Seat Leon ST 300 Cupra 4DRIVE DSG
Despite sharing many mechanical components with the VW Golf R, the Seat Leon ST 300 Cupra has its own identity. Sporty flair on the outside, and familiarity on the inside. Blistering performance lacks, unfortunately, noise to accompany it. Grip is sublime, thanks to a 4DRIVE system. Being the estate this is a vastly practical family car, and it costs a few grand less than the equivalent Golf R. You’ll struggle not to love it.
Here at Simply Motor we’re quite partial to an estate car. We loved the Skoda Superb SportLine Plus Estate. We’ve got the Skoda Octavia vRS Challenge and Peugoet 508 SW GT coming later this year too.
Certain cars, like the Seat Leon, actually look better as an estate; in our opinion at least. So this Leon ST 300 Cupra is right up our street.
Basic body lines are largely the same as the regular Leon ST, but with added Cupra muscle and flair.
At the front there are five extra slots in the bumper just above the number plate. Small they may be, but it sets the Cupra version apart. Look up a little more and you’ll notice the copper-coloured seat badge.
The side profile is enhanced by black window surrounds, roof rails and door mirrors. 19-inch alloy wheels are wrapped – barely – in some low profile rubber: 235/35 R19 to be precise. The Seat logo on the centre caps is also copper-coloured.
At the rear, there’s another copper badge to complete a sporty theme. Under this one the word ‘CUPRA’ features in black lettering. This let’s everyone know this Leon ST 300 means business.
In truth, they may have guessed already, owing to the twin exhausts sitting either side of a rear diffuser. A roof spoiler adds the final bit of flair, with gloss black side blades.
There is no aerial on the roof at all – not even a shark fin – which gives a clean appearance. More prominent corners at the front and rear give a muscular feel.
The Leon ST 300 Cupra has a rather athletic look on the whole. Even finished in a basic silver, our test car looked the part in the car park. Choose Emocion Red and it will really stand out.
Stepping inside the ST 300 Cupra brings a much more familiar feel, not least because my daily driver is, in fact, a Seat Leon ST. Nick’s is a Skoda Octavia, and both have virtually identical control layouts.
In fact, you can get in many cars from across the VW-Audi Group range, and know where every menu is and what every button does. That’s no bad thing; the logical layout is worth using.
There’s a lot to like inside the ST 300 Cupra. Copious amounts of alcantara for one. Complementing this is a carbon-effect leather trim. It may sound like a gimmick, but it’s surprisingly effective; bringing another pattern to stop the interior feeling too samey.
Contrast white stitching is a nice accent on the seats and steering wheel. And the steering wheel is flat-bottomed with perforated leather and a copper coloured Seat badge in the centre.
The copper theme is especially effective. The door card lights and multimedia interface are copper-coloured as standard. You can change this to a green or even purple if you so wish, but we preferred it as it came.
The Leon ST 300 Cupra features a Virtual Cockpit as standard. The Google Earth satellite view on the Audi system will always create the most visual impact, but the Seat system is actually more customisable.
There are several different view options and configurations, from a full-screen map to a simple central rev counter: the latter was our preferred choice for spirited driving.
The interior falls short of being perfect in one area: the seats. Yes, they are comfortable, but they look nearly identical to the standard seats. The ST 300 Cupra deserves some big buckets, and the omission of such niggles at you over time.
Also familiar is the engine in the Seat Leon ST 300 Cupra is the engine. It’s a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine; one of the many iterations of the EA888 used across the VAG brands.
This one is one of the more powerful iterations, with 300PS and 400Nm of torque. To ensure this is put to best use, the ST 300 Cupra has a 4DRIVE all-wheel drive system and 7-speed DSG gearbox.
The results are astounding. Enable launch control and this estate car will take off like a rocket. 0-62mph is dealt with in 5.2 seconds, and the top speed is limited to 155mph. That’s not just quick for an estate car. It’s quick full stop.
The 4DRIVE system is rather clever; sending to the power to the front and rear axles in perfect quantities depending on the road conditions.
So whilst all-wheel drive is certainly not required at 300PS – take the Honda Civic Type-R as a prime example – the Leon ST 300 Cupra is certainly better for having it. Because even on wet roads, with the ESC system disabled, you’ll struggle to break traction.
The 7-speed DSG is a gem. It’s properly engaging to the point that we spent most of the week in manual mode. A quick pull at one of the steering wheel paddles delivers an instant gear change. For acceleration it means the power delivery is relentless. When braking you can downshift with both hands firmly on the wheel.
There is just one aspect of performance missing: a soundtrack. Granted, a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol isn’t a naturally great-sounding engine. But with a raucous exhaust and some electronic fakery in the cabin the ST 300 could have been perfect. As is it, you’ll want more theatre, like you get with a Golf R.
Being able to put 300PS down in a straight line is one thing. But hot hatches are meant to be driven hard, so it’s imperative that the Leon ST 300 Cupra is able to maintain composure when you ask for all 300PS in the corners.
It’s there where the 4DRIVE comes into its own. However hard you push, and whatever the weather, it just grips and grips some more. If anything the ST 300 Cupra is a little too good: without a sense of drama or danger you’ll find yourself doing some rather silly speeds.
Steering is nicely weighted and pleasantly direct. It’s easy to put the nose of the Leon exactly where you want it, and the 4DRIVE system ensures the rear follows with composure.
The brakes are strong, as you’d expect for a car with these acceleration credentials. Stamp on the big brake pedal and you’ll come to a halt with significant G force. You can see for yourself too, thanks to the sport display on the multimedia screen which includes a G-meter. Because why not?
The suspension is finely balanced, allowing the ST 300 Cupra to corner flat and with little body roll. There’s no denying the ride is firm, but rightfully so to maintain composure.
And best of all thanks to Dynamic Chassis Control, which comes as standard on the Leon ST 300 Cupra, it doesn’t have to be firm all the time. You can soften the damping in Comfort mode. This, coupled to the long 7th gear, makes the Leon an excellent motorway cruiser too.
It’s fair to say that a 300PS hot hatch with all-wheel drive is never going to be the most economical option. But the fact of the matter is that these days we can be pleasantly surprised, which in turn only heightens our expectations of any car.
And the Leon ST 300 Cupra has other features which assure you this isn’t going to chew through your wallet at the petrol pumps.
Start/stop technology cuts the engine to save fuel. This has a coasting feature, whereby the car automatically selects neutral when off the accelerator.
Having a 7-speed DSG means that the revs are kept down at motorway speeds, so that the Leon is off the boost.
And the result of all this? Fuel consumption on the combined WLTP cycle of 32.1mpg. It may not be as much as you’d hoped for, but at least be pleased it’s achievable.
What’s more, if you can stick to an eco-based drive mode and resist the temptation to put the hammer down, you’ll get in the mid-to-high 30’s. Not half bad.
But let’s be honest here. You’re not going to resist the temptation to use that 300PS. And once you’ve discovered the launch control you’ll simply have to show all your friends. And this will mean a figure in the mid-to-high 20s.
CO2 emissions are an NEDC-equivalent 161g/km which equates to a first year rate of £530 and £145 thereafter. The ST 300 Cupra is comfortably under £40,000 so steers well clear of the VED surcharge.
In addition to looking better than the hatchback, the Seat Leon ST in inherently more practical as a family car.
Boot space is an impressive 587 litres, versus 380 litres on the 5-door Leon hatchback. It’s a very usable area too, with a large opening that makes loading bulkier items a doddle.
You can actually get a surprising amount of shopping underneath the load cover, meaning your bread and milk can stay out of sight from would-be looters.
Cabin space is good. There are certainly more spacious cars in the class – a Skoda Octavia, for example – but really the Leon is fine.
Four adults can sit in comfort, even on long journeys. Try to get three adults in the back and your passengers will find it less comfortable back there, especially if you decide to blast down a twisty B-road.
Visibilty is great, even with those rather pointy door mirrors. Parking isn’t a problem either. After all the ST 300 Cupra is a family wagon, so you’ll get to use the parent and child spaces!
What makes the Leon such a great family car is its versatility and adaptability. The stark contrast between Cupra and Comfort drive modes is evidence of this.
The ST 300 Cupra can be a ferocious beast at one end of the spectrum and a tame, comfortable family car at the other. And that’s great. Calmly take the kids to school, then enjoy a mad blast to the office.
You needn’t worry about gadgets if you choose a Leon ST 300 Cupra. It comes with a bucket load as standard. So here we go…
For visual appeal (get it?) there’s a Full-LED lighting system. Headlights, including daytime-running lights, taillights, number plate lights and fog lights. There’s more on the inside too, with customisable ambient lighting and LED reading lights.
The door mirrors are electrically adjustable, heated and have a fold function. You get electric windows front and rear, an electric parking brake with auto-hold function, cruise control and dual-zone climate control.
For additional convenience you get rain-sensing wipers, auto lights and front and rear parking sensors.
On the safety front all Seat Leons feature anti-lock braking, traction control, electronic stability control and electronic differential lock systems. In addition there are a host of airbags, front assist with pedestrian protection and a multi-collision braking system.
The infotainment offering centres on an 8.0-inch touchscreen. It includes Bluetooth, DAB and satellite navigation. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard fit too, to get the most out of your smartphone.
The cabin layout and design is largely unchanged from when the Leon Mk3 was launched in 2012. Seat has, however, made small changes to keep it fresh. A larger multimedia screen has helped. And the ST 300 Cupra also gets a Virtual Cockpit as standard.
While the Audi system will always win the award for biggest wow factor thanks to Google Earth display, this Seat system actually has more displays and customisation options. From a full-screen map to having dials wrapped around the outer edge, to a simple central rev counter, the choice is yours.
Lux specification adds front bucket seats (hurrah!), adaptive cruise control, keyless entry and a wireless charging pad. It also adds tiredness recognition and seat belt reminder.
Value For Money
The Leon ST 300 Cupra costs from £33,395. The car we tested is as it comes. There were no hefty options list to push the price up further.
And it’s hard to argue with the package on offer. 4DRIVE all-wheel drive, plenty of gadgetry and nice wheels as standard. No complaints.
Go for the ST 300 Cupra Lux and you’re looking at £34,760. In truth the bucket seats alone would be worth that. They transform the cabin completely.
The closest rival to the Leon is, unquestionably, the Volkswagen Golf R estate. It has the exact same powertrain for one. It does, however, sound much better thanks to a more exciting exhaust system. But that may not be to everyone’s taste.
There are more Golf Rs on the road than there are Leon Cupras, so choosing the Seat will give you more exclusivity, and there’s something to be said for that.
There’s a price saving to be had too: the Golf R Estate costs £37,350. That’s a lot more than the ST 300 Cupra, even if you opt for the Lux spec.
Some will argue that the Golf will hold more value, and they have a point. But if you plan to keep the car longer this may not be as big a factor. And you could certainly do a lot with an extra £2,500 in your pocket.
Even without comparing the Leon to any other car, it’s hard not to appreciate the value of it. £33,395 for a car that will rub shoulders with some mighty cars at the traffic lights and keep up with just about anything on a twisty B-road, yet also has a large boot and is easy to live with. Sounds like a bargain to me.
Facts and Figures
|Engine||2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol|
|Max power||300PS at 5,300-6,500rpm|
|Max torque||400Nm at 2,000-5,200rpm|
|Drivetrain||7-speed DSG transmission, 4DRIVE all-wheel drive|
|Fuel tank size||55 litres|
|Fuel consumption||32.1 mpg combined, WLTP|
|CO2 emissions||161 g/km NEDC equivalent|
|Towing capacity||750kg braked / 750kg unbraked|
|Luggage capacity||587 litres|
|NCAP rating||5 stars|
|Price as tested||£33,395|