2019 Seat Leon Cupra R Estate Abt review: price, specs and release date
Does a £500 tuning pack make the Seat Leon Cupra R Estate Abt a performance bargain?...
Priced from £33,395 | On sale Now
If you were one of those 18-year-olds who bought an old banger for a few hundred quid and then spent three times as much on changing the wheels, stiffening the suspension and tweaking the engine, listen up. Now you can get all of that plus a full manufacturer's warranty, courtesy of the Seat Leon Cupra R Estate Abt, a steroid-injected version of the Seat Leon ST estate.
Thankfully, Seat doesn't turn to a man in a shed for the extra power; it goes to respected German tuning firm Abt. For a bargain £500, Abt will reprogram the car's computer to increase power from a not-inconsiderable 296bhp to a herculean 345bhp. That's similar power to the far more expensive Audi S4 Avant and, because the kit is sold through Seat, you keep your full warranty.
The eagle-eyed among you might have noticed an additional letter in this car's name. Like the sold-out Leon Cupra R hatchback, this is a more hardcore version of the regular Leon Cupra ST with tweaked suspension and copper-themed styling tweaks inside and out.
You’re sold already, right? Well, with tough competition from other speedy estates such as the Volkswagen Golf R Estate and the Skoda Octavia vRS Estate, is a bit of fancy fiddling and some copper highlights enough to lift the Seat above the opposition?
What's it like to drive?
The Leon Cupra R Estate starts with a 296bhp turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine plus a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, putting it in direct competition with the closely related 242bhp Octavia vRS Estate and 296bhp Golf R Estate. However, Abt's magic puts it well ahead of both in the power stakes.
Put your foot down and the Cupra R Estate Abt feels properly rapid. The tuning kit reduces the 0-62mph time to a startling 4.5sec (when launch mode is engaged), firmly pushing you back into the seat. But you don’t have to work it too hard to make progress; you’ll barely be troubling the 2000rpm mark in normal traffic.
It’s when you’re past this point that the Abt tuning really comes into its own. There’s real muscularity around 3000rpm and peak power is available at a lowly 5300rpm. As you climb through the revs, the exhausts deliver a raspy note that encourages you to push on. Put it into Sport mode and the noise beefs up even more, even if that is courtesy of the stereo’s speakers.
The driving modes let you configure the accelerator response, steering weight, suspension stiffness and the engine noise. Even in Comfort it’s a little firmer than the Golf R Estate, picking up on surface imperfections and thudding more over potholes. However, there’s enough compliance to ensure that it won’t become tiresome on the daily slog. Cupra mode is too stiff for most British roads, although Sport usefully tightens body control over humps and dips without making the ride unbearably firm.
Despite the sluggish automatic gearboxes currently riddling the market, the Cupra R’s seven-speed ‘box is a pleasure to use. Although there’s sometimes a slight delay when pulling away from a standstill (unless you use launch control), it shifts promptly and rarely leaves you waiting for that burst of acceleration when going for a B-road overtake.
It holds onto gears longer in Sport mode, keeping the revs higher and meaning there’s always plenty of punch available. Use the steering-wheel mounted shift paddles and the gearbox responds quickly, with swift and smooth changes.
The four-wheel drive system gives plenty of traction, so you can power out of corners with confidence whatever the weather. The suspension tweaks boost grip and make the car feel keener to turn in than the regular Leon Cupra ST while retaining a neutral feel. It certainly allows you to cover ground exceedingly quickly, but if you prefer your performance estate to be a bit more of a hooligan, it might be worth waiting for the load-lugging version of the new Ford Focus ST.
The Cupra R Estate's steering gets faster the more you turn the wheel. While this does make the car feel darty, there’s a definite point where the speed suddenly ramps up, and it doesn’t communicate what the front tyres are doing as well as the best performance car steering systems. Even so, it’s easy enough to place the car on the road, meaning you can confidently drive quickly.
What's it like inside?
The R badge comes with a range of distinct cosmetic upgrades, the main being copper accents on the dashboard and a copper Seat badge on the steering wheel. Grippy Alcantara on the wheel and carbonfibre-effect inserts on the doors help give the interior a sportier feel.
There’s also black Alcantara on the supportive bucket seats that, combined with the sturdy side bolstering, helps keep you in place when darting down country lanes.
The Leon's centre console is angled slightly towards the driver, meaning all the infotainment screen and heating controls are within easy reach. The screen is crisp with intuitive menus, much like that of the Golf R Estate. There's also gets a crisp configurable digital instrument display that shows a wide variety of information clearly.
As you'd expect, there's plenty of room for flatpack furniture, although the Leon Cupra R Estate can’t quite match the Golf R Estate for boot capacity. Rear seat space is on par with the Volkswagen's, though, meaning all but the tallest of passengers will have enough head and leg room to be comfortable.
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