Can this 4WD rapid wagon satisfy both the practically minded and the petrolhead?

Seat may languish at the bottom of the profitability table of the Volkswagen Group’s major brands, but its recent spin-off is doing considerably better.

Cupra, the erstwhile sporting sub-brand of Seat, was founded in 1985 and at times found itself competing in top-tier rally and touring car racing, but it has recently reinvented itself as a stand-alone entity with bold branding, fresh designs and no shortage of performance.

With a more traditional set of silver-painted wheels, this would make an excellent sleeper. Only the keen-eyed would notice the four exhaust tips, and everything else about the car is actually pretty subtle.

After an inauspicious start with the immensely quick Cupra Ateca hamstrung by its overly firm ride, the marque has found its feet. The car that best demonstrates what it’s all about is probably the rakish Cupra Formentor crossover, in halo VZ5 trim, which brings an Audi-sourced 385bhp five-pot engine and the same rear torque splitter you’ll find in the new VW Golf R.

Alas, that particular model will never make it to the UK, but Cupra’s lesser versions of the Formentor, along with its take on the Cupra Leon hatchback, are nevertheless proving popular. And for those who find the VW ID 3 too bland, the upcoming electric Cupra Born, which is built on the same architecture but offers more visual clout, ought to appeal. In short, Cupra is swimming, not sinking.

The subject of today’s road test harks back to the olden days of Cupra. The Leon Estate is the kind of car you could buy when Cupra was still to Seat what GTI is to Volkswagen. And that’s no bad thing. Some of those cars were very well executed, with huge performance that belied incognito looks, and security underwheel paired with real accuracy from the helm. Of course, in estate-bodied ST form, there was plenty of utilitarian appeal.

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That recipe has now been reprised, with an elevated price, so how does the four-wheel-drive Cupra Leon Estate fare in 2021?

The Leon line-up at a glance

The Cupra Leon line-up consists of three trim levels – VZ1, VZ2 and VZ3. All three are generous in their specification and the only real visual difference is the design of the wheels (all are 19in in diameter).

In the UK, the choice of powertrain for the estate is also limited to just two options: you can have either the 242bhp plug-in hybrid, with its 30 or so miles of claimed electric driving range, or the 306bhp pure-petrol model tested here. Only the latter benefits from four-wheel drive, though, so if that’s important to you, you’ll need the range-topper.

If you want a Cupra Leon without hybrid assistance and without a big asking price, the regular hatch is available in 242bhp 2.0-litre front-drive form.

What Car? New car buyer marketplace - Cupra Leon