I’ve been running our Cupra Leon Estate long-term test car for a couple of months now and I feel like I’ve properly got to grips with the car.
In my first report I hadn’t had much opportunity to drive it outside of local trips, but after 18 months of intermittent lockdowns and travel restrictions stopping the vast majority of new car launches, eased restrictions mean I’ve found myself heading to Heathrow so often it’s starting to feel like a regular commute.
The long-stay car park must feel like KY21 UVB’s second home at this point.
As such, I’ve been piling on the miles. They’ve been mostly sat at 70mph, but coupled with my local urban trips, have given me the chance to form a full opinion on the Cupra’s daily driving abilities.
My conclusion? It’s great, but I just don’t love it. It’s hard to explain, really, because if I put my journalist hat on, it’s got a fantastic blend of performance when you want it and comfort when you don’t.
But in my gut I just haven’t fallen in love with the car. Whenever I have a journey ahead I just don’t look forward to driving the Cupra. I think it’s because it’s just a little dull when not being driven hard. I ran a BMW 4 Series for six months before this, and while that wasn’t exciting, it was incredibly comfortable and spacious for front passengers.
The Cupra is in a completely different class and price bracket, obviously, but I feel a little claustrophobic in the driver’s seat. I also can’t quite get the driving position right, and the interior design is smart but unexciting.
It’s all good, but doesn’t light my fire. This has honestly come as a massive surprise to me as I’ve always enjoyed my brief stints in these models in the past.
The Cupra is a performance car at heart, though, so what’s it like on my favourite B-road? Ridiculously capable, is the answer. Switch the drive mode to Sport or Cupra and the car instantly feels more alert, accompanied by an aggressive growl.
Pitch the car into a corner and the front end has plenty of bite, the four-wheel-drive system providing bundles of confidence. I tend to prefer front-wheel-drive hot hatches because they’re more playful at sensible speeds, but you can feel the Leon’s four-wheel-drive system shift power around, making it feel agile and alert without ever making you think the tyres could let go at any moment.
The only downside is that you have to drive really hard to make this happen, something I don’t feel comfortable doing on too many roads in the UK where visibility is often limited. I still think I’d prefer the FWD hatchback, but it’s great to know that ability is there.
Away from the driving experience, our cruise control problem is still, well, a problem. To recap, it sometimes refuses to overtake vehicles, instead matching their speed in the outside lane – I think the car thinks it’s in Europe and is trying to stop you undertaking.
It’s become one of those weird idiosyncrasies you learn to live with, though, as I’ve found that tapping the throttle overrides it. So as soon as I notice the car starting to slow to not overtake someone, I dab the throttle and continue on my way.
This is not a long-term solution and Cupra is looking into it. Interestingly, I had a Volkswagen Golf 8 do the same thing, while a colleague has a Skoda Octavia vRS with a similar issue. These are all Volkswagen Group products so the issue appears to be Group-wide.
Hopefully it’s fixed through an over the air update, otherwise I could be off to find out what Cupra dealer hospitality is like.
To end on a more positive note, I absolutely love the way this thing looks. Every time I park it up I can’t help but look back and check out the front end, which is full of sharp angles and sporty aero flicks. It sits low to the ground with big alloys that give it an aggressive stance, too.
Personally I prefer the hatch version for looks, but the sleek rear end and full-width tail lights are particularly smart by estate standards.
Overall my time with the Cupra Leon Estate continues to be a positive one. As much as I’ve whinged in this report, it’s clearly a fantastic car, just not one that lights my particular fire just yet.
However, with the weather taking a turn for the worse for the winter, the four-wheel-drive performance car’s time to shine is here. Stay tuned.