I am a huge fan of estate cars – fast estate cars to be precise and SEAT have got the perfect answer with their new Leon ST CUPRA 300 4Drive.
I was fortunate enough to drive two models at the UK launch event around the Cotswold area a couple of months back, both of which are pictured – the blue car is a manual front-wheel-drive version with the red car being the model I wish to talk about in this article.
When people mention fast estate cars I often recite iconic cars such as the Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG or the Audi RS6 but in recent years, since the launch of the Volkswagen Audi Group MQB platform, VW’s Golf R estate offers a much more affordable option for a relatively fast estate car.
At the launch of the all-new Leon, SEAT threw a ball into the court of the sub £40k ‘I need a practical car but I don’t want to sacrifice hot-hatch performance and agility’ category and I must admit it looks ten times the car of the VW variant.
With the same underpinnings and just a little less power, the SEAT is a more affordable option to the Golf R and at the launch of the range I fell head over heels in love with it. Having a lot of camera equipment and two dogs, I have owned estate cars for the vast majority of my driving life – all of them diesel and none of them particularly fast.
These days I have scarified all that an estate car offer in favour of an old and unpractical three-door hatchback with very similar power to that of the Leon CUPRA 300. Being old however, it does not do anything in a refined manner – it’s ignorant in its mannerisms, would put manners in you and is highly exciting to drive.
The latest Leon is very different in comparison to the early turbocharged hot-hatch’s that many of us still adore to this day – the latest breed of such cars – including the estate variants are incredibly refined, offer all-wheel-drive and do everything so well they seem boring.
Boring is maybe a strong word to be used when referring to a turbocharged two-litre, four-wheel-drive, six-speed twin-clutch equipped, elongated hatchback however they are so refined they do not excite in a way that you would hope.
You do not get out after a spirited drive on a coastal route and shake with excitement, nor does the adrenaline run down your leg after such a drive. They are fast, very fast in fact, but they put the power to the ground effortlessly and handle flawlessly.
As such these cars just cope with everything in an incredible way that i think allows me to get away with my previous bold statement.
With sharp, fresh styling the new Leon looks amazing, especially finished in this ‘Desire red’ paint, a colour which has to be one of the nicest available at present. SEAT’s signature styled LED daytime running lights contrast against bright red brakes tucked behind the 18” alloy wheels.
Around the Leon is ‘CUPRA 300’ badges to remind everyone you are not in a 1.0TSi base model (as if the rest of the styling wasn’t reminder enough) and as if that isn’t enough dual exhausts reaffirm the CUPRA’s purpose on the road.
Opening the tailgate reveals a more than adequate load area, this is a proper practical car and a lever is at handy reach to drop the rear seats effortlessly from standing outside, revealing an Ikea absorbing space of nearly 1500L.
A very ergonomic cockpit features large amounts of soft touch material, far removed from previous generation Leon’s which is great to see and an attractive half leather/alcantara trim comes as standard with a heated full leather option being available.
A CUPRA logo features on the leather steering wheel, gear knob and on the seats themselves with the steering wheel also featuring sporty white stitching. Rear room is plentiful with spaces in the central rear armrest for two cups whilst two more cup holders are found in the front centre console.
Support and comfort isn’t even questionable with the sports seating in the front of the Leon CUPRA as I found them to be some of the best seats available – perfect for daily living as well as the late night run on a quiet meandering road.
Infotainment comes via an 8” touch-screen in the dash which depending on options could likely offer the SEAT Sound upgraded speaker system and navigation with full link connectivity, wireless charging and dynamic route guidance. It really is a fantastic and easy to use system which includes USB input, 10GB hard drive, DAB/FM/AM and Bluetooth with streaming.
Fitted with the 2.0 TSi engine, a four-cylinder turbocharged petrol power-train and the 4Drive all-wheel-drive system – the CUPRA offers 300PS with 380Nm of torque and is mated to a 6sp DSG ‘box which will see 0-62mph in just 5.7 seconds.
The front-wheel-drive version comes with the same power and is fitted with a 6sp manual gearbox with a 0-62 time of 5.8 seconds – for me though the DSG ‘box is the only option. Manuals are overrated these days and with twin-clutch technology being so advanced it is hard to look towards having three pedals.
Despite the rapid 0-62 times and a top speed of 155mph, the CUPRA 300 will easily return around 40mpg on a run which is staggering. Variable drive modes allow the selection of COMFORT | SPORT | CUPRA | INDIVIDUAL – these driving modes are designed to adjust the car to best suit the driving style you wish for at any point of your journey.
Providing a firm ride as expected the Leon is still very comfortable if a little vague on steering feedback and the two-wheel-drive model struggles for grip a bit. For those who want that bit more – 380PS is achievable from some reputable tuners, though be warned – this will void all warranty.
Pricing for the 2WD car starts from £31,450 but expect to pay somewhere in the region of £38k for a well loaded 4Drive model – road tax for the first year is £500 with annual payments of £140 being applicable thereafter.
So… would I change my rusty old fast Ford for one? Without a doubt and in an absolute heartbeat – YES!
It may not excite like the rusty old Ford but what it offers instead is fast refinement and an abundance of practicality – the only changes I would make to ‘KY17 HKA’ would be the addition of heated leather and a dog guard.
Words & Photos: Graham Curry
[images must not be used in any way without prior written consent of the photographer]