Wednesday 29 May 2024

REVIEW – Seat Leon ST Cupra R ABT

Seat Leon ST 2.0 TSI 4DRIVE Cupra R ABT
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine / Performance
  • Ride / Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money


When we tested the Seat Leon ST 300 Cupra we had a few niggles. The ST Cupra R ABT addresses them all. And then some. Performance is blistering: 0-62mph in 4.7 seconds. All-wheel drive and launch control means that in the wet, few cars stand a chance at the lights. Flashes of copper and carbon fibre details giving the Cupra R a distinct appearance. There are only 150 of these coming to the UK – grab one while you can.

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Exterior Styling

If you’re going to produce a limited-run hot hatch then you want it to stand out. Enter the Seat Leon ST Cupra R. You can’t miss it, that’s for sure.

Despite the rather unassuming “Blackness Grey” metallic paint, the Cupra R really makes a bold visual statement. That’s largely due to the amount of copper design features.

At the front, the Seat badge and part of the front bumper are finished in copper. The front skirt is carbon fibre, and grille surrounds are gloss black. Look closely and you’ll spot a dark Cupra chequered flag on the front grille.

The side profile is dominated by the 19-inch alloy wheels, which are two-tone copper and satin black. Because they are an open design, you can easily see the four-piston Brembo calipers at the front. The rearmost part of the prominent side skirt is finished in carbon fibre; the mirrors and roof rails in black.

To the rear, things get even more interesting. There are four exhaust tailpipes with dark tips. The diffuser into which the exhausts are nestled is carbon fibre, as is the rather large roof spoiler. The Seat badge and Cupra lettering are copper.

On the Cupra R ABT model you get two satin black badges on the tailgate: an “R” to the right and “ABT” to the left. And the latter, a small three-letter badge, is the only clue on the outside as to the performance that lies beneath the bonnet.

We thought the Leon ST 300 Cupra looked good, but the Cupra R ABT blows it out of the water, particularly with those copper wheels and the use of carbon fibre. It’s a masterpiece.

Interior Finish

We had one major gripe with the interior on the ‘regular’ Leon ST 300 Cupra, and that was the seats. They just weren’t befitting of a 300PS hot hatch. It is with pleasure, therefore, that we can tell you that sumptuous, fixed-headrest bucket seats are standard fitment on the Cupra R.

They are half-leather, half-alcantara and have ‘CUPRA’ embossed on the backrest. Contrast copper stitching and carbon-effect leather edging make for a wonderful appearance. They are definitely befitting of this car, and set the tone for the remainder of the cabin.

Contrast copper stitching can be found on the gear gaiter and steering wheel, in addition to copper accenting around the air vents and a copper Seat badge on the steering wheel.

The carbon-effect leather is used on the door cards too, giving a distinct textured appearance. That’s important because, despite the cabin being largely the same colour, it never feels monotonous.

The highlight for me is the alcantara steering wheel. Not only does it have a motorsport appearance – alcantara is commonplace in rally and racing cars – but it just feels nice in your hands. It makes you want to grab hold and go for a ride.

The dashboard is a Virtual Cockpit, allowing you to choose a display that suits you. For me, it was the simplest display – a single rev counter with digital speedometer in the middle. There’s no frills, no messing about. It just allows you to watch that red line and concentrate on the road ahead.

The Cupra R features configurable ambient lighting in the front door cards. We never changed this from the default colour, which is a sort-of copper. It brought the whole colour scheme together in a way that the lime green option just wouldn’t.


The engine in the Leon ST Cupra R is the same variant of the EA888 you get in the ST 300 Cupra: a 2.0-litre, turbocharged petrol engine with 300PS and 400Nm of torque.

But let’s not forget that this is the ABT version, which benefits from a remap and revised exhaust system. That may not sound like much, but the results are staggering: 350PS and 440Nm of torque. That’s a 17% increase in power, and 10% increase in torque.

Best of all, the Cupra R uses the same 4DRIVE all-wheel drive system as the ST 300 Cupra. It also has the same 7-speed DSG gearbox, meaning that power delivery is constant thanks to near-seamless changes.

The performance figures on paper are a 0-62mph sprint of 4.7 seconds and a limited top speed of 155mph. That’s a full half-second quicker to 62mph than the ST 300 Cupra, showing the merit of that ABT tuning pack.

The exhaust still isn’t the rowdiest of setups; a Golf R certainly has more character with pops and bangs. That being said, the ABT-tweaked system is a step up from the ST 300 Cupra. It is more playful, throwing in the odd pop on lift-off and gear changes.

The Cupra R has a launch control system built into the gearbox. It’s easy to engage: traction control to sport, auto stop-start off and gearbox in sport, foot hard on the brake, floor the throttle and step off the brake. And it is absolutely savage; not one iota of wheel spin, just grip and go.

Put the Leon ST Cupra R at the traffic lights, and you feel invincible behind the wheel. This car would give a shock to some pretty serious cars, especially in the wet…


It’s all well and good having 350PS under your right foot, but you have to be able to put it down onto the tarmac. That’s where the brilliant 4DRIVE all-wheel drive system comes into play.

The levels of grip in the Leon ST Cupra R are like no car I have ever driven before. During my time with the car, the weather was truly awful. We’re talking heavy rain, standing water and just general miserableness.

But it seems the Cupra R never got that memo. It just wouldn’t slip a wheel no matter how hard I tried; even when the ESC was turned to ‘Sport’ or even turned off.

You get adaptive damping as standard, with settings from ‘Comfort’ to ‘Cupra’. Whichever setting you choose, the suspension setup is on the firmer side, but that’s to be expected in a car with such sporting prowess.

The result is a car that is incredibly composed on the road. You can easily forget it is – when all is said and done – a family estate car.

Steering is nicely weighted. I had it in the heaviest ‘Cupra’ setting pretty much all the time, which is easily done thanks to the custom drive mode.

Serious firepower requires equal stopping power. With four-piston Brembo front brakes the Cupra R pulls up rather abruptly. It is a setup that inspires confidence, even in adverse conditions.

And it is in adverse conditions that this car shines the most. Because, frankly, the weather in this country is such that any true performance car has to be able to hold its own in damp conditions. The Cupra R doesn’t just hold its own: it excels.


With the ABT pack adding 50PS and 40Nm you could, understandably, be worried that this would adversely affect economy. Don’t worry though, because the Cupra R won’t disappoint you.

Combined fuel consumption is 32.1mpg on the combined WLTP cycle. That figure is identical to the Leon ST 300 Cupra, so no complaints there. And the WLTP cycle is more representative of real life.

You could easily achieve that figure in the real world – assuming you don’t use launch control at every single junction. Which is harder to resist than it sounds.

And despite presenting itself as a hard-core sports car, the Leon ST Cupra R has a few eco elements about it.

You get start/stop technology for one. And because the Leon is petrol-engined, the starting and stopping of the engine is largely unobtrusive.

You can set the driving mode to one that’s more efficiency-oriented. The 7-speed DSG gearbox not only uses the torque to keep revs to a minimum, but can coast when you take your foot off the accelerator.

CO2 emissions are 164g/km. VED will cost you £530 when the vehicle is first registered, and £145 thereafter. And because the Cupra R costs less than £40,000 you don’t need to worry about the VED surcharge.


One of the things I admire most about the Leon ST Cupra R – launch control aside – is how easy it is to live with. To have the performance on offer here, with no detrimental effect to practicality, is always going to be a winner.

I’ve always said that the Leon ST – or estate, if you prefer – is nicer looking than the hatchback. Not to mention the fact that it has a 587-litre boot even with the 4DRIVE system in place.

Cabin space is good. You can transport four adults around in comfort. If you don’t mind cosying up to your fellow passengers then 3 adults in the rear is a possibility, although I wouldn’t want to be stuck in the middle on a long drive.

The many different drive modes on the Cupra R mean it can be many different animals. Take ‘Comfort’ mode as a prime example. The steering is light, throttle responsiveness is decreased and the damping is softened.

The Leon is effortless to drive around town. And then once you get out onto your favourite road and engage Cupra mode it’s a pin-sharp, ferocious beast.

A five-star Euro NCAP rating gives you peace of mind when considering this as a family car. And knowing that it can do everything – from the school run to a track day – makes a strong case for ownership. I’d have a Leon ST Cupra R. In a heartbeat.


Being a limited-run, range-topping model the Leon ST Cupra R comes well-equipped. In fact the only option featured on our test car was the £500 ABT tuning pack.

That means everything you see on this car, you get. Keyless entry and go; dual-zone climate control; heated front seats; adaptive cruise control; virtual cockpit; reversing camera; satellite navigation; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

There is nothing missing from this car. Even if you look as hard as you can, there’s nothing more you could want. You don’t need a heated steering wheel because it is alcantara, which isn’t very temperature-sensitive. The bucket seats are tremendous. In fact, so is the styling as a whole.

All the lighting, both exterior and interior, is LED. The strips in the front door cards is customisable in colour, and you can change the brightness of the cabin lighting.

Safety-wise you have anti-lock braking, traction control and two-stage electronic stability control. In addition there is a radar-based front assist with pedestrian protection and a multi-collision braking system.

The infotainment system is easy to use, and there are lots of different information displays to choose from, ranging from a lap timer to turbo boost gauge and even a G-force meter.

The virtual cockpit is equally customisable; allowing you to have a full-screen map for when you are in unfamiliar territory, and a simple rev counter for when you want to blast down a country lane with minimal distraction.

Value For Money

The price of the Seat Leon ST Cupra R is £37,975. Given the specification mentioned above, that’s a pretty reasonable price. Not to mention that means the Leon avoids the VED surcharge by being under £40,000.

Furthermore, there are only 150 examples of the ST Cupra R coming to the UK, making it a rather rare proposition. That should help to keep residuals higher, and may even lead to the Cupra R becoming something of a collectible.

Our test car had just one option fitted and frankly, it’s the only one you’ll ever need: the ABT tuning pack. It gives you an extra 50PS and 40Nm of torque. Best of all; it doesn’t affect your warranty.

The price for this game-changing package is £500 which is the bargain of the century. I would be staggered if anyone purchased a Cupra R and didn’t opt for the ABT pack.

Of all the cars we test – and there are a fair few – there aren’t many that get awarded the accolade of 5 stars. But with the Leon ST Cupra R we’d actually go a step further than that.

This is or 2019 car of the year. It is perfect in every way. It has the looks and the performance, but it is still a practicality family car. It’s a car that can keep up with some high-powered machinery that costs three times as much.

So before you head to the local Volkswagen dealership and purchase a Golf R, take a look at the Leon. It’s faster, rarer and – in our opinion at least – better looking, too.

Facts and Figures

Engine 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Max power 350PS at 5,300-6,500rpm
Max torque 440Nm at 2,000-5,200rpm
Drivetrain 7-speed DSG transmission, all-wheel drive
0-62mph 4.7 seconds
Top speed 155mph
Fuel tank size 55 litres
Fuel consumption 32.1 mpg combined, WLTP
CO2 emissions 164 g/km NEDC equivalent
Kerb weight 1,557kg
Towing capacity 750kg braked / 750kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 587 litres
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £37,975
Price as tested £38,475
Company website
Editor-in-chief, Senior Reviewer

2 thoughts on “REVIEW – Seat Leon ST Cupra R ABT

  • Pingback: Choosing your new car – Simply Motor

  • Mike

    Love the review, but the car does not come with adaptive cruise control, just standard.

    • Dan Woods

      Hey Mike

      There seems to be conflicting information on this. Some say yes, some say no. We go off the spec sheets/press packs for info like this, and it was stated on there. Apologies if this is, in fact, incorrect. Are you one of the lucky few to have this car?



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