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Is that a hot hatch estate?

Yep, it’s the Leon ST - ‘ST’ being estate in Seat-speak - given the Cupra treatment. Gazumping its VW Golf R estate cousin by arriving on the market first, the Cupra ST joins the burgeoning hot hatch estate genre, with wagon versions of the Ford Focus ST and Skoda Octavia vRS ready and waiting for it. This is something that makes us smile, and a welcome two fingers to the crossover revolution.

But isn’t the 4WD Golf R wagon all the car I’ll ever need?

Don’t discount the Leon just yet. Starting at £28,505, it’s a good few grand cheaper than that VW will be. And the Seat’s packing some impressive hardware.

Coming to the UK only in the Leon Cupra’s uppermost spec, a 276bhp, 258lb ft 2-litre turbo engine drives the front wheels through a clever mechanical differential lock that plays the role of a limited-slip diff, quelling torque-steer while it’s at it. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard, with a similarly ratioed DSG paddleshifter a £1355 option.

What’s new with the estate - sorry - ST?

The more practical body style is 27cm longer than the Leon hatch, but its wheelbase remains the same, while weight is up a scant 45kg. Boot space climbs by 55 per cent against the hatch, its total as much as 1470 litres with the back seats folded flat. That sits it slap bang between Volvo’s larger V60 and V70 estates.

Many of the Leon Cupra’s option packs remain available, too. The ‘Sub8’ pack, which is a nod to the hatchback’s swift Nurburgring lap, brings beefier brakes, 19-inch alloy wheels (18s are standard) and the option of some semi-slick track tyres. You can’t spec those on a Volvo.

And what’s it like to drive?

Pretty damn good. Its suspension is firmly sprung, but the mild pummelling of some hot hatch rivals (the Focus ST estate is hardly a limo) isn’t evident and at sensible, everyday speeds, this is a pleasant car to punt along, its torque-rich engine ensuring easy-going progress. It feels a bit straight-laced compared to that Ford, but there’s much to like.

It’s when you grab it by the scruff of its neck that the Seat really impresses, though. Toggle the ‘Drive Profile’ selectable settings to their most committed and you fine-tune the Cupra into a talented hot hatch. Bung it into a corner and, once you’re committed, you can lean back on the power, that clever diff lock pulling you around.

There’s plenty of grip, allowing you to concentrate on exercising an engine both muscular in its mid-range but willing to run towards its rev limit, too. It’s a bloody fast car, this, and it makes no fuss or drama of sending power akin to an old Nissan Skyline GT-R through only its front wheels.

Any negatives?

Spec the DSG gearbox, and it’ll change up on your behalf at the redline, whether you’re in manual mode or not. The manual is sweet-shifting and short of throw, though, and we’d be perfectly happy sticking with that.

And while the Cupra ST makes maintaining serious momentum easy, there’s an inescapable sense this comes slightly at the cost of accessible fun. That Focus is the more adjustable and characterful car, but there’s no question this thing is quicker.

Nearly £29k is a lot for a Seat.

It is. But there are no fiddly spec levels to navigate: Cupra STs come with all the essentials and a few desirables. Sat nav, Alcantara sports seats, LED headlights and a full-strength media system are all standard-fit, while the toggleable Drive Profile modes - which also adjust the dampers - are differentiated enough to make them useful tech rather than a gimmick.

Should I buy one?

The Leon Cupra ST is a pretty compelling package, all told. As sharp as the hatch to drive, and with a shedload more space for an additional £995, it swaggers confidently into the ‘one car to fit all’ debate. That AWD Golf R wagon won’t have things all its own way when it lands…

Spec: 1984cc, 4cyl, FWD, 276bhp, 258lb ft, 42.2mpg, 157g/km CO2, 0-62mph in 6.1secs, 155mph top speed, 1440kg, £28,505

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