We drive the new Seat Leon Cupra 300 ST and see if it is a hot hatch with estate practicality
What is it?
This is the new and improved Seat Leon Cupra 300 ST. Power has increased from 286bhp to 296bhp, but the more noticeable figure is the increase in torque, now 380Nm from 350Nm.
Another change is a move from front-wheel drive to four-wheel drive for the estate variant – a Seat representative tells us the system isn't on the hatchback models because of 'development costs.'
Other changes are minor, but that's no bad thing because the Seat Leon Cupra has always been a fantastic hot hatch. Dynamically there are some small improvements to the chassis, while the full LED headlights are all-new, too.
What's under the bonnet?
There is a choice of one engine only - a 2.0-litre TSI unit that makes 296bhp and 380Nm of torque. There are three body styles to choose from – SC (three-door), 5 Door, and ST (estate) – and the choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed DSG automatic gearbox.
The engine is impressive, offering more than enough performance for road driving while still being exciting during a brief stint on the track. However, a slight negative is a lack of character, though in the sporty Cupra 'driving mode' this is made up for with a fantastic exhaust sound.
As can be expected of a manufacturer's performance halo model, the specification is impressive. Driver-focused aids include a launch control mode for automatic, four-wheel drive cars, while the electronic stability aids can be fully switched off if the driver desires.
On the inside, the Leon Cupra 300 gets a sporty flat-bottomed Cupra-specific steering wheel, sports seats clad in black Alcantara and an infotainment system with an eight-inch touchscreen, DAB radio and mobile phone connectivity.
Bucket seats are a £1,290 option, while black leather sports seats can be specced at a cost of £1,370. Other options include wireless charging (£165) and a high-resolution navigation system package that includes extra USB ports and a 10GB hard drive for £440.
Most of the Cupra's rivals come from within the Volkswagen group itself, the Volkswagen Golf R and Skoda Octavia VRS spring to mind. Both are offered in estate form too and have the sporty credentials. But, despite these similarities, the Skoda has a lot less power – it's down 69bhp to be precise, while the Golf R offers around 10bhp more than the Seat.
The Golf R is more money however and if we're honest, isn't as good looking compared with the sharp styling and curvaceous lines of the Seat.
What's it like to drive?
We spent the bulk of our time in the four-wheel drive variant, which offers more grip under acceleration through corners but has less character than the front-wheel drive version. The system tends to be over-cautious, resulting in occasionally unpredictable power delivery.
Its two-wheel drive sibling is much more fun, much more adjustable and should be the car of choice for keen drivers. Couple this to an excellent automatic DSG gearbox and you've got a great car.
Despite this though you can't help but think it just isn't as exciting or special as a Honda Civic Type R or Ford Focus RS, which just feels more exciting. However, the Seat wins as a daily driver, so the decision comes down to needs and wants.
AOL Cars Verdict
This 'new' Cupra feels a little like Seat just keeping up with the Joneses. It's become the norm for hot hatches to put out more than 300bhp, so the Spanish manufacturer's feisty little hatchback was in danger of falling a bit behind the pack.
However, it's still an utterly brilliant all-rounder. Those keen for driving thrills might be better looking to the Civic Type R, but as a fun family car the Seat Leon Cupra 300 is hard to beat.