SEAT Leon Cupra R ST review
The Cupra Leon R ST packs a 300hp punch paired with bags of grip making it great fun but, if you want the biggest boot possible, there are better hot estate cars.
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Confused by SEAT and Cupra these days? Well, you can think of them as entirely different brands from now on. Rather than seeing quick cars with both those names on, Cupra is now where you go for performance – which by the way, its Cupra Leon R ST has in abundance.
It’s the estate – or ST – version of the Seat Leon, but in its hottest form. That means you get a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine producing 300hp, and that power travels through a seven-speed automatic gearbox and reaches the road via all-wheel drive.
But like the classroom swot with its hand thrust high, Cupra has been busy making sure there are even more reasons to divert your attention away from alternatives like the estate versions of the Volkswagen Golf R and Skoda Octavia vRS.
For instance, its Leon R ST also gets powerful Brembo brakes, a carbon fibre splitter at the front and a spoiler made of the same stuff at the back for extra downforce, its steering has been made more responsive and its alloy wheels have given something called negative camber to help it scythe around corners. And all the copper bits? They, er, do nothing – but do help the Cupra stand out.
And if 300hp isn’t enough for you, for just £500 you can increase it to 370hp by adding a pack by German car tuning firm ABT, taking its performance way beyond the VW and Skoda. It’s officially recognised by Cupra and doesn’t hurt your insurance quote or your fuel economy.
But even without this pack, the Cupra Leon R ST feels sweaty-palm fast, dispatching 0-60mph in less than 5.0 seconds using its launch control and going on to 155mph. Set it to its most aggressive Cupra driving mode and you’ll enjoy pin-sharp steering and leech-like grip that allows you to change direction in an instant and corner very quickly. The only black mark is its sometimes hesitant automatic gearbox.
The ABT pack is a no-brainer. For just £500 you get a serious jump in performance without any worries about your insurance costs jumping at the same time.
However, switch back to Comfort driving mode to soften the car’s suspension and relax its accelerator and gearbox and it’ll play the comfy motorway cruiser, too, made even better by the fact that it shuts out wind and road noise. That comfort continues in town, where good visibility and light steering help to make parking simple work.
All this driving mode switching is done via the Leon R ST’s standard 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system in the middle of its dashboard. It also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard, looks the part and is easy to navigate, although its pinch and zoom response times lag behind the best screens these days. Much better is the car’s standard digital dials which are easily configurable and look fantastic.
The same can’t be said for the Leon R ST’s cabin, which comes with plenty of copper accents, Alcantara and carbon fibre-effect trims to try and distract you from the fact that this is now a fairly aged interior design. Still, build quality is on a par with an Octavia, if not quite with a Golf.
Those hot estates both have slightly bigger boots if outright space matters most, but the Leon R ST still offers enough room for a couple of large suitcases plus extra soft bags or will easily swallow a large pushchair or a couple of golf bags. Furthermore, four adults will sit in comfort inside (although three across the rear bench will be a squeeze) and its supportive, figure-hugging front sports seats do a great job of keeping you in place.
The standard equipment doesn’t stop at sports seats, either: things like keyless entry, front and rear view cameras and a panoramic sunroof are all thrown in. Although they should be, given the Leon Cupra R STs punchy price tag.
So, the Cupra Leon R ST is superb fun to drive, makes a comfortable cruiser when the mood takes you and gets lots of standard equipment. If you’re sold, you’d best be quick – only 150 are coming to the UK. Just bear in mind that its alternatives have even bigger boots and are quite a bit cheaper to buy.