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

Evo - - FAST FLEET - John Barker (@evojb)

‘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

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