SEAT Leon ST Cupra estate (2015-2020)
"Powerful, fun to drive, stylish-looking and usefully practical, the SEAT Leon ST Cupra estate ticks a lot of boxes and is one of the best all-rounders you can buy for the money"
- As practical as the regular Leon ST
- Stylish and good to drive
- Lots of standard equipment
- Fairly pricey to buy
- Not quite as spacious as some rivals
- Interior not special enough for performance model
Take the appealing formula of the hatchback and add a large estate-car boot to the equation and you have the SEAT Leon ST Cupra 300. The result is a rival to other highly practical performance models such as the Ford Focus ST Estate, Skoda Octavia vRS Estate and Volkswagen Golf R Estate.
Like the Cupra hatchback, the ST version comes with just a DSG automatic gearbox, but unlike the hatchback it can also come with four-wheel drive.
For around £1,000 more than the hatchback's list price, the ST gives you 587 litres of boot space compared to the hatchback's 380. The space expands to 1,470 litres when you fold down the seats, which is impressive, if not quite as much as what you get in the Focus ST Estate or Octavia vRS Estate. The limited-run SEAT Leon ST Cupra 300 Carbon Edition is pricey at just over £35,000, but less than 50 are expected in the UK. Finished in Monsoon Grey, with carbon exterior trim, 19-inch wheels and Brembo brakes, it's sure to be desirable.
The good news is the extra length and space of the ST Cupra 300 hasn't affected how it drives or handles compared to the hatchback. Our biggest problem is that, like the hatchback, the ST Cupra's interior seems a bit drab and ordinary for such an exciting, high-performance model.
The SEAT Leon range finished 47th out of the 75 cars ranked in our 2018 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK.
MPG, running costs & CO2
The extra weight of the SEAT Leon ST Cupra 300 means it's very slightly less economical than the hatchback – 40.4mpg versus 42.2mpg. CO2 emissions are also a little higher (161 compared to 153g/km), although this doesn't put the ST Cupra into a higher road-tax band, as every version costs £140 a year. In versions with four-wheel drive, called 4Drive, economy slips to 39.2mpg and emissions increase to 164g/km.
Unlike the Focus and Skoda Octavia vRS, the Leon isn't offered with a frugal diesel engine – although you can get a less powerful, but still reasonably quick, Leon ST FR diesel.
Warranty cover on the Leon ST Cupra is a reasonable three years or 60,000 miles. SEAT offers fixed-price servicing on all its models.
Engines, drive & performance
The good news for hot-hatchback fans who need a bit of extra space to accommodate the family is that the SEAT Leon ST Cupra is just as quick and exciting to drive as its Leon Cupra hatchback sister model, despite the weight gain associated with adding an estate boot.
At slower speeds, the engine and DSG gearbox combination work smoothly and when pressing on changes are quick and accurate when using the paddles. The DSG gearbox also comes with a launch-control function, which gives explosive power delivery from rest. Our only criticism concerns the firm ride – the VW Golf R Estate is far more composed and forgiving on a rough road.
The estate has the same 296bhp engine as the hatch, with a maximum speed of 155mph. The four-wheel drive DSG 4Drive model is the fastest in the Cupra range with a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds. The ST offers three different driving modes – Normal, Sport and Cupra – that let you tweak how the car behaves to suit your mood or the type of road you're driving on. Normal is ideal for town driving or motorway cruising, Sport suits a twisty country road, while Cupra is the most 'hardcore' setting, giving you the stiffest suspension, sharpest steering and strongest acceleration possible. The limited-run Carbon Edition isn't any quicker, but it does shed speed more quickly thanks to Brembo brakes.
Interior & comfort
You don't buy a performance car like the Leon ST Cupra if you're looking for the ultimate in comfort – but it's still nice to know that when you want a more relaxing drive, you can stick the car in the Normal setting and it'll be almost as comfortable as the regular Leon ST estate over rough roads and speed bumps.
The dashboard is also very similar to what you get in the regular Leon ST estate – but this isn't necessarily a good thing, as it seems a bit dull and ordinary for an exciting performance model like the Cupra. On the plus side, all the materials used are very high quality, the layout is clear and logical and there's an excellent sat-nav screen mounted high up in the dashboard. Both the driver and the front-seat passenger enjoy supportive, figure-hugging sports seats. Digital cockpit dials offer excellent functionality, allowing different views, including a full-screen map, but the graphics feel less premium than the Audi and Volkswagen versions.
Practicality & boot space
The Leon ST Cupra suffers from the same problem as the standard Leon ST estate – in isolation, it's very practical, but it doesn't offer quite as much luggage capacity as its Volkswagen and Skoda sister models. Cabin space is good, though, with enough room for five adults to sit in comfort. There are plenty of storage spaces for odds and ends as well, including a large cooled glovebox, a lidded cubbyhole and a pair of cup-holders.
Its boot will hold 1,470 litres of luggage if you lower the rear seats, or 587 litres with the seats in place. That's significantly more than the hatchback's 380 litres, but doesn't look so impressive when compared to the equivalent figure for the Skoda Octavia vRS estate (610 litres) and VW Golf R estate (605 litres) – especially when you consider both of those models are based on the same underpinnings as the SEAT.
Reliability & safety
The Leon ST uses lots of proven mechanical parts that are also found in the Volkswagen Golf, Audi A3 and Skoda Octavia. The SEAT Leon range came 47th in our 2018 Driver Power owner satisfaction survey of cars currently on sale in the UK. Of the owners who responded, 11.7% reported experiencing a problem with their car at least once, with electrical and transmissions issues the most common.
As far as safety goes, there should be no major worries, as the Leon scored the maximum possible five stars when it was crash-tested by the experts at Euro NCAP. The result included a 94% rating for adult occupant protection.
Standard safety kit comprises driver's knee and curtain airbags, as well as electronic stability control to help prevent skids. ISOFIX child-seat mounts are found on the outer two rear sets and SEAT was also one of the first manufacturers to fit full LED headlights, which offer a brighter and more natural illumination of the road at night than regular halogen bulbs.
Price, value for money & options
There aren't a huge amount of decisions to be made when purchasing a Leon ST Cupra 300, as there is only one engine. You just need to work out whether you want the front-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive DSG model. Both are excellent, but the 4Drive is worth going for if you want the peace of mind afforded by the extra grip of four-wheel drive and unflappable acceleration.
Standard kit includes, cruise control, DAB digital radio, front and rear parking sensors and a eight-inch touchscreen with sat nav, Bluetooth, USB and MP3 player connectivity.
Overall, the Leon ST isn't quite as affordable as the Ford Focus ST Estate (although it is faster) but more of a problem is the price tag of the Volkswagen Golf R estate, which is now only slightly more expensive with a more composed ride and sophisticated interior.