2018 SEAT Leon ST CUPRA Review
SEAT's 300 horsepower Estate blends performance and practicality
Pros: Blistering performance, everyday practicality, more affordable than rivals
Cons: Quite understated, less agile than CUPRA hatch, interior could be sportier
The hot hatch segment remains one of the most hotly-contested of all with cars like the Ford Focus RS, Volkswagen Golf R and Honda Civic Type R all vying for honours, yet the SEAT Leon CUPRA is one of the most affordable and perhaps understated cars in the class. With 300 horsepower on tap, optional all-wheel-drive and lots of shared DNA with the Golf R, it is serves up potent performance at a keen price point. We recently drove the new Leon ST CUPRA on Irish roads, which is the estate model in the range and the one to choose for extra space and practicality. But the question remains, should you buy it over class alternatives such as the Skoda Octavia VRS Estate and Ford Focus ST Estate?
Use the Carzone 360 Player below to take a virtual tour inside and outside our test car.
The SEAT Leon ST CUPRA is rather understated in terms of styling, and it will appeal to those who prefer to stay under the radar. Subtle CUPRA badges on the front grille and tail gate, along with dual oval sports exhausts at the rear set it apart from the rest of the Leon ST range. What’s more, large 19-inch alloy wheels are fitted as standard, along with eye-catching red CUPRA brake callipers, tinted rear windows and full LED headlights. While the hatchback Leon CUPRA is sportier looking, estate proportions certainly suit the CUPRA ST. Our test car has an optional CUPRA Matt Black Pack which adds a matt black front grille, matt black mirrors, black badging and further black detailing on the alloy wheels.
Practicality is the order of the day with the Leon ST CUPRA, thanks to its large 587 litre boot and flat-loading floor. Drop the rear seats down and space increases to a huge 1,470 litres, which is ample enough to lug large items or splurges at IKEA. The interior design is subtler than we would have expected for such a high-brow performance car, with subtle CUPRA logos on the flat-bottomed steering wheel and CUPRA emblems on the front seats. The CUPRA’s cabin is accommodating enough to carry five adults in comfort, with generous amounts of leg room in the rear and particularly supportive front seats. There is an eight-inch touch screen infotainment system and a TFT driver’s display which even has an integrated lap timer. The CUPRA’s cabin lacks flair, but it is nonetheless well-appointed.
The Leon ST CUPRA has a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with 300 horsepower and 380Nm of torque, and it is available with front-wheel-drive or SEAT’s 4Drive four-wheel drive, and a choice of a manual gearbox or a DSG automatic transmission. Our test car boasts four-wheel-drive and a DSG gearbox which makes for a particularly potent combination. It can sprint from 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds and reach an electronically-limited top speed of 250km/h, which is enough to embarrass most hot hatches on the market. The CUPRA lays power down on the road sublimely, and different driving modes can be selected via the touch screen including Comfort, CUPRA and even a customisable Individual mode. Running costs are reasonable as we managed around 9.5l/100 kiolometres in economy, and annual motor tax is listed at €570.
Out on the road, the CUPRA ST grips and corners very well for a large estate car. It isn’t as nimble as the LEON CUPRA hatchback however, as the extra weight over the rear wheels prevents it from changing direction as quickly. The 4Drive system serves up stupendous amounts of grip, even when the roads are wet. Although ride quality is firm due to the sports suspension and large alloy wheels, the CUPRA ST is still very comfortable and competent enough for daily driving. Cabin noise is mostly low, and the sports suspension while firm, can cope with bumpy road surfaces. Although the SEAT Leon CUPRA ST is understated-looking from the outside, it delivers pound-for-pound thrills from the driver’s seat.
Prices for the new Leon ST Cupra start from €37,215 for the front-wheel-drive model with a manual gearbox. It is very well-equipped as standard with CUPRA 19-inch alloy wheels, full LED headlights, black roof rails and lots more. Our test car leaves little to be desired with full DSG transmission, 4 Drive all-wheel-drive and an optional CUPRA Matt Black Pack and upgrade SEAT Sound System, however it is keenly-priced at €46,465.
Carzone verdict: 4/5
The SEAT Leon ST CUPRA is a potently-fast family wagon, which mixes performance and practicality like few of its rivals can. In terms of performance, it impresses more than the Skoda Octavia VRS Estate and Ford Focus ST Estate, and it is only priced slightly higher. That said, the Leon ST Cupra isn’t as enjoyable to drive as other performance cars in the class, and its understated looks and cabin won’t appeal to everyone. If you are looking for a spacious estate with hot hatch thrills and a reasonable price tag however, it is definitely one to shortlist. Stretch to DSG and 4Drive if your budget allows.
Test Car Details:
Model driven: SEAT Leon CUPRA ST
Prices from: €36,095
Price as tested: €46,465
Annual Road Tax: €570
Engine: 1984cc four-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Top Speed: 249km/h
0-100km/h: 4.9 seconds
Transmission: DSG automatic
Body style: Estate
Boot Space: 587 litres