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Long Term Review

Living with a… Cupra Leon Estate (Month 2)

A performance estate car with a powerful petrol engine feels so last century … but is there still a place for one?

Dan Trent

Words by: Dan Trent

Published on 19 March 2024 | 0 min read

In the age of crossovers and SUVs you might think small estate cars like this Cupra Leon were a thing of the past. Especially ones powered by powerful petrol engines without even the mildest of hybrid assistance. Somehow this one seems to have slipped through the net, though, and with its feisty 310 horsepower engine, all-wheel drive and unashamedly sporty vibe presents as some sort of half-price BMW M3 Touring. Which is a tempting prospect! The low-key looks compared with the Golf R on which it is based are also appealing for someone who wants a fast, practical car that won’t attract the wrong kind of attention. Does it still make sense in an electrified world, though? We’ve got a few months with it to find out.
Skip to: Month 1 – Spicy Spanish sauce Month 2 – Sports Utility Vehicle

What is it?

  • Model: Cupra Leon Estate
  • Version: 2.0TSI 4Drive DSG
  • Spec level: VZ3 Design Edition
  • Options fitted: Graphene Grey premium metallic paint £930; towbar pre-installation with hook £790
  • Price as tested: £49,430

We like

  • Grey to the point of invisibility…
  • …but fast enough to scare hot hatches
  • It’s not an SUV or crossover

We don’t like

  • Grey to the point of invisibility
  • Ruinous running costs
  • Screen-powered interior

Month 1 – Spicy Spanish sauce

Dan says:“It’s also totally understated, meaning I can indulge my inner dad racer without attracting unwelcome attention!”


Trips taken

Delivered with only 160-odd miles on the clock the Leon arrived with that new car smell still present. Which won’t last long once I unleash the family on it, but I’ll enjoy while I can. From there it was straight to my favourite moorland loop for an initial shakedown on some twisty, bumpy roads.

We like

Well, it’s fast! Perhaps not in a new-school electrically assisted way. But I’m quite old-school, and I still enjoy the (relatively) delayed gratification you get from a powerful, turbocharged petrol engine. I also like the fact it’s totally understated, meaning I can indulge my inner dad racer without attracting unwelcome attention!

We're not so keen on

While I appreciate the stealth looks the grey is almost too low-key, especially compared with the lovely metallic red of the last Cupra Leon estate I drove. Meanwhile, as an unashamedly sporting car it feels unfair to complain about stiff suspension but I wonder if that novelty will fade in day-to-day driving.

Niggles

The Ateca I swapped out of has an older interior combining the functionality of the fancy screen with proper physical switches for things like heating and lights. No such luck here – being based on the latest VW Golf the Leon has the same button-banishing frustrations of touch-sensitive controls demanding eyes off the road to operate. Bah.

Surprise and delight

Remember me saying the ride was a bit stiff? Good news! As a range-topping VZ3 I get 14-stage adjustable DCC suspension via a simple swipe control on the screen. For my ‘Individual’ driving mode I’ve got this set to the softest while keeping the fiercest ‘Cupra’ setting for the engine but with the silly fake noise switched off. Result!

Mileage: Not much, yet Fuel consumption: Already a lot

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Month 2- Sports Utility Vehicle

Dan says: “The Leon has a neat hidden tow hook that deploys at the push of a button in the boot and means my Thule bike rack slips straight on”


Trips taken

We’ve come to think of ‘Sports Utility Vehicle’ as big, 4x4 style cars but, taken literally, I think it should apply to anything used for getting people and gear to where they do whatever they do, be that golf, windsurfing or, in my case, mountain biking. To those ends I’m calling it a result the Leon has a neat hidden tow hook that deploys at the push of a button in the boot and means my Thule bike rack slips straight on. Happy days, and an SUV with a twist!

We like

Each to theirs but another advantage of estate cars is their relative anonymity, especially in overcast grey like the Leon. The fact this is totally at odds with the performance is also amusing, and where an equivalent Golf R estate would attract all the wrong attention I’m past and gone before anyone even notices I’m there. Quiet and comfy on the motorway but also fun and agile on the twisty back roads to riding spots, I’m loving the Leon’s undercover ability to get to places fast.

We're not so keen on

It’s a high-performance model with, for this day and age, a relatively big petrol engine. So, expectations to realistic – the Leon is never going to be an especially frugal car. Thankfully it’ll sit at mid-30s mpg on my long runs up and down the motorway but that plummets to mid-20s around town. Which is going to hurt.

Niggles

My kids love the configurable ambient lighting effects and are constantly fiddling with them, which is an annoyance I’ll indulge. More frustrating is how dazzling it gets after dark on roads without streetlights, like the long stretches of A1 I drove the other week back from Stansted. Trying to dim this and the various screens is a mess of multiple menus and settings – for trips like this I just need a single ‘night panel’ button like old Saabs used to have that would turn off every light in the car bar that illuminating the speedo.

Surprise and delight

I’ll include that tow hook here, on the basis when it’s stowed there’s no ugly ironmongery hanging under the bumper and you’d never even know it was there. Another candidate? While the Leon’s engine sounds a bit flat from the inside I was following my wife in it while on my motorbike and it turns out those quad exhausts make a rather nice sporty growl. Not offensive or unsociable. Just purposeful.

Mileage: 895 Fuel consumption: 33.6mpg (measured)

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