Expert Reviews

First Drive: Seat Leon Cupra 300 ST

Friday17 February 2017

First Drive: Seat Leon Cupra 300 ST
Summary

This is the mildly updated Seat Leon Cupra 300. There’s a small increase of power from 286bhp up to 296bhp, but the more impressive figure is the increase in torque, which jumps from 350Nm up to 380Nm.

Another major update comes with the move from front- to four-wheel-drive for the estate variant – though the system isn’t available with the hatchback car.

Elsewhere, the changes are minimal, but that’s not a bad thing because the Seat Leon Cupra has always been an impressive hot hatch. In terms of dynamics, the chassis has been improved slightly, while full LED headlights are a new addition, too.

Looks & Image

The Leon Cupra has always been able to offer more interesting styling that its rivals, and that’s something that has been continued with the facelifted car. It can be specced with bright orange wheels, orange wing mirrors and an orange badge on the boot, which is something that you wouldn’t see a Golf coming with straight from the factory.

Inside, sporty touches like half-Alcantara seats do help give the Leon Cupra a sense of occasion, making it a true event every time you sit behind the wheel. 

Space & Practicality

Unsurprisingly, the estate version of the Leon offers a lot more luggage space than its hatchback counterpart, bringing with it 587 litres with the seats up and 1,470 litres with them folded down.

When up and running, there really isn’t much difference between the estate and the hatch. The wagon is around £1,000 more expensive than the hatch if you choose the front-wheel-drive model, which means it’s a great option if you’re looking at taking a lot of things with you.

If you’re after a car that covers all bases, then the ST Cupra makes a lot of sense. It’s got plenty of boot space, and a lot of room in the back for kids too – while the performance it offers means that any drive isn’t going to be dull, either.

Behind the Wheel

There’s just one engine with one power output available with the Cupra, so things are kept simple here. The 2.0-litre TSI engine under the bonnet produces 296bhp and 380Nm torque. The only real variations come in the form of body styles – SC (three-door), five door and ST (estate) – there’s also the choice of either a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic gearboxes.

The performance that the engine affords is impressive, with more than enough everyday usability for the road. It’s only negative is a slight lack of character, though switching the car into ‘Cupra’ driving mode does provide the car with an addictive soundtrack. 

Despite the increase in power, torque steer isn’t as apparent in front-wheel-drive cars as you’d think. This is down to the use of a mechanical differential that helps the Leon to put its power down. 

The four-wheel-drive variant gives extra security when coming out of corners, especially in the wet, but the system does tend to err on the side of caution. This results in occasionally unpredictable power delivery, with the car’s torque being distributed between the wheels with the most grip. 

However, its two-wheel-drive stablemate is the more fun of the pair, with higher levels of adjustability making it a go-to choice for keen drivers. Pair it with the excellent DSG automatic gearbox, and you have a pretty compelling package.

The only negative we could put out was that the Cupra simply doesn’t feel as special as its rivals. It’s pitched against the Honda Civic Type R and Ford Focus RS in this category, and both feel quite a bit more premium. The Seat wins, however, as an out-and-out daily driver.

Value for Money

As can be expected from a top-of-the-range model, there are plenty of bells and whistles with the Cupra. You get launch control for automatic, four-wheel-drive cars, while its electronic stability aids can be completely disengaged if needed.

Inside, the Cupra gets a sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel, sports seats and an infotainment system with eight-inch touchscreen which houses DAB radio and Bluetooth connectivity.

Bucket seats, meanwhile, are a £1,290 option, while black leather sports seats can be fitted – for a £1,370 premium.

Who would buy one ?

Seat is seen as the youth-orientated arm of the VW Group’s lineup of companies, and because of this the Leon Cupra is targeted at a younger audience than rivals. Despite this, it still stits in insurance group 33E, so premiums will still be high for those under 25.

It remains an excellent all-rounder, but for those who are looking for out-and-out thrills, you may want to look in the direction of the Civic Type R. However, if you’re after a fun, well-specced and fast family car, you could do a lot worse than pick the Leon Cupra. 

Facts at a Glance

Model: Seat Leon Cupra 300 ST DSG 4-Drive
Engine: 2.0-litre petrol (296bhp, 380Nm)
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Performance: 0-60mph in 4.9 seconds, 155mph top speed
Economy: 39.2mpg
Emissions: 164g/km

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