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Sporty and safe ( at less than pounds 20,000.

Seat is rapidly establishing itself as the affordable sporting arm of the Volkswagen group, with the latest arrival being the awesome 153mph Leon Cupra for less than pounds 20,000.

It is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged T FSI 16-valve petrol unit that makes the car the company's most powerful model to date.

It can sprint from rest to 60mph in 6.4 seconds and goes on to a top speed of 153mph.

This is performance worthy of the Leon Touring Car, which helped Seat secure the BTCC Manufacturers' Trophy 2006.

The standard specification includes bixenon headlights, six airbags, electronic stability programme, dual zone climate control, MP3-compatible CD player with direct iPod connection and front and rear electric windows. The new Cupra is distinguishable from other Leons with its black door pillars and mirrors, black chin spoiler, exclusive 18-inch alloy wheels, single wide oval exhaust pipe, red sports brake callipers and the word CUPRA across the tailgate.

The new 34mpg Cupra complements the high performance FR models in the Leon range, which are available with 200 bhp 2.0-litre T FSI petrol and 170 bhp 2.0-litre TDI diesel engines. FR and Cupra models will together account for almost half of all Leon sales in the UK this year, reinforcing Seat's race-bred sporty image.

Selling alongside the standard six-speed manual models, DSG versions of the Leon and Altea FR cost pounds 17,895 and pounds 18,195 respectively.

They have the Direct Shift Gearbox that is already offered with 2.0-litre TDI 140 PS Stylance versions of both the Leon and Altea to achieve performance-oriented split-second changes.

It also offers the convenience of two pedals for city driving. In the case of the FR models there is the added benefit of steering wheel-mounted paddle shift controls for even more of an F1 experience.

Seat's philosophy is to inject sportiness in varying degrees into each of the models in its range, including the mainstream Ibiza hatchback and the cavernous Altea and Altea XL models. The Ibiza supermini model also comes with a 135mph Cupra option in both petrol and diesel formats, but the range starts with the 1.2-litre petrol model at just pounds 7,595.

Even this version offers 105mph performance with 45mpg economy and comes with remote central locking, electric windows and a CD sound system.

Then there are 1.4-litre and 1.8-litre petrol models with power outputs of 150bhp and 180bhp, plus diesel options of 1.4 litres and 1.9 litres with power outputs of 100bhp, 130bhp and 160bhp. There is a similarly wide choice of engine options for the Altea, which now comes in longer XL guise.

Starting at pounds 12,995, the family-oriented yet sporty Altea XL is 18.7 cm longer to give not only a larger boot capacity but also more space and flexibility for occupants.

Safety is a crucial factor for family buyers and, as a member of the Altea range, the Altea XL achieves a top-rated five stars in Euro NCAP for passenger protection and three stars for pedestrian protection, making it one of the safest cars on the road.
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 17, 2007
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