Acura's engineers are sending this wildly winged NSX Time Attack car over 4km high...
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£30,325 when new
Hot hatchbacks always marketed themselves as the do-all family car for people like us. They’d have five seats and a usable boot, yet willingly lunge for their rev-limiter when shorn of kids and shopping. A recent phenomenon has changed their attitude, though. We’ll call it ‘Nordschleife fever’. Suspension has been getting harder. In some cases, back seats have made way for roll cages. In the pursuit of track-day honours, practicality has ebbed away. The car market is good for a bit of niche busting, though, and solace arrives via the hot-hatch estate. Ensuring the Octavia vRS and Focus ST wagons don’t have things all their own way comes Seat’s Leon Cupra ST, which peskily beats its Golf R estate cousin to the market by several months. And the signs are good. We like the Leon Cupra hatch a lot, its 2.0-litre turbo engine muscular to the point of making its quoted figures appear pessimistic, with a mock diff on the front axle ensuring none of those horses are trampled by torque-steer. It’s a talented thing.
The ST eschews the Cupra’s entry-level 265 trim, only coming in 276bhp ‘280’ form. While its 1,470-litre boot capacity is 55 per cent up on the hatch’s, it grows just 27cm in length and 45kg in mass over its 5dr equivalent, meaning that anything it gives in agility would only be revealed by the strictest of back-to-back tests. At sensible, everyday speeds, this is a pleasant car to punt along, its torque-rich engine ensuring easy-going progress. But toggle the Drive Profile selectable settings to their most committed and you fine-tune the Cupra into being a honed hot hatch. Turn-in speeds can be very high indeed, and once you’re committed to a corner, you can lean back on the power, that clever diff setup pulling you cleanly round. The Focus ST is probably a bit more of a laugh, but this is far faster and more polished car. OK, so £29k is a lot for a Seat, and you’ll top £30k if you want a DSG ’box. But LED headlights, satnav, Alcantara sports seats and a full-strength media system are all standard. And at £995 more than the hatch, it swaggers confidently into the ‘one car to fit all’ debate. Your move, VW.
£19,200 – £32,185
A thoroughly capable family car that handles far better than it really needs to
Civic Estate offers sector-topping practicality. We can't fault your logic, Honda
£19,310 – £30,430
Well thought out, versatile and thoroughly decent family estate. The weeniest bit boring