SEAT Leon ST Cupra 300 4Drive
Is it possible for a near-300bhp estate to be a tad too versatile? When it comes to our Cupra’s plethora of settings, perhaps it is
‘The car becomes so unresponsive to the throttle it seems almost bored, and the gain in fuel economy is small’
HHAVING DISCOVERED LAST month that it is possible to have the feistiest engine setting without the feistiest auto gearbox response, I have now settled on my favourite everyday ‘Drive Profile’. Press the Cupra button on the dash and four options are offered – Comfort, Sport, Cupra and Individual. Comfort really takes the edge off things – perfect when I’ve got my mum in the car. Cupra is a bit too much for daily driving – the engine’s too loud and I don’t like the heaviness of the steering. In theory, Sport should be the ‘Goldilocks’ setting but the steering is the same and the suspension control is just not resolved.
So, here’s my ideal recipe: Normal steering, Sport engine and Cupra DCC (Dynamic Chassis Control). The Cupra suspension works because, although it’s tightly controlled, it rounds off bumps and ridges, and also because it’s in tune with the engine response. Part of me likes having the option to fiddle and tweak, another thinks that the engineers should have just got it right in the first place and kept it how they wanted it, with adaptive control for speed/corner-load. Heck, it’s only taken me 4000 miles to be happy with the setup. That said, this being an estate car that will see lots of different loadings, there’s more justification for being able to choose the chassis settings. I’m still not sure why it’s possible to adjust ACC (Adaptive Cruise Control) as part of the Individual profile, but I very rarely use it anyhow.
It also seems odd that you can set the air conditioning to Eco mode on this profile-setting page. It’s good that you can reduce the energydrain, but it feels like it should be part of the air- con settings. I’ve tried the engine in its Eco mode a few times, too, just to see what the best mpg figure (and thus range) is that the 296bhp Cupra can manage. About 38mpg (and 400 miles) seems to be the peak. It’s interesting to see where the energy-saving occurs; a chunk is in the initial throttle response, a little in the general response and a bit more in flat-road cruising, where if you back off the revs drop to idle – what’s known as ‘sailing’. The car becomes so unresponsive to the throttle it seems almost bored and, to be honest, the gain in fuel economy is small compared with the huge lack of interest it induces.
One cool touch I’ve discovered is that at night there is a bit of ‘mood’ cockpit lighting in the door casings. It’s a light-strip tucked under the top-roll that glows a pale white and looks to me just like moonlight. It’d be good to have a little more of it in ‘ the fireplace’ – that cubby-hole ahead of the gearlever – where the USB connections are very well hidden at night.
Right: Barker’s a fan of the mood lighting in the door cards, less so the Cupra’s endless configuration modes (above), which distract from the business of driving the car