December 7, 2022

The Mk3 Leon might have quite a lot of Golf in its DNA, however it very a lot has its personal identification and character. Significantly within the case of Ryan Bennie’s tuned SEAT Leon Cupra 290, which is quickly turning into some kind of demented Touring Automotive…

Function from Quick Automotive. Phrases: Daniel Bevis. Images: Adrian Brannan.

For so long as mankind has been capable of bang rocks collectively and talk in something greater than a system of grunts, there’s been one mantra which individuals have additionally been utilizing to proffer each other as recommendation: ‘Get a Golf.’

Alright, perhaps the behavior doesn’t stretch fairly that far again, however definitely to 1974. When Volkswagen determined to interchange their evergreen Beetle with a boxfresh new radicalist that delivered haymaker after haymaker to the traditionalists, there was greater than a bit of gobsmackery among the many automotive neighborhood: this pesky little upstart had its engine within the entrance, and a water-cooled engine no much less; it was a hatchback, with boxy styling and all kinds of unseemly concepts. Nevertheless it instantly turned obvious that this bullish chancer was by far the best-in-class; certainly, it invented a brand new class all of its personal, and every of its subsequent generations have remained on the prime desk. Certain, there have been a couple of misses among the many numerous hits (we’re you, Mk3 GTI – and the much less mentioned in regards to the launch-spec 2.0 Mk4 GTI the higher), however on the entire the recommendation you’d all the time give to somebody who doesn’t know a lot about vehicles once they ask you what they need to purchase is just about ‘Get a Golf’. It’s a automobile that ticks quite a lot of containers.

This, naturally, is why there are such a lot of on the modding scene. In addition to being well-made and dependable and customarily superb, they’re additionally extraordinarily receptive to modifying, therefore the huge aftermarket that now helps them. However what if you wish to embrace all of those stellar elements with out doing the plain factor and getting a default Golf? What if you happen to’re extra of an offbeat thinker?

That is the place Ryan Bennie ambles in from stage left, grinning from ear-to-ear and basking within the magnificence of his mainstream-dodging selections. You see, he’s opted to purchase and modify the SEAT Leon Cupra. The Spanish Golf, if you’ll. It’s no secret that there’s quite a lot of parts-sharing throughout the VAG group, however every associated mannequin will get its personal particular person character. Take the MQB platform, which first emerged in 2012 – vehicles constructed on this platform embrace the Mk7 Golf (which is, er, a Golf), the Mk3 Skoda Octavia (which is an extended Golf), the Mk3 Audi A3 (which is a complicated Golf), and the Mk3 SEAT Leon. What’s this mannequin’s USP? Effectively, the Latin Golf has a bit extra aptitude, extra verve, extra of a cheeky character. And whereas the Cupra sub-brand has just lately ballooned into one thing so vital that it’s barely inexplicably turn out to be a model in its personal proper, this can be a badge which SEAT has been gluing to its sizzling efficiency fashions for years.

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Tuned SEAT Leon Cupra

Again in 2016, this meant thrilling issues for the Leon. The automobile we’re here’s a SEAT Leon Cupra 290 – and sure, the quantity within the identify does denote an influence determine. To mark the twentieth anniversary of the Cupra identify, SEAT opted to shove a stunning 290bhp into the crisply-designed hatchback; moreover, the height torque of 258lb.ft was out there from as little as 1,750rpm – this was a fascinating machine certainly, notably whenever you issue within the shouty exhaust, Haldex-type LSD and customisable damper settings. So if it’s so fascinating, why don’t we see them in every single place? Fairly merely, it’s not a Golf. Even supposing it mainly is. Lacking the Wolfsburg badging places individuals off – a efficiency SEAT can solely ever actually be an also-ran.

However like we are saying, Ryan’s an offbeat thinker. So when he began wanting round for a automobile that wasn’t a Golf, the last word answer was clear: the Cupra 290 was one of the best not-a-Golf of the lot.

Tuned SEAT Leon Cupra

“I used to be initially getting a similarly-aged Audi S3,” he explains, “however each time I went to view one it obtained offered, rotten little bit of luck. Then a mate of mine requested what I considered Mk3 Leon Cupras; I instructed him thought they have been sensible however I’d by no means actually appeared into them, so I made a decision to provide a pair a test-drive. And from then I knew immediately that I wanted one!”

Having scoured the marketplace for simply the fitting instance, Ryan discovered this automobile in March 2019 – a completely inventory 290 in Black Version spec, which meant higher seats and funky blacked-out trim. A very glorious Golf various, with easy energy, limitless poise, and vivacious amusement in spades. Numerous containers ticked from the off, then – however if you happen to’re anticipating us to stroll the well-trodden path right here of the proud new proprietor instantly tearing his automobile aside to mod the hell out of it, suppose once more. See, that is truly Ryan’s first crack at it.

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Tuned SEAT Leon Cupra

“I’d by no means actually tried modifying vehicles earlier than, that is my first correct try,” he says. And it’s honest to say he appears to have a pure aptitude for it, doesn’t he? This isn’t simply dipping a toe within the water, this fella’s going all-in. The very first thing he did was to ease himself in old-school-style with limo tints and a sunstrip, earlier than shifting onto an exhaust resonator delete and de-wipering the tail. Issues obtained a bit extra in-depth as Ryan obtained into his stride, with a RamAir consumption and a few H&R reducing springs discovering their means into the combo together with a strut brace and a pair of SEAT Aerodynamic sideskirts. The stride was a swagger with the addition of a set of two-piece BBS splits, by which era he was sufficiently deep into the modding scene to have had his eyes opened to a complete world of potentialities. Particularly, his consideration turned to energy.

Now, it’s value understanding that, in addition to by no means having actually modded a automobile earlier than, the 290bhp SEAT Leon Cupra was by far the quickest automobile he’d ever owned. In his day job as a coach driver, Ryan’s greater than used to exploiting deep swells of torque on the day-to-day, however that’s a really completely different factor to the bubbling zinginess of a hard-boosting turbo four-pot. Nonetheless, it was instantly obvious how tuneable the EA888 motor was, and he needed in. “I fitted a Forge carbon consumption system, as a result of who doesn’t like carbon?” he grins. “I obtained a customized 3in cat-back exhaust system made by Pipe Dynamics, then took it to MRC Scotland for a Stage 1 remap together with a DSG remap.”

The outcomes have been fairly startling – 362bhp and 359lb.ft, all deployed with whip-crack dual-clutch shifts to make each flex of the fitting ankle really feel like a plunge into warp velocity. And nonetheless the mods saved coming…

The largest funding within the automobile thus far got here within the type of a set of OZ Racing Formulation HLT wheels, a very glorious alternative which actually fits the Leon’s Touring Automotive vibe, and the impact was additional exacerbated by a Rieger rear diffuser and Air Design splitter. The panda-hued OE color scheme meant that blacking-out of particulars was a should, so Ryan obtained busy smoothing and darkening the bumper inserts, earlier than pulling the rug from onlookers’ toes by swapping out the SEAT badges for new-wave Cupra ‘X’ objects.

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“My favorite modification is the TCR Touring Automotive bonnet vent,” Ryan enthuses. “It won’t be to everybody’s style, however it actually does catch individuals’s consideration – particularly with the carbon-on-carbon theme it has with the Forge consumption peeking by way of from beneath.” He’s proper, it’s a particularly cool contact, and proof optimistic that the scholar has turn out to be the grasp. The dude’s obtained loads of plans too, at present weighing up the professionals and cons of both coilovers or air-ride earlier than he takes the subsequent vital step within the construct. No matter occurs, we’ll be keeping track of it – Ryan simply appears to be actually good at these items.

Tuned SEAT Leon Cupra

“The automobile hasn’t actually turned out how I first imagined it,” he laughs. “There’s a good few mods I by no means even considered buying that at the moment are on there, however I’m glad I bit the bullet and obtained them! I’d all the time needed to change a automobile as a lot as I might, and I’m nonetheless not completed so watch this house… however I prefer to have one thing distinctive and I prefer to suppose I’ve achieved that right here. And in addition to that, there was a promise to a mate who handed the 12 months earlier than I bought the automobile, saying that if both of us was to cross away then the opposite would wish to construct a automobile worthy of them – I hope that he approves.”

We’d say that was a reasonably secure guess. This man hasn’t simply taken an obscure base and seen the way it seems, he’s intentionally taken the offbeat not-a-Golf route and run with it, creating one thing really distinctive. Mankind could also be belligerently ploughing on with the ‘Get a Golf’ mantra, however Ryan simply isn’t listening.

Tuned SEAT Leon Cupra

Tech Spec: Tuned Seat Leon Cupra


2.0-litre TSI EA888 Gen-3, Forge carbon consumption, RamAir turbo elbow, Forge turbo muffler delete, customized 3in cat-back exhaust by Pipe Dynamics, Stage 1 map by MRC Scotland, 362bhp, 359lb ft


Manufacturing unit DSG transmission and Haldex-type LSD, gearbox map by MRC Scotland, Powerflex dogbone mount


35mm H&R springs, entrance strut brace, BAF Motorsports Okay-brace



Wheels & tyres:

8.5x19in ET38 OZ Racing Formulation HLT wheels with Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres


Customized bonnet with TCR Leon Touring Automotive vent, Air Design splitter, SEAT Aerodynamic sideskirts, Rieger rear diffuser, LeapWorks spoiler lip, limo tints, rear wiper delete, new Cupra ‘X’ brand badges entrance and rear


OEM Cupra, customized useless pedal and passenger footwell gentle