If you want to transport lots of stuff very quickly and for a reasonable amount of money, this is a great option

What is it?

Fast estates such as this, the Seat Leon ST Cupra, are great. What's not to like? They offer space and fun in equal measure, and this particular one promises pretty large doses of each.

Priced at £995 more than the equivalent five-door, the Leon ST Cupra 280  has the same wheelbase and running gear as its hatchback sibling. That means there's turbocharged 2.0-litre four-pot under the bonnet delivering 276bhp (the lower-powered 261bhp Cupra is only available in three-door SC form) to the front wheels via a six-speed manual or optional six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. There's also an electronically controlled mechanical limited-slip differential.

Adaptive dampers are standard and come with virtually the same settings as those fitted to the other Cupra models, only the rear dampers are fractionally tweaked to better cope with heavy loads in the boot. That isn't not overly concerning given that the ST weighs only 45kg more than the five-door hatch, despite the extra 27cm of body length hanging out the back end. 

On top of all that, the Cupra ST gets stacks of equipment, including LED lights, Alcantara sports seats, front and rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers and sat-nav.

It all makes the Seat Leon ST Cupra sound like a junior Audi RS6 Avant.

What's it like?

You’d be hard pushed to tell the difference between this and the shorter models, that’s for sure. The Leon ST  Cupra  feels like a proper hot hatch, with a fairly mobile back end, scorching pace and masses of initial bite as you throw it into a corner.

It’s a shame, then, that the Leon’s diff doesn’t deliver the sort of welded-to-the-road, zen-like cornering attitude that you might hope for. Accelerate hard out of a corner and the tyres scrabble for traction as the car washes wide. At least you don’t have to wrestle with armfuls of torque steer.

Light steering response, even in the maximum-attack Cupra profile, also leaves something wanting in terms of an outright sense of involvement. 

Still, the ST’s extra weight barely seems to have had any affect on body control. By any standard, the ST Cupra offers precise and enjoyable handling. 

Going by our experience on smooth Spanish roads, ride comfort has been left undamaged, too. On standard 19in wheels, it remained pliant enough over ripples and undulations, although it can be pretty brittle over sharper-edged stuff around town. However, this is unlikely to be a deal-breaker for anybody looking for this sort of performance.

We tried both the DSG dual-clutch automatic and manual versions of the Cupra ST and, as with the hatch, there’s no contest: if fun is what you’re after, go for the the manual.  The light clutch and positive shift are a pleasure to use even during more mundane motoring, and it brings an element of control and hands-on involvement that the auto can't match.

Sure, the DSG is a smooth-shifting ’box that’ll do the job admirably for those who are shy of a left-foot workout, but it changes up for you even in manual mode. This can be frustrating, particularly when the software opts for an upshift at the same moment as you, resulting in a two-ratio jump when you only wanted one. 

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The interior is the same as that of the five-door Cupra, so you get supportive seats along with those standard luxuries we've already mentioned. The ST models also get a variable-height boot floor and a sizeable load bay. It may not be up there with the Skoda Octavia for outright carrying capacity, but you’ll need to be upsizing from Labrador to St Bernard before the Leon wagon’s load bay will become in any way restrictive. 

Should I buy one?

Among the limited competition on offer in the Leon ST Cupra’s class, this is undoubtedly one of the finest options. The Ford Focus ST wagon might be a bit more fun to drive, but this Seat is properly quick, while also being easy to live with, spacious, comfortable enough, well priced, generously equipped and a sharp looker. It is, in fact, just like a junior Audi RS6 Avant. 

Seat Leon ST Cupra 280

Price £28,505; Engine 4 cyls, 1984cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 276bhp at 5600-6500rpm; Torque 258lb ft at 1700-5600rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1440kg; Top speed 155mph; 0-62mph 6.1sec; Economy 42.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 157g/km, 24%

Join the debate

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Citytiger 14 February 2015

Ford Focus ST3 Estate is

Ford Focus ST3 Estate is £1500 cheaper, might not be as powerful, but it will handle and drive better, and probably just as quick..
Beastie_Boy 13 February 2015

Just shown a pic of this to our Boxer and she approves,

Praise indeed.

This looks to be the perfect antidote to our brilliant, yet dull Passat estate. We had a Seat before which we were very pleased with so a Cupra estate will be on my list for future used mountain bike/cack//family/dog carrier.

A34 12 February 2015

Sweet real world supercar

Less than £30K. 0-60 in the 6 secs range. Nice (enough) looks. Should be good for carrying children and labradors around the country at a good rate of knots!