First, check the car you’re looking at has the correct engine. The code plate on the front offside edge of the engine should bear the initials AMK on the first-generation 207bhp cars and BAM on the later 222bhp models.
Engines are generally reliable, but on higher mileage cars ascertain whether at the 60,000-mile cambelt change the water pump and the timing belt tensioners and dampener were also attended to – official dealers don’t do this, but specialists say it’s vital.
The turbo should last 100,000 miles or more, but only if the owner takes care to let it warm up gently and then cool properly after hard use. If it’s a private sale, watch how the owner treats the engine on your test drive.
The only other common(ish) fault is the occasional faulty coil pack, resulting in spluttery running. Also, the specialists recommend changing the spark plugs rather more often than the 40,000-mile intervals that official dealers suggest.
The six-speed gearbox itself is a sturdy enough item, but a small clip connecting the clutch pedal to the clutch master cylinder can sometimes fail, ultimately causing the pedal to stay on the floor and the demise of the master cylinder. Replacement parts aren’t costly – about £45 – but it takes about four hours to fit them.Suspension, brakes, etc
Faded Brembo calipers may look scruffy, but braking performance won’t be affected. Many owners fit uprated pads at replacement time, so ask them what and when. Squealing pads may just mean a track-biased compound, easily cured with a different material.
There are no common suspension problems as such, but finding a car without modifications in this area may be tricky. Coilovers are a much discussed topic; some owners fit them but later return their cars to a regular spring and damper set-up. Aftermarket anti-roll bars are another popular modification and are said to improve handling. If fitted, check that the rear item fits over the exhaust back box.
The Cupra R’s front splitter is a vulnerable item, as are the alloys, but to date rust isn’t an issue with the LCR. Wet front footwells are probably a sign of problems with the rubber door seals. With help from SEATcupra.net and a fair bit of time and patience, you could probably cure this yourself.
SEAT Leon Cupra R ‘225’ specifications
Engine In-line 4-cyl, 1781cc, 20v, turboMax power 222bhp @ 5900rpmMax torque 206lb ft @ 2200-5500rpmTransmission Six-speed manual gearbox, front-wheel driveTyres 225/40 ZR18Weight (kerb) 1376kgPower-to-weight 153bhp/ton0-62mph 6.9sec (claimed)Top speed 150mph (claimed)Price when new £18,000 (2003)
(Supplied by AmD Essex, West Thurrock, Essex. Tyre prices from Black Circles.All prices include VAT at 17.5 per cent)
Tyres (Yokohama S306, each, fitted) £95.46 Brake pads (front, pair) £70.44Brake discs (front, each) £159.80Exhaust system (cat back) £388.00Clutch/flywheel £176.24/£352.50Performance air filter £35.00
(Prices supplied by AmD Essex)
10,000-mile service £117.50Full service £205.62Major service (including water pump, timing belt, tensioners and dampener) £299.95
What to pay
Except for cars approaching a six-figure mileage, you’ll struggle to find a good LCR for less than £6500 (even the early 207bhp versions), while some dealers are asking as much as £9500 for late, low-mileage examples. Mileage makes a big difference to price, and there’s also a premium attached to unmodified cars. Being picky about colour will greatly limit your options: most LCRs were black. Because they are enthusiast cars, LCRs tend to be advertised where enthusiasts hang out – this increases your choice, but means there are few ‘bargains’.
* All prices correct as of May 2010