Cupra is Seat’s standalone performance brand and has impressed with its stylish standalone Formentor crossover and hot hatch interpretation of the regular Leon. This Cupra Leon Estate arguably combines best of both, with all the performance of the Cupra Leon hatchback but the practicality of the Formentor in a more understated package. The 310 horsepower, all-wheel drive petrol is rapid come rain or shine but if the running costs look a little crippling there’s also the option of a plug-in hybrid, offering a tax-friendly way into Cupra ownership for company drivers seeking a stylish break from the norm.
“It’s also more affordable than a Formentor with the same engine and power output and a little better on fuel consumption and CO2”
There’s no mid-level engine option for the Cupra Leon Estate as there is on the hatchback, meaning your choice is between the full beans, 310 horsepower petrol or the 245 horsepower plug-in hybrid. The favourably low CO2 figure for the latter, and huge savings in VED (or road tax) and Benefit In Kind, make this a no-brainer if you’re buying it as a company car and means you get all the style and most of the performance of the top version without the chunky running costs. These will still be high for private buyers but more palatable and a fair return given the performance available. A Golf R estate is based on the same platform and engine and gets a small power boost but the Leon is pretty much as quick and costs less to buy. It’s also more affordable than a Formentor with the same engine and power output, and a little better on fuel consumption and CO2.
Expert rating: 4/5
Reliability of a CUPRA Leon
“You may want to consider the option to upgrade the standard three-year warranty to the four- or five-year cover”
Volkswagen and the other brands within its family are able to pool resources by sharing platforms and engines, and the Cupra Leon is based on the same bits as the latest generation of Golf, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia. Going by how many of these cars are sold across the various brands you’d have to hope the parts are reliable but it’s still early days yet. Given that, you may want to consider the option to upgrade the standard three-year warranty to the four- or five-year cover, which is a smart move if you’re also signing up to a typical 48-month finance package
Expert rating: 4/5
Safety for a CUPRA Leon
“There are three levels of additional ‘Safety and Driving’ packs you can option in at extra cost”
The most powerful Cupra Leon Estate gets all-wheel drive, which is a step up from the equivalent hatchback version and means you can enjoy its performance whatever the weather. It also comes as standard with automated emergency braking with cyclist and pedestrian detection, tiredness warning system and lane-keeping assistance as standard. Beyond that there are three levels of additional ‘Safety and Driving’ packs you can option in at extra cost, which add things like intelligent cruise control with ‘follow to stop’ to take the stress out of busy motorway traffic, blind spot monitoring, ‘Exit assist’ to warn you if you’re about to open your door into an unseen cyclist or car and more besides. Given the relatively modest cost – and desirability for resale values – we’d expect most people to tick the box for the all-inclusive ‘XL’ package.
Expert rating: 4/5
How comfortable is the CUPRA Leon
“There are enough of Cupra’s trademark copper trim elements to make it feel a cut above the norm”
Cupra is, of course, a premium performance brand and the Leon is certainly dressed to impressed inside, at least on the top trim level we tried in the hatchback. Our estate test car was a little more pared back with fabric rather than leather upholstery but the seats still look sporty and there are enough of Cupra’s trademark copper trim elements to make it feel a cut above the norm. Benefits of the new Leon’s longer wheelbase are felt in the back, too, with nice long doors for easy access and a low-slung but comfortable rear seat and decent legroom. As ever the central one is a bit lumpy for the fifth passenger but it’s spacious for four and the estate offers tons of carrying space and has a bigger boot than the Formentor, though the hybrid version does lose quite a bit of space to the batteries. We appreciated the optional foldaway tow hook fitted to our test car, which made it a breeze to stick a bike rack on the back but folded neatly out of sight when not in use.
Given its sporty positioning Cupra has set its Leon Estate up to ride lower and more firmly than the regular Seat version, the bigger wheels on higher trim levels looking cool but threatening a more brittle ride. Our test car came on the standard suspension, which struck a good balance between comfort and the body control in the corners you’d expect of a performance model. The Dynamic and Comfort Pack optional on the mid-level trim, and included on the top spec hatch we drove previously, adds adjustable dampers you can control via pre-set driver modes or even customise via a slider on the touch-screen, meaning you can switch between a more comfortable setting for cruising through town and a firmer one when the going gets more interesting. Keen drivers will appreciate the greater sense of agility and it goes a long way to unlocking the sporting potential in the car, especially if you’re going for the more powerful petrol version.
Expert rating: 4/5
Features of the CUPRA Leon
“The configurable digital instruments and central touch-screen look pretty slick and have tons of functionality”
Most cars based on this new Golf platform feature the very on-trend combination of a central touch-screen through which you control everything from infotainment to heating and ventilation and, while it does a good job of decluttering the cabin by getting rid of physical buttons, the interface can be fiddly. In fairness this will likely become second nature over time, and there are options to control many functions from the wheel or via voice control. But not everyone wants that.
Moaning aside the configurable digital instruments and central touch-screen look pretty slick and have tons of functionality, with all Cupra Leons getting built-in nav and various connected services as standard. Or you can just use CarPlay or Android Auto, be that wirelessly or plugged in as you prefer. While all models get the kit you need we’d argue for a car of this nature the top trim level with its leather upholstery and other upgrades feel a worthwhile stretch for making your Leon feel a bit more special.
Expert rating: 4/5
Power for a CUPRA Leon
“The hybrid is an attractive option, and means you can enjoy the Cupra look with more affordable running costs”
With the option of a 245 horsepower plug-in hybrid or 310 horsepower petrol the Cupra Leon Estate offers two extremes, the good news being both deliver the kind of pace you’d hope for given the sporty image. With the ability to travel over 30 miles on electric power alone but a serious performance kick when working in partnership with the petrol engine the hybrid is an attractive option, and means you can enjoy the Cupra look with more affordable running costs.
We’ll hope to try that version before too long but it’s hard to ignore the attractions of the more powerful petrol one (at least if the numbers work for you) and the extra weight of the all-wheel drive system and estate body over the hatchback are offset by a bit more power – 310 horsepower in the case of the estate. The hatch still feels a little more responsive but the estate pulls hard, the strong acceleration helped by the seamlessly smooth shifts of the standard automatic gearbox. This is one rapid car, the fact it has this level of performance in a more understated estate body meaning you can enjoy its abilities without attracting the attention you might in an equivalent hot hatch. We were less keen on the piped-in fake engine noise but you can at least turn this off in the personalised Individual mode in the driver settings.