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Driven: SEAT Leon Cupra R Abt. Image by SEAT UK.

Driven: SEAT Leon Cupra R Abt
Right at the death of the Leon Mk3, the greatest performance SEAT yet arrives.


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SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R Abt

5 5 5 5 5

Good points: Cupra R engine, Leon Estate body, 4Drive and Abt tuning package make for a blinding everyday performance car

Not so good: the steering could do with a little more heft

Key Facts

Model tested: SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R 2.0 TSI 4Drive 350 DSG Abt
Price: Leon Estate range from 19,845; Cupra R 300 from 37,975, Abt-tuned car as tested 38,475
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: seven-speed DSG automatic, 4Drive all-wheel drive
Body style: five-door performance estate
CO2 emissions: 164g/km (VED Band 151-170: 530 in year one, then 145 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 32.1mpg
Top speed: 155mph (limited)
0-62mph: 4.7 seconds
Power: 350hp at 5,300-6,500rpm
Torque: 440Nm at 2,000-5,200rpm
Boot space: 587-1,470 litres

Our view:

There's very little point us going into chapter and verse on the SEAT Leon Mk3 here, as it has been around since (seemingly) Noah was hammering his wooden boat together and, anyway, an all-new Mk4 Leon is inbound for 2020. Nor should we have to go over the lengthy and varied lineage of the hot Cupra model, which has always been one of our favourite C-segment hot hatches, in all its multitudinous guises.

So perhaps we'd be better off breaking down the almost unfeasibly long official name of this particular car to get an idea of what we're dealing with in the twilight of the Leon Mk3's life. It's called the SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R 2.0 TSI 4Drive 350 DSG Abt. Right, have a breather after working through that lot, and then we'll go through it bit by bit. Ready? OK. SEAT is not a surprise, per se, but you might be wondering why it doesn't come under the Cupra-as-a-brand umbrella. Well, apparently, facelifted models don't warrant full Cupra badging and status, so people wanting a Cupra Leon will have to wait until the hottest Mk4 arrives. The Leon part we've covered off, while Estate is weird - the wagon Leon used to go by the name of ST, of which we've had front-wheel-drive 280hp and also 290hp derivatives, plus an AWD 300hp iteration, but apparently now the more prosaic 'Estate' is preferred to ST (that's maybe something to do with one of the Leon's main rivals, see below).

The Cupra R section is intriguing, because that means all the copper-coloured bits inside and out, plus splashes of real/fake carbon fibre and an interior swathed in much Alcantara. It also means limited-build rarity, as just 150 Leon Cupra R Estates are UK-bound and many of them have been snapped up already; still, that's better than the Cupra R hatch, for which a ridiculous 24 units were confirmed for one of the biggest hot-hatch markets in the world. Harrumph. Beyond that, most of the rest of this car's name is basically operational jargon, denoting its familiar EA888 turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine (2.0 TSI), all-wheel drive (4Drive) traction and a seven-speed automated dual-clutch manual gearbox (DSG).

Therefore, you want to pay particular attention to the '350' and 'Abt' bits of the nomenclature. The former is the horsepower, which makes it the most powerful Leon ever to grace these shores by a matter of 40hp - there was some talk of the Abt Estate having 370hp and a 4.5-second 0-62mph time, but 350 ponies is still plenty enough. And it's down to German tuning house Abt Sportsline that such power can be coerced from the SEAT's 2.0-litre engine, which also sees torque swell by 40Nm to a peak of 440Nm.

Anyway, the long and short of all this is that, as Vanessa Williams once crooned, SEAT's gone and saved the best until last (we've paraphrased Miss America 1984 a trifle, there). Crikey, the Leon Cupra R Abt is a stunning car. It takes everything that has always made Mk3 Leon Cupras great fun and builds on it. Thus, it's almost criminal that the cost of the Abt 50hp/40Nm upgrade is a mere 500; OK, you're looking at a Leon which costs 38,475 all-in, which is one way of looking at it. The other perspective is that you will not find a better everyday performance wagon than this for anything like the same money, or indeed for quite a considerable extra amount of cash either - so insert your own 'cut-price Audi RS Avant' analogy here.

When we last drove the 4Drive 300hp Cupra ST, it felt heavy and cumbersome, not a patch on its related Volkswagen Golf R Estate cousin and overpriced to boot, if you've forgive the pun. This thing feels like it blasts the Golf R wagon clean out of the water. The extra oomph of the Abt kit is noticeable in the way the Leon piles on the pace in the midrange, but the brilliance of the DSG 'box and the 4Drive system means you can access almost all of that grunt from very low speeds in every sort of situation you can imagine. Cold weather, wet weather, dry weather, it's all the same outcome - quite startling slingshot acceleration and the wonderful, hard-edged, barking noise of the EA888 as it builds up the speed. Lots and lots of the speed, mark you.

Thankfully, the Cupra R's chassis can handle all of this grunt, so the car isn't some torque-steering, point-and-shoot lash-up. It feels like a cohesive, thoroughly-well-sorted machine, one which has grip in abundance if you want to keep it within itself and cover ground tidily and (very) quickly, and one which will play around a bit on the throttle at the limits of adhesion, so it's not completely tied-down and boring for the keener driver. The brakes, gearbox and the Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) adjustable suspension are all absolutely marvellous, so it's only ever-so-slightly-too-light steering which lets the dynamic side down. But we're talking fine margins here: you can still build a lasting, meaningful rapport with the Cupra R Abt via the steering set-up you've been given by SEAT, which is at least consistent and fast to react to inputs.

Of course, what further enhances the Cupra's brilliance is that it's a performance estate, not hatch, and so its spread of comparable rivals is incredibly small - and includes the Golf R, which is the same car in essence, only not as good. But it isn't just a lack of direct competition which makes this SEAT so desirable; rather, its genius is that it's a practical, amenable motor that you could use every single day of the year and not get tired of it. The DCC switches the other way in its regular settings, providing a comfortable ride, while the boot is a whopper and the cabin spacious. It can even turn in the most outrageous economy for a car which can easily rip off 0-62mph in less than five seconds, a 38.6mpg best return coming on a long run up the M40, A43, M1 and A46. Which, as you might know, includes quite a few roundabouts to dent the numbers, so maybe 40mpg-plus wouldn't be out of the question on a steady motorway run. That's just phenomenal from a car so potent and overtly petrol-powered.

And the SEAT looks thoroughly magnificent. One thing the Leon Cupra has always suffered from is a slightly drab interior, but with the copper highlights of the R specification, the all-new and rather smashing digital instrument cluster, the deeply sculpted bucket seats and an Alcantara-lined steering wheel/gearknob combo, the ambience in here is finally befitting of a highly desirable performance car. That it also looks fabulous on the outside, in its mean-and-moody Blackness Grey metallic paint (no cost) and on those stunning two-tone 19-inch alloy wheels, simply seals the deal.

Never mind at its price point, which we think is something of a bargain given it is the correct side of 40 large, this Leon Estate Cupra R Abt is one of the best fast wagons we've ever driven. The complete package, about the only thing you could criticise it for is the fact it has airy-fairy steering. Other than that, this is an utterly terrific creation and the greatest SEAT we've ever driven, by some quite considerable distance at that. The only wonder here is why it took SEAT so long in the Leon Mk3's life to get this brilliant beast out onto the market - but never mind that; get down to your local dealership right now, and order one of these majestic machines while you still can.


Audi RS 4 Avant: yep, we've gone there. Compare the stats on these two and you'll see all you get from the Audi for your 26,000 premium is, apparently, a 0-62mph time that's six-tenths of a second quicker. Wow.

Ford Focus ST Estate: has a monster 2.3-litre engine and a very impressive front-wheel-drive chassis, but it's just that - FWD. The Leon, based on older tech, would have it covered.

Volkswagen Golf R Estate: was the benchmark C-segment performance estate, despite a plethora of Leon Cupra STs trying to usurp it prior to this. Finally, this Abt model achieves SEAT's goal.

Matt Robinson - 12 Dec 2019    - SEAT road tests
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- Leon images

2019 SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R ABT. Image by SEAT UK.2019 SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R ABT. Image by SEAT UK.2019 SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R ABT. Image by SEAT UK.2019 SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R ABT. Image by SEAT UK.2019 SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R ABT. Image by SEAT UK.

2019 SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R ABT. Image by SEAT UK.2019 SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R ABT. Image by SEAT UK.2019 SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R ABT. Image by SEAT UK.2019 SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R ABT. Image by SEAT UK.2019 SEAT Leon Estate Cupra R ABT. Image by SEAT UK.


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