IF YOU ever wondered whether a top-class hot hatchback could become a family-friendly estate car without losing its appeal in the process, then Seat has come up with an emphatic answer.

The Spanish company’s recently-facelifted Leon ST Cupra 300 has a fast and fun personality, while offering practicality at the same time.

The upgraded Cupra has been given an extra 10bhp and an increase in torque, making it even more blistering than its already-quick predecessor.

And it certainly puts that power down on the road with real poise and purpose, performing the 0-62mph sprint in a mere 4.9 seconds.

What’s more, the power delivery is well spread-out, with the car pulling nicely from just over 2000rpm right up to the redline.

Such acceleration makes overtaking an easier and safer process because the manouevre is over and done with so swiftly.

In terms of handling, the new four-wheel drive system has given the ST Cupra a more sure-footed feel through the sharper bends.

Indeed, its road-hugging abilities inspire great confidence of finding the right traction, even on some of the damper leaf-covered roads experienced in Yorkshire during Storm Ophelia this week.

Compared with the sometimes wayward manners of the front-wheel drive version, it offers more mature and assured handling, which suits the estate layout.

The estate version is the only four-wheel drive Cupra you can buy in this country, with no plans afoot to give the regular Leon Cupra hatchback similar treatment. For now, the lower weight and increased agility of the front-wheel drive setup remains the firm’s configuration of choice for the Cupra hatches.

The six-speed DSG automatic transmission is smooth-shifting once you get above 30mph, but can be a little jerky when travelling at lower speeds.

You also have the option of taking control by using the wheel-mounted paddles, although I found the paddles a bit on the small and fiddly side and generally just left the DSG box to do its thing.

Depending on your mood, there are various different driving modes from which to choose, including the more racy ‘sport’ and ‘cupra’ options, which make the engine noticeably more eager.

If you don’t want the car to be constantly straining at the leash, you can opt for ‘normal’ mode and amble around as though you’re behind the wheel of a practical, sensible estate car.

And that, in essence, is the unique selling point of this car – a split personality that allows it to transform from a roaring fuel-thirsty beast into a sedate and more dignified everyday family vehicle.

Inside, the estate version has been given the same interior upgrades as the rest of the Leon range.

These include a slick and user-friendly new touchscreen infotainment system.

In terms of space, there’s lots of leg and head room for front and back seat occupants, plus no shortage of storage room dotted around the cabin and in the ample boot.

The sports seat are comfortable and do an excellent job of keeping you in position while cornering. With the exception of a few rough plastics, the materials used throughout the cabin are of a high quality, giving the interior a pleasant feel.

Among its other features are driver assistance systems such as Traffic Jam Assist, Lane Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control and Pedestrian Protection, plus, Electric Parking Brake and KESSY (Keyless Entry and Start).

In making its most powerful car ever, the Barcelona firm is bidding to win hearts and minds in the hot hatch sector, which includes competitors such as the Focus RS, Audi S3, Golf R, Honda Civic R-Type, and Peugeot 308 Gti.

What impresses most about this Cupra is its dual abilities, allowing drivers to be sensible most of the time while having a little fun when the road conditions allow.


Seat Leon ST Cupra 300

PRICE: £34,485

ENGINE 1984cc, four-cylinder, petrol

POWER: 296bhp

TRANSMISSION: Six speed automatic, four-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE:0-62mph in 4.9sec and top speed of 155mph

ECONOMY 39.2mpg

CO2 EMISSIONS: 164g/km