Cupra Leon Estate long term test: report 3

Our chief photographer needs a practical car that can cope with heavy lifting during the week, but knows how to have fun after working hours. Does the Cupra Leon Estate deliver?...

Long-Term Cupra Leon Estate John driving

The car Cupra Leon Estate 2.0TSI 4Drive 310 DSG Run by John Bradshaw, chief photographer

Why it’s here To see if this sporty family estate can cut it as a workhorse from Monday to Friday and an entertainer at the weekend.

Needs to Be fun on the right road, while carrying heavy, bulky camera equipment all over the country in comfort and safety.

Mileage 2133 List price £42.185 Target Price £38,863 Price as tested £43,710 Test economy 34.4mpg Official economy 35.8mpg 

22 July 2023 – The power and the glory

One of the greatest luxuries in life is finding that you have more of something than you really need. It must be marvellous to wake up in the morning with more money in your coffers than you can imagine how to spend, for example, or to open your wardrobe and be spoilt for choice for which designer suit to wear. I can relate, though; my Cupra Leon Estate has such deep wells of power that I’m unlikely to ever reach the bottom.

Yes, not only is my car able to carry colossal quantities of luggage (in my previous report, I declared it more versatile than a Nissan Qashqai family SUV I recently ran), but it can haul it at an indecent rate of knots. Officially, it cracks off the 0-62mph sprint in just 4.9sec and – should I find myself on an unrestricted autobahn – is said to go on to a 155mph top speed.  

2023 Cupra Leon Estate Long Term left panning

You know what, though? While I could, if I was young and reckless, retitle myself as What Car?’s Rapid Response Photographer and make use of every one of the Leon’s 304bhp with every mile I travel, instead I’m truly relishing having so much in reserve when I go about my daily duties. I don’t have to treat every standing start as a drag race, but it’s nice to know that I can get out of trouble if I find myself in the wrong lane at a set of traffic lights. And, at a constant cruise on the motorway, the knowledge that I’m using a fraction of the power available does give me peace of mind.

In fact, relaxing on the motorway is something the Cupra Leon is very good at. At 70mph, the engine noise fades into the background to be smothered by the chatter thrown up by the tyres, and while the word “roar” covers the latter, the tyres of my previous BMW X1 made a far louder commotion, despite being exactly the same width. Concrete sections of the M25 are where the difference is at its most pronounced.

In Comfort (my favourite of the Leon’s driving modes), the active suspension gains a softer edge than in Sport mode, but it’s still firm enough to feel really controlled when travelling over undulations in the road. I find it comfier than I did the X1, and the Leon’s sports seats, which have padding exactly where it’s needed but don’t hold onto you aggressively, have left my back in tip-top condition at the end of long journeys.

Long-Term Cupra Leon Estate mode selector

Of course, while the Leon Cupra can do comfort almost as effortlessly as it shrugs off load-lugging, it’s true calling comes when you pull off the motorway and onto a B-road, and it’s then that the most raucous Cupra drive mode begs to be engaged. By default, this mode firms the suspension, tightens the steering and accelerator responses and makes gearshifts more immediate, or you can programme it for various levels of each of the above.

I’ve not fiddled with it much, but nor have I felt any need to. In its default settings, Cupra mode makes the Leon feel like it wants to be taken by the scruff of the neck and driven hard, but my efforts to do so feel like they’ve only scratched the surface of what the car is capable of. I couldn't ask for a better handling workhorse, though, and the fact that I've not yet come anywhere near reaching its limits gives me bags of confidence to press on.

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