For many years, the word Cupra referred to sports seats – powerful, noisy and raw. However, five years ago, the concern shuffled its cards and created an independent brand from Cupra. In order not to waste more years waiting for her own models, she started in a different way – building sharp cars based on seats. The 300-horsepower SUV Cupra Ateca became the first such.
Soon the palette began to expand and today it already appeals to a wider range of customers. Not only in terms of bodies, but also power units. Today, with Cupra emblems you can buy everything from a 15-seat hatchback to an electric car to a polished crossover with a five-cylinder gasoline engine borrowed from Audi. Sure, the VZ5 is limited, but certainly not unattainable.
And then there are the golden middle ways, like the piece tested today. We are talking about the Cupra Leon ST station wagon with a 190-horsepower four-cylinder gasoline engine. The magic of the Cupra is that no matter what engine is working under the hood, it always maintains a sporty face. This model is also helped by the additional package Paket Design for thirty-five thousand, which enriches the equipment with 18″ alloy wheels, striking sills and a roof spoiler.
The combination of Midnight black paint and copper details – so typical for Cupra – suits the car very well. I don’t really like the shoed 18s, because of the dark color they make a smaller impression. Rat fans will notice one more unsightly detail, namely the fake tailpipes of the exhaust system.
If you’ve sat in one of the company’s modern cars, the layout of the cabin probably won’t surprise you too much. The central multimedia screen is complemented by a 10.25″ instrument panel, the vast majority of functions are controlled by tapping the display. It is seconded by the lower touch bar, which, however, for an inexplicable reason, lacks backlighting and is therefore only usable in broad daylight.
The interior also differs from standard Leons with a sportier concept, again there is copper decoration, and the front seats for an extra charge of eight and a half thousand also deserve praise. Under the name “sport shells” you might imagine a rigid seat with gigantic sidewalls, but where else? The seats are as if someone took them and just sugarcoated them with motorsport. Although they look fierce, they remain extremely comfortable on long journeys. The steering wheel with a round shape (new era, we praise cars for being just normal) and a wreath that fits perfectly in the hand also deserves praise.
Despite its sporty character, the Cupra Leon ST is surprisingly usable and versatile. There is more than enough space in the back seats, with a height of 178 cm I sit “behind myself” with a sufficient margin in front of my knees and above my head. I have an armrest that can also be used as a ski rack.
The luggage compartment has 620 liters as standard, which is only twenty liters less than the benchmark in the form of the Octavia. By folding down the rear bench, you get a full 1,600 liters and an almost flat loading surface without steps for easy transport of larger objects. Under the floor of the trunk we can find a spare wheel, which is also a nice plus. Most cars today rely on just a repair kit.
A nimble compromise
The engine range of the Leon is indeed diverse. Our 190bhp 2.0 TSI, automatic DSG and front-wheel drive sits somewhere in the middle. An ideal choice for those for whom a 150-horsepower 15-liter is not enough for such a car, but a more powerful two-liter (available only in higher trim levels) is unnecessarily expensive. On the other hand, a number of competitors do not have nearly two hundred horses even in the top versions.
Although the engine does not pin you to the seat during hard acceleration like a purebred sports car, it does have a significant thrust during acceleration. However, it also reaches 100 km/h in 7.5 seconds and can continue to a maximum speed of 230 km/h. The unit pulls solidly from 1500 revs and boldly continues to the red zone. As the needle makes its way through the tachometer, the entire process begins to be accompanied by a rather pleasant soundscape. And cooperation with the machine? Mostly faultless, only movements at low speeds (typically driving through congested Prague) are accompanied by subtle jerks here and there.
It drives decently and can do it for little
The chassis has a sportier tuning, yet it can handle even the pitfalls of Czech districts with a solid portion of comfort. There is a dull thump here and there on the big holes, but it’s nothing dramatic so that you have to get off halfway through the trip and strain your back. On the contrary, you will appreciate the setting especially in corners, where the station wagon does not lean significantly and keeps the selected track nicely.
VAQ vs. XDS
The sporty Leon offers two crutches for efficient cornering. The more sophisticated electronically controlled self-locking differential VAQ on the front axle is reserved for higher engines. The weaker ones have to make do with the XDS inner wheel braking system. This has its limits – during really sharp driving, the brakes can overheat and start to fade faster (our piece has quite ordinary discs of 272×10 mm at the back and 306×26 mm at the front), in addition, the system can throttle you unnecessarily when exiting a corner. So briskly yes, but not in the style of Roman Kresta.
And consumption? When driving through a busy city center, it can rise to ten liters, but outside the city it drops quickly. On the highway, the car claims an average of 7.5 litres, and around seven in the district. And if you tune in to the thrifty note, you are able to get below the 6.5 l/100 km mark.
So we would have a spacious and decent-driving alternative to the Octavia Combi, which will certainly be significantly more expensive, right? Not quite. A Leon ST with a fifteen-speed manual and a manual costs 829,900 CZK, our engine will cost 939,900 CZK, with additional equipment we are 1.1 million. That’s not a lot, but nowadays it’s nothing so dizzying. We cannot find a direct competitor with such an engine in the Octavia price list, the similarly oriented Sportline station wagon with a 1.5 TSI engine costs CZK 879,900, or CZK 929,900 with an automatic transmission. Although the regular “er-eso” has 40 kW more, it is still only starting at 1.1 million.