Cupra Leon Estate long term test

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?...

2023 Cupra Leon Estate Long Term Hello.jpg

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 11,185 List price £42,185 Target Price £38,863 Price as tested £43,710 Test economy 34.2mpg Official economy 35.8mpg Dealer price now £33,905 Private price now £30,138 Running costs (excl. depreciation) Fuel £2152

10 October 2023 – The art of the estate car

Photography – my day job – is an art. But as much as I love the creativity, there has to be an objective purpose for it, otherwise What Car? wouldn’t pay me. With my Cupra Leon Estate, though, it strikes me that it’s the other way around: to look at, it’s an estate car like any other, but the way it goes about being an estate car is, well… it’s art.

Still with me? No? Okay, let’s talk about the worthy stuff before we get abstract.

Cupra Leon Estate long-term goodbye photoshoot

Early on in my time with the Leon Estate, my main concern was whether it would prove to be as practical as the BMW X1 and Nissan Qashqai SUVs I’d run previously. And despite some initial misgivings when the Leon struggled to wolf down massive garden waste bags (yes, even artists have to do some weeding every now and again), it actually proved more usable most of the time.

Loading my bulky photography equipment into the Leon’s wide and relatively low boot was particularly easy. Meanwhile, with the rear seatbacks folded flat, the load area is so long that I was able to lie flat and capture tracking shots of cars following behind at the What Car? test track.

So, as an estate car, the Leon nails the brief. But then again, the Skoda Octavia Estate, Toyota Corolla Touring Sports and a multitude of other family estates do too. What separates the Cupra Leon from the pack – at least for me – is that it’s on another planet when it comes to driver appeal.

Cupra Leon Estate long-term sports car shoot

Since I took delivery, the Leon has accompanied me to shoots all over the country, getting properly stuck in when it gets there. And even when it was in the company of such fun machines as the Honda Civic Type-R hot hatch and Mazda MX-5 sports car, it never seemed overshadowed as a driver’s car.

When in convoy with them on a winding road, not once did I fear that I might fall behind, thanks to the turbocharged 2.0-litre Leon’s punchy 304bhp power output and massive cornering grip. And while the road testers were probably having a lot of fun in the Civic Type R and MX-5, I doubt they were enjoying themselves a lot more than I was.

That, there, is the Cupra Leon’s art. It looks like an estate, but it identifies as a sports car. It’ll shrug off most workaday jobs you throw at it – Ikea shopping runs, long motorway journeys and the rest – with grace and efficiency, but it eagerly rises to the occasion when there’s fun to be had. Whenever you want, it’ll sprint from 0-62mph in just 4.9sec, yet the fuel consumption of 34.5mpg that it averaged over my time with it is anything but the stuff of sports cars.

Cupra Leon Estate long-term boot opening, finger on badge

Of course, not everyone sees value in a work of art, and the Cupra Leon Estate doesn’t seem to attract enthralled crowds when exhibited on  a used car forecourt. Having covered more than 11,000 miles, our resale value experts reckon my car has lost more than £10,000 of its original purchase price. But, then again, after that initial plunge, its value should now level out somewhat; the same experts reckon it will still be worth 50% of its value after three years.

At the start of this long-term test, I posed a question: are estate cars unfairly overlooked in favour of family SUVs? My answer now has to be ‘yes’. The Cupra Leon Estate delivers similar practicality. And while it doesn’t offer the lofty driving position you get with the mechanically similar Cupra Ateca, I doubt that SUV would see which way the Leon went on the twisty stuff.

The real art of the Cupra, though, is the fact that it left me thinking about it every time I walked away.

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