1 May 2013

Living With - The Great And The Indifferent

Geoff Maxted used to own both a Porsche Cayman and a Seat Leon Cupra.  He loved one but not the other...

The 2007 Porsche Cayman pictured was mine until a couple of years ago when I took this holiday snap in the wilds of Yorkshire. It was a basic 2.7L and all the better for it. For a start it had the standard wheels wearing fat rubber that nicely cushioned the ride. Big wheels look great but would have added nothing but a little more discomfort. Handling? This car is so good that your own personal bravery will run out long before the grip on this car ever will.

This is why there are two cars in this article - because the Cayman is so good I simply can’t think of anything to bleat about. It looked good, was acceptably economical (not that I even gave that a passing thought in my joy), insurance wasn’t too rough and, well, just get one. It doesn’t matter how old; these cars are bombproof. I now and forever bitterly regret selling it just to buy a car with more room. Sometimes my wife kicks me as she walks past, muttering darkly.

You will have read on Speedmonkey about my trials with the subsequent Alfa; ‘nuff said. In due course I ordered a new SEAT Ibiza Cupra on the basis that after the hefty Italian car I wanted something nimble.

The Cupra, in many ways, is a very good car. The 2013 model is better looking than the one I owned and it is, in reality, a Volkswagen Polo in a flamenco skirt and none the worse for that. Powered by the excellent 1.4L engine with both turbo and supercharged support, this 177bhp pocket rocket can really shift. The seven speed ‘box can be used in full auto mode, or by flicking the lever back and forth or, indeed, by using the well placed floppy paddles. A trick electronic diff helps to keep everything in order. ‘What then,’ I hear you ask, ‘is your problem?’

Well, it’s the handling. Under hard acceleration the front would lift and go light. On winding roads there was always the sense that the car was about to leave the road and go hurtling into a field, scaring cows and the like. The steering is dead and transmits nothing of the road beneath. Mrs M did not like it one bit. Maybe the new car has been fettled a little better.

Yet the real problem - and not one usually read about in car reviews - is the overall feel. The only word that I can think of to describe the car is ‘sterile’. Remember the joy I mentioned in the Cayman section? Non- existent. It simply wasn’t a car you could grow to love. It’s like a snappy dog or that surly bloke at work who smelled a bit - you tolerate them but you wouldn’t want to spend quality time with them.

SEAT was originally supposed to represent the sporting side of the VW empire but the Spanish flair is dominated by the sensible German side - reliable but not terribly exciting. Sorry Hans.

Geoff Maxted is a freelance writer and photographer whose works have been published in various print and online sources