The Seat Leon Cupra 300 ST is a rapid hot estate that demands attention
The hot hatch market is full of excellent options, but few also come as an estate. Darren Cassey tests the fast Seat on UK roads.
The Seat Leon Cupra has always been a bit of an underrated gem – utterly brilliant but rarely talked about in the upper echelons of the hot hatch market.
It recently received a minor update, which saw a 10bhp power increase to 296bhp. Just as newsworthy is the shift from front-wheel drive to all-wheel drive for the estate model we’re driving here.
It’s almost identical under the metal to the much-lauded Volkswagen Golf R, which bodes well.
Looks and image
While the Golf is more understated and classy, the Leon fits into Seat’s youth-orientated image by offering bolder styling. There are plenty of sharp angles in the design and you can even specify bright orange alloy wheels.
Inside, there’s the excellent build quality we’ve come to expect from VW Group cars – but it does feel a little boring in comparison with the exterior.
Space and practicality
The hallmark of a great hot hatch is performance and practicality, so the fact this is the estate version of the Leon makes it very practical indeed. With the rear seats up there’s 587 litres of boot space, but fold them flat and you’ve got 1,480 litres.
In the cabin there’s plenty of space for passengers, too. Whether in the front or rear seats, adults won’t feel too cramped, though bear in mind the ST is based on a hatchback so space is at a small premium.
Behind the wheel
The increase in power might be small, but the result is noticeable – it feels like a firecracker off the line and keeps pulling right through the rev range. It genuinely feels faster than the numbers suggest, aided by that new all-wheel drive system’s grip.
The steering weight is perfectly judged too, which makes attacking your favourite B-road all the more enjoyable. However, the six-speed manual in our test car was a little disappointing thanks to a slightly imprecise shift action and springy clutch feel – the DSG automatic is brilliant, though.
For pure driving fun, we actually prefer the front-wheel drive version as it feels more agile. However, if the estate version is a must, the Cupra 300 is still a riot with all-wheel drive – and better suited to British weather too.
Value for money
As the Seat Leon has grown up, the price gap between itself and the Golf has closed, losing its place as the excellent value alternative. However, the difference between the two estate models is quite considerable – about £4,000 between the two base prices. With almost no discernible difference in the driving experience and more interesting styling, the Cupra ST is great value.
Our test car came in at £34,520, making it almost £1,000 cheaper than a base Golf Estate R. Optional extras included a leather pack (£1,370), upgraded navigation system (£440) and keyless entry (£295).
Who would buy one?
The hot hatch market is typically targeted at younger car enthusiasts who can’t quite afford to get into ‘proper’ sports cars yet. However, the Cupra 300 ST has the performance to be a viable option for keen drivers of any age who need a bit more practicality from their daily driven car.
It’s genuinely tough to find too much to complain about with the Seat Leon Cupra 300 ST. It looks great, has the performance to back it up and plenty of luggage space – the fact it’s great value is the icing on the cake. Sure, the interior is quite dull and the manual gearbox is a bit of a let-down, but overall it’s a winning package.
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