Cupra Leon Estate VZ3 – long-term review - Report No:6 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: 08 Mar 2022


  • SPEC

    Leon Estate VZ3



  • BHP


  • 0-62


What's life been like with a Cupra Leon Estate?

OK, let's go back and try, after half-a-year's use, to see whether I can answer the question posed at the beginning: did it expose 'sports crossovers' as a silly idea? Yes. Absolutely.

Look at the 'sports crossovers' at this size and power. BMW X2 35i? Ah. It's £53k if you add the options to match the Cupra's spec, and there's no delete-option for the standard-fit crashy ride. The Mercedes-AMG GLA35, same issues. VW T-Roc R? Cramped. Tiguan R? Lardy.

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The Leon is an actual car. You sit nice and low, and that means the ride, even though firm, is basically vertical. In crossovers, because they're extra-stiff in roll and because you sit high, have a ride that bothers you in all three dimensions: bounce, rock, pitch. Anyway, once you get it above urban speed, the Cupra's springs and dampers are well calibrated, serving up a nicely chamfered gait.

So it's a fine long-distance car, proven in numerous UK motorway schleps and one to France and Switzerland, carrying four grownup skiiers and their gear. The motorway drive assist has been trustworthy too. Usual caveat – assistance not autonomy.

Four-wheel drive was handy in the Alps of course. But also on slippery B-roads and roundabouts, which brought out a more playful side to the Cupra's handling and steering that I hadn't properly uncovered when it arrived in summer. And in last month's report, we demonstrated it's just as good to drive as a Golf R.

It's also tolerated city life well. The DCT, automatic park brake and idle-stop work really smoothly in queues between traffic lights. The latter system has the wit to re-start the engine not just when you touch the throttle, but before that, when the front radar senses the vehicle ahead is moving off. Sometimes, it's the little things…

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And the big things. The extended-wheelbase back-seat space and the boot. A list of the large objects it's ingested during this semester of a test would be boring. But trust me it's a lot, often several of them simultaneously.

When a car has dozens of modes and configurations, do you bother switching between them, after the novelty has worn off? In this case mostly no. 'Comfort' is fine – actually pretty sporty. 'Sport' adds noise and a jumpy transmission setup. 'Cupra', boorishly more of each, and rock-hard damping. But on recreational-type roads I did use use my configured 'Individual' mode, with a bit more damping control than Sport, but standard engine parameters, and manual gear shifting. There are six alternative instrument layouts, variously ugly and/or unreadable, so I stuck with the pair of big round handsome simulated dials.

No car is perfect. This one drinks a bit too much fuel. Its infotainment screen is laggy, unpredictable and prone to blackouts and self-resets – not just every so often but often more than once in a journey, like most of the VW Group cars we've tested lately. Never mind, I just used wireless CarPlay. That uses a lot of phone battery mind. There's a wireless charge pad, but it gets the phone very hot, so on long trips I've kept a USB charge cable handy.

But just as that screen got on my nerves, the Leon's many virtues got under my skin. I've had a happy six months with it. And glad at every turn that it wasn't a crossover.

Good stuff
A great under-the radar combination of function and recreation

Bad stuff
Usual VW Group infotainment screen woes

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