SEAT Leon ST Cupra

300

SEAT Leon Cupra, front
SEAT Leon Cupra, front
SEAT Leon Cupra, front
SEAT Leon Cupra, side
SEAT Leon Cupra, rear
SEAT Leon Cupra, interior
SEAT Leon Cupra, front

AS far as wolves in sheep's clothing go, this has the rest of the flock beaten, I reckon.

Beneath the pleasing but fairly anonymous estate car exterior of the SEAT Leon ST Cupra there's an explosive 300 horsepower engine harnessed to four wheel drive and a seven speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox.

To say it's quick is a bit like pointing out that Rafael Nadal knows how to hit a tennis ball, ie a major understatement. If figures impress you, the five second dash to 62mph will certainly provoke attention. That's Porsche Boxster territory.

Sure, there are a few clues that the Leon Cupra 300 is a bit more than a family shopping trolley. The 19-inch, 8J alloys shod with ultra low profile tyres fill the wheel arches to bursting point and the front grille is a mean black colour.

But by-and-large this is a low profile projectile that blends the role of family clutter-bus seamlessly with that of potent sports car.

It's easy enough to drive slowly thanks to ample torque and one of the best automatic gearboxes in the business. Simply point and squirt, and it goes where you want at the speed you wish for.

Press on a bit and the fat tyres bite the Tarmac, the steering tightens up a shade and the tail can be coaxed out of line just a few inches - nothing dramatic, just enough to satisfy your curiosity and put a smile on your face.

Of course, while this is badged a SEAT it could very well be an Audi or VW because the 2.0-litre turbo engine also powers the Golf R estate and hot Audis. But the Spaniard is cheaper and certainly more roomy than the Audi, if a little lacking in kudos compared with its German brethren.

It has to be said the cabin is a bit plain and the touchy-feely soft plastics of the Audi are absent. But that engine noise when the red bit on the rev counter comes into view is something to behold... a tuneful mechanical rasp that's a delight to hear.

Drive in the way you are tempted to and inevitably fuel consumptions descends to wallet-slimming proportions. A fast country run produced an average of 21mpg while an amble down the motorway saw the average improve to the mid 30s - take your choice and pay for your pleasure, then.

As far as everyday tasks are concerned, the SEAT is a willing and easy-to-live with companion. There's sufficient space for four on board with reasonable head and legroom and the boot is massive being capable of holding no less than 587 litres of luggage.

If you keep the revs down, noise levels are hardly any greater than a basic cooking Leon and the DSG gearbox takes any hassle out of town driving. Maybe the low profile rubber contributes a shade more tyre rumble than the standard stuff, but it's nothing to worry about.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Leon ST Cupra 300

Price: £33,260

Mechanical:300ps, 1,984cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving four-wheels via 7-speed automatic gearbox

Max Speed: 155mph

0-62mph: 5.2 seconds

Combined MPG: 39.8

Insurance Group: 33

C02 emissions:162g/km

Bik rating: 37%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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