CUPRA Leon Estate review

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

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Brilliant breakdown + serious savings

The CUPRA Leon Estate combines practicality with panache, thinks Jonathan Crouch

Ten Second Review

The CUPRA Leon Estate might be close in concept and execution to a SEAT Leon Estate but it brings to that design a different dimension of style and speed. This Spanish station wagon shopping rocket comes with a choice of conventional petrol turbo or PHEV powertrains.

Background

Want a fast but compact-sized estate? There aren't that many options but quicker versions of Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia station wagons are all possibilities. Here's another option to add to that list, CUPRA's Leon Estate.

As you'll probably know, CUPRA is a marque created by SEAT in 2018 for its sporting models. Recently, it's been creating its own cars (the Formentor SUV and the Born EV), but this CUPRA Leon Estate isn't much different to a SEAT Leon Estate - expect that you can have it with sportier styling and more powerful engines. Let's take a closer look.

Driving Experience

For a more focused drive though, you'll need to concentrate on the two fastest variants, probably the 'TSI 310' derivative we mentioned, which shares its 2.0-litre TSI engine with Volkswagen's well-regarded Golf GTI Clubsport. That's tough competition, but if anything, the CUPRA feels a touch better tuned than its Golf counterpart - the snap you get from the seven ratios of the DSG paddleshift auto gearbox for instance. And the impressively un-intrusive intervention of the VAQ Limited Slip Differential, which through the turns kills almost any trace of torquesteer and allows the grippy Bridgestone rubber to almost always incorruptibly get enough traction down to the bitumen to fire you from bend to bend. This car just grips and goes. Very quickly as it happens, making 62mph in just 4.9s.

Design and Build

Any Leon that wears a Cupra badge has to dose up the attitude a degree and this CUPRA Leon Estate looks really gym-toned. The CUPRA logo sits boldly on the front grille, with a large front splitter and big air intakes highlighting this car's assertive look. There are side skirts that visually lower the vehicle and you get CUPRA-specific 18 or 19-inch black alloy wheels with either copper or silver finishes. The dark chrome front grille frame, front wings and exterior side mirrors contrast with the various model-specific body colour options.

Inside, there are sporty bucket seats and a CUPRA steering wheel, which houses the engine start and driver mode selection button. You also get an interactive digital driver display to replace conventional binnacle dials. And as with other Leons, there's a large, central 10-inch infotainment touchscreen that reduces the button count. This look is further accentuated by the vehicle's compact DSG shifter.

Throughout the interior the copper and dark chrome detailing brings a sense of drama, with the dashboard and door mouldings finished in brushed dark aluminium and illuminated CUPRA treadplates in the front doors and colour coded door panels and seats. Otherwise, it's much as in any other Leon. There's comfortable room for a couple of adults in the back. And a 617-litre boot in this estate (compared to 380-litres in the hatch version). That's for the conventionally-engined models; for the PHEV e-HYBRID Estate derivative, the figure is 470-litres.

Market and Model

CUPRA Leon Estate pricing starts from around £36,000 - there's a £1,360 premium over the hatch body style. It's an all-petrol engine range and two trim levels are on offer - 'VZ2' and 'VZ3'. All models get, amongst other things, full-LED headlights, sports suspension, a reversing camera and the SEAT Digital cockpit with an interactive driver display screen and a 10-inch central infotainment monitor.

'VZ2'-spec gives you the option of both body shapes and the e-HYBRID powertrain if you want it (priced from around £36,500). The alternative to that is the 2.0 TSI engine in 310PS, which comes with the brand's '4Drive' AWD system. 'VZ2' models add DCC dynamic chassis control, speed-sensitive steering, larger 19-inch alloy wheels and roof rails too. The flagship 'VZ3' model comes with the same two engines, is priced from just under £38,500 and adds petrol blue Nappa leather bucket seats, a heated steering wheel and a wireless smartphone charging pad.

Depending on the spec level chosen, there's plenty of autonomous driving tech and safety equipment too fitted across the range. Predictive Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) uses feeds from GPS data delivered from the navigation system and input from the front-mounted camera and Traffic Sign Recognition, allowing it to proactively adjust the cruise speed depending on the road layout ahead. When the road becomes more congested Traffic Jam Assist takes the stress out of driving, maintaining a safe distance to the vehicle in front. There's also an 'Emergency Assist' system that can bring the Leon to a controlled stop if you're taken ill at the wheel. And a 'Blind Spot Detection' system that alerts the driver to another vehicle in their blind spot.

Cost of Ownership

Owners of previous generation Leon CUPRAs will look incredulously at the WLTP efficiency stats of the e-HYBRID version of this current model - up to 217.3mpg on the combined cycle and up to 29g/km of CO2 for this estate variant. Insurance is group 27E.

Powering a PHEV CUPRA Leon up from a domestic socket would take around five hours, but most owners will want to find an extra few hundred pounds to install a wallbox charger in their garages. Use such a wallbox - or indeed plug in to one of the many public charging points springing up around the country - and you'll be able to reduce your charging time period from empty to around four hours. Once that's been done, a PHEV CUPRA Leon can travel up to 32 miles on a single charge. Which means that if the vehicle is only used for short commutes and re-charged regularly overnight, it's conceivable that this electrified Spanish hot hatch could be run almost entirely on off-peak electricity, costing pennies rather than pounds to consume.

More relevant comparisons between old and new generation Leon CUPRAs should of course be made by considering the more conventional 2.0 TSI CUPRA Leon Estate models. Here, think up to 34.4mpg on the combined cycle and 186g/km of CO2; that's for the 310PS 4Drive Estate version.

Summary

Certainly, most of what's on offer here can also be had in differently packaged form with sporty estate versions of the Volkswagen Golf or Skoda Octavia. But the CUPRA Leon Estate has a slightly more dynamic look and feel than any of those cars. Something that's particularly evident on the road in the 310PS 4Drive model, which offers everyday dynamic usability with plenty of potential for sheer enjoyment. It's way better value than a sporty Golf R Estate. An arguably shades all its rivals in terms of flamboyant cabin design, drive assistance features and standard equipment.

Not everything's great of course. The infotainment system is over-complex and often fiddly to use. The interior doesn't have the sheer quality you'd find in premium brand models. And inevitably, some of the agile sparkiness is diluted if you opt for the e-Hybrid version. But none of this is really enough to significantly dull our basic approval of this car. If it's engaging

twist on the usual Volkswagen Group quick estate confection appeals, we think you'll bond quickly with this uber-rapid Iberian station wagon.

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