Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer: putting the boot into performance SUVs
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Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer
- A celebration of the traditional go-fast wagon
- Very fast and very grippy, with AWD
- Impressively practical, huge 620-litre boot
- All this Cupra/Seat business is still confusing
- Fake engine noise in Cupra mode is grating
- Lots of competition from within VW Goup
Cupra New Zealand now has three models that are approximately the same size with approximately the same performance at approximately the same price: the Ateca SUV, Formentor (a coupe-style version of the former) and the new Leon VZ Sportstourer.
Why? Well, why not? One of the big advantages of platform sharing is that different models can be spun off the same box of bits at remarkably little research and development cost. Niches can be covered off and consumers get maximum choice.
Cupra-by-Seat parent company Volkswagen Group is a master at this. So it won’t surprise you to learn that the Cupra Ateca, Formentor and Leon share a lot in terms of mechanical package and electronic architecture. They also share a lot with other VW, Audi and Skoda models, although if we start going down that path we’ll be here all day. And potentially get lost.
So the $65,900 Cupra Leon Sportstourer VZ is an old-school fast wagon made from the very latest VW Group go-fast Lego set. Very close to its SUV siblings in that it boasts 228kW with AWD and a lot of bootspace. But a very different proposition in other ways, because it’s much lower to the ground. More appealing to the true enthusiast, in other words.
It’s effortlessly fast, full of character and yet perfectly capable of serving as a daily driver. Even in the most aggressive “Cupra” drive mode it’s still acceptably comfortable, even if the fake engine noise piped through the speakers is a little grating. Suspension-wise the world is your paella: there’s a sliding scale available on the infotainment screen that allows you to choose multiple degrees of firmness between the two extremes.
The Sportstourer is the star of the Leon Cupra VZ range, but you can also have a traditional five-door hot hatch. It’s a very different look, with 260mm less overhang and a rear diffuser.
It’s a slightly different dynamic proposition as well because it’s FWD, not AWD, and has 7kW less. On a damp road (which we had for some of our preview drive route), it will happily spin the inside-front wheel for several hundred metres on even a slight curve. It’s clearly a deliberate calibration because you’re not fighting torque steer through the wheel – it’s just a suggestively wild power delivery. For fun.
But it’s slower than the Sportstourer, by 0.8sec to 100km/h – down to the power deficit and lack of AWD to get you off the line.
You don’t get the two-button steering wheel in the hatch either, even though it’s standard in the Sportstourer – those two buttons being start/stop and the drive modes.
Doesn’t seem major on paper, until you realise that sans the fancy wheel you have to go into the infotainment menu to change drive modes (at least they stay selected even when you switch off). You can add the wheel into the VZ hatch with a $5800 option pack that also brings the more extreme bucket seats from the European market Formentor VZ 5.
With all Cupra’s focus on being a completely separate brand in recent years, it might be slightly confusing to learn that Leon is also still available as a Seat. The “Seat Leon” (just so we’re clear) only comes as the Sportstourer wagon in FR trim (pictured below).
At $44,900, with a mild hybrid 1.4-litre engine, it’s right in the mainstream. If you’re thinking not many family buyers go for wagons these days, you’re right: the market is only a few hundred annually and it’s dominated by fleet models like Toyota Corolla and Hyundai i30.
But Seat NZ reckons there’s potential to be a relatively big fish in such a small pond, with the closely related Skoda Octavia the most obvious rival (it’s actually the number two seller in the segment).
The Leon FR is well kitted up, with airbags everywhere and adaptive cruise (there’s a $1600 Safety Assist pack with even more driver aids). And with average fuel consumption of 4.9 litres per 100km, it’s 2022-feebate friendly too ($2030 back, based on current figures).
A Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) variant of the Cupra Leon (1.4-litre petrol, 150kW, 58km EV range, 0-100km/h 7.7sec) is under investigation, subject to price and supply. Ideally it would sit alongside a Formentor PHEV with the same powertrain in local Cupra stores, although if it comes to the crunch the SUV will get priority.
ENGINES: 1.4-litre turbo-petrol mild hybrid (Seat Leon) and 2.0-litre turbo-petrol (Cupra Leon)
POWER: 110kW/250Nm (Seat) and 221kW/400Nm (Cupra hatch) or 228kW/400kW (Cupra Sportstourer)
GEARBOX: 7-speed automated dual-clutch, FWD (Seat and Cupra hatch) or AWD (Cupra Sportstourer)
0-100KM/H: 8.7-4.9 seconds