Seat Leon St Cupra 300 2.0 Litre TSI
"As with the SEAT brand generally, this Cupra TSI is an honest car."
Maybe it’s my humble origins, but don’t you think some gourmet dishes can be a bit of a con? You’re starving, so you splash out at a classy restaurant. Your tasty looking menu choice turns out to be a piece of meat the size of a large peanut, a bit of lettuce, a red berry, a decorative red streak of sauce and a bill for £100.
That said, if it was a reasonably substantial tasty meal you wouldn’t mind paying that bit extra. That’s certainly how I felt after test driving the new SEAT Leon ST Cupra 300 2.0 litre TSI 4Drive.
It might be a mouthful of a title, but it’s really ‘tasty’, and spot on performance for the money – £34,485. It can convincingly hang onto the tail of a new BMW M4 that’ll cost you 20 grand more. We know this because we tried it – and the M4 driver was pretty handy behind the wheel. It’s not about racing or crazy driving, but safe, progressive ‘real life’ driving on open country roads; there was little noticeable difference between the two cars in this setting. It is arguably a crude and unfair comparison, but let’s face it: 20 grand is 20 grand.
Yet this, the ‘quickest production performance road car SEAT has ever made’, looks as modest and understated as any average family saloon, with no go faster stripes, decals or monster alloys. It’s a boy racer car for grownups. The Cupra’s build quality and finish may not be of cousin VW quality, but it is not that far behind – and certainly well ahead of segment competitors from Japan. Remember, you pay more for a VW, often with less spec for the price all-in, thus making the Cupra ultimately better value.
Whether or not the Cupra hits the sweet spot depends on what you are inclined to comment on after driving it. It should be the driving experience, and thankfully…it is. Behind the wheel it is remarkably competent and fun. It is less refined in handling and grip than a Golf GTI (including the Golf R), and as such you will reach its limits earlier; yet the chassis never sacrifices composure or grip, and handling limits are predictable (always the sign of a well sorted chassis). Four-wheel drive on this car adds both to grip and confidence, but only comes in when needed – otherwise the front wheels do all the talking.
You’ll enjoy mixing ‘standard’, ‘sport’ and ‘manual’ shift options through the semi-automatic gearbox. The DSG gearbox is about as good as it gets, and the ratios for manual shifting allow you to make strong, progressive upshifts, with second and third introducing a flexible mid-range overtaking fourth gear – for when you want to engage in some B road overtaking action. (Fifth and sixth gear are for good behaviour on a Sunday afternoon.)
As with the SEAT brand generally, this Cupra TSI is an honest car. It’s very fast, yet sacrifices nothing in the way of usability, flexibility and comfort for everyday family use. Set the suspension to ‘comfort’, drive in the ‘standard’ setting, and you wouldn’t believe you’re behind the wheel of the devil in disguise – yet somehow that is part of the Cupra’s appeal.
Engine: 2.0 litre TSI (petrol) | CO2 Emissions: 164 g/km | Top Speed: 155 mph | 0-62 mph: 12.1 seconds | Average fuel economy: 39.2 mpg
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