The focal point for any Cupra 280 is still that 276bhp motor. It’s the more powerful of the two Cupras (the other being the 265) and although the estate’s extra bulk means it’s not quite as quick as the 280 three and five-door hatches, it's still delightfully urgent and vocal.
It will tootle about town quite happily if that’s where you find yourself, but it’s best to sneak out of the suburbs and onto an open stretch of derestricted road.
Like a sleep-deprived teenager first thing in the morning, it’s a bit groggy below 1500rpm. Above that, and when the turbo spools up, the engine springs into action, making this Cupra feel genuinely quick. Even a Focus ST estate can’t live with its 0-62mph time of 6.1 seconds.
However, this creates the age-old problem associated with deploying all that power through two front wheels. Despite being equipped with an electronically controlled limited-slip differential as standard, even on dry roads the ST Cupra 280 struggles for traction.
The problem is most apparent when you’re in the first two ratios of the six-speed manual gearbox (a DSG-auto is optional) and floor the accelerator. The wheels start spinning, leading to some brutal-sounding axle-tramp, which has you wondering if you’ve snapped a driveshaft.
Perhaps this is the reason Seat won’t let you completely disable the traction control; an unusual degree of nannying on a car of this type.
There are a host of other switchable options though, which are controlled by the ‘drive profile’ switch. This gives you three preset maps to regulate things such as the steering weight, throttle response, damper stiffness and diff-locking. A fourth, Individual, setting allows you to mix and match each as you wish.
Despite the lack of traction there’s still masses of grip and stability through the corners. The ST Cupra’s benign chassis means that, within reason, you can hurl it into bends, confident it won’t get out of shape. Considering the car’s sporting aspirations and how well tied down the body is, the ride is remarkably easy-going, too.
The steering, like most electric systems, isn’t full of feel but it complements the chassis well. It’s a variable system which means it’s not over-urgent on the motorway but gets super-quick a few degrees past the straight ahead. In Cupra mode it also weights up nicely as you increase the lock.