Cupra Leon Estate VZ3 – long-term review - Report No:2 2023 | Top Gear
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Tuesday 3rd October
Long-term review

Cupra Leon Estate VZ3 – long-term review

£40,535/£42,305 as tested / £644 PCM
Published: 16 Nov 2021


  • SPEC

    Leon Estate VZ3



  • BHP


  • 0-62


2021 Leon vs 2010 Ibiza: how much progress has Cupra made?

I had another Cupra once. When Cupra was more than a trim level but less than a brand. Now it's a brand. Well, it is in the case of the Formentor, which has no Seat equivalent. But in the case of the Leon I'm not quite so convinced the brand separation exists anywhere but in the marketing bods' imaginations. Never mind, whatever it's called, a fast Leon estate is a good thing.

Anyway, that previous Cupra. It was a Seat Ibiza Cupra Bocanegra. Bocanegra being a bit more than a paint package but a bit less than a trim level. It had the VW Group's 1.4-litre twincharged engine, with a turbo and a supercharger for 180bhp. It also had a seven-speed DCT.

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I didn't much like that powertrain. The car was the same size and power as the Golf VR6 I'd had back in the mid-1990s, and the big six in the VW was just as responsive as the little forced-induction four, barely less economical, and sounded far better. Also, the Ibiza's dry-clutch DCT transmission was unpredictable and snatchy at low speed. It remains so in the Group's new small cars today.

This new Cupra's engine is a 2.0-litre, with a turbo but no supercharger, and a stout 310bhp. It sounds nicer than that 1.4. (In some of the drive modes it uses the stereo's speakers to cheat, but I prefer it au naturel.) It's a seven-speed DCT transmission again, but this one has oil-bath clutches rather than dry ones, and works much more smoothly. It's also four-wheel-drive, so there's less unbecoming wet-road scrabbling of the front tyres than I got with the old Ibiza.

The Leon is doing about 31mpg on roads where the Ibiza did 30. That looks like progress, given the new car is bigger and faster and four-wheel-drivier. But there are more average-speed cameras these days.

The Ibiza coincided with the arrival of our child. Most people round my parish use that life event as an excuse to buy some kind of Range Rover, or at the very least a Qashqai. Odd when you think about it: a baby is smaller than a bag of groceries. But of course people do love to buy loads of baby clobber. I just chose our baby clobber on the basis of how small it folded.

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Fun fact: Owen Finlay Maclaren, inventor of the eponymous baby buggy, had been a test pilot and designed the Spitfire's undercarriage. He obviously knew a thing or two about lightweight folding structures.

But our baby got taller, like they do, and now she likes the fact the Leon has a lot of rear legroom. I mean, a lot. More than a Golf, because the wheelbase is longer.

Part of the job description of a 13-year-old is to injure a leg in a trampolining accident, and so lately we've been driving round with the front passenger seat set forward, enabling her to keep said leg straight and elevated as advised by the casualty department. No chance of that in the old Ibiza.

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