Despite being a fairly new brand to Australia and a new brand in general, SEAT offshoot Cupra has plans to make the wagon a thing again in Australia.
Closely related to the Volkswagen Golf wagon, the Cupra Leon Sportstourer is offered in a number of specifications, including a plug-in hybrid, and a car with a Golf R-specification engine and all-wheel drive.
Cupra is in the throes of figuring out whether the Leon Sportstourer will work for the Australian market, and invited us to have a drive of both the plug-in hybrid and go-fast VZx versions at its home in Spain.
We don’t know pricing yet, but it’d be a safe guess to assume the wagon will command a price premium over the equivalent hatchback.
The Leon VZe plug-in hybrid hatchback is priced just shy of $62,000 before on-road costs in Australia. A wagon would add a premium over that figure.
The go-fast VZx version is the same price – but the wagon not only adds extra sheetmetal, it changes the drivetrain layout from the hatchback’s front-drive to all-wheel drive.
We’d expect it to be cheaper than the outgoing Golf R wagon’s price tag of $71,990 before on-roads.
We had the chance to tour Cupra’s headquarters just outside Barcelona, where it became evident pretty quickly that Cupra’s aim is to be the younger upstart arm of Volkswagen.
This is evident in the Leon Sportstourer’s interior. The seats look unreal, and the plug-in hybrid version we tested featured an optional carbon package that added carbon fibre exterior mirrors and seat backs inside the cabin.
The seats hug you in nicely and feature a suede-esque material with a number of useful adjustments.
Soft touch materials are seen along the dashboard and doors, and extensive use of LED backlighting helps with things like blind-spot monitoring and navigation alerts.
Central to the cabin is a 12-inch infotainment display that features touch sensitive controls for temperature and volume. It features inbuilt satellite navigation, along with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.
Ahead of the driver is another display that is customisable with a number of different layouts, including mapping.
Small touches like moving the starter button to the steering wheel give it a point of differentiation too.
Leg- and headroom in the second row is actually quite good despite the wheelbase, and how small the vehicle looks from the outside.
Cargo capacity comes in at 620 litres with the second row in place for the VZx, and 470L for the plug-in hybrid VZe. That space expands to 1600L and 1450L respectively with the second row folded.
You are robbed of some cargo space with the plug-in hybrid due to the 12.8kWh battery and plug-in hybrid components that sit beneath the cargo floor.
Let’s kick off with the plug-in hybrid VZe. It uses a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 110kW of power and 250Nm of torque.
It’s mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, but also uses an adjacent electric motor.
The electric motor produces 85kW of power and 330Nm of torque, but when used in unison with the internal combustion engine the combined outputs are 180kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
This affords around 60km of driving range and a combined fuel economy of 1.4 litres of fuel per 100km. It’s also good for a 0-100km/h sprint of 7.0 seconds.
The potent VZx version on the other hand uses a tried-and-tested 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine that produces 228kW of power and 400Nm of torque (there is a slightly less powerful version also sold in the European market).
Unlike the plug-in hybrid, which is front-wheel drive, the VZx uses all-wheel drive powertrain mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
It’s good for a bonkers 0-100km/h time of just 4.9 seconds and consumes a combined 8.0L/100km.
We spent most of our time driving the plug-in hybrid variant, and only had a short stint in the go-fast version.
Like all plug-in hybrids, if the battery is full you’ll drive on electric power until the battery runs out of juice and kicks over to a mixture of electric and internal-combustion operation.
There’s an impressive amount of performance on offer from the electric system before the internal-combustion engine kicks in.
Series hybrids like a Camry or RAV4 (as an example) will only allow small throttle inputs before the internal-combustion engine kicks on. You really need to mash the throttle hard to get the engine to fire to life in the Leon.
On the charging front, like most plug-in hybrids, the VZe can be charged using a single-phase 3.6kW plug, which means you can use a 10A power outlet, or alternatively use a higher powered 15A outlet to charge faster.
While the ride is comfortable most of the time on the 19-inch alloy wheels, it can become quite busy over cobblestones and imperfect city streets.
It does use adaptive damping depending on the spec and we found there was a noticeable difference between the drive modes, but there was still a level of firmness when it was being driven in the confines of the city.
There was also a decent amount of road noise coming into the cabin at highway speeds; we suspect this was from the low profile, sporty tyre ] chosen.
From a handling point of view, you can see Cupra has gone for the sportiest tune possible for the Sportstourer. It tucks in beautifully through corners and even in plug-in hybrid spec it’s a fun vehicle to drive.
The extra punch on offer from the electric drivetrain combo is excellent, making it a hoot to drive.
The VZx takes that to another level with a level of refinement very similar to what is offered by the Golf R wagon.
The plug-in hybrid can even be optioned with a mega set of cross-drilled Brembo brakes that measure 370mm in diameter. Not a bad setup.
We will get a better chance to test economy and handling if these vehicles eventually make their way to Australia.
While the Leon Sportstourer hasn’t been rated by ANCAP, it has been tested by Euro NCAP where it achieved a five-star safety rating.
It received an adult occupant protection rating of 91 per cent, a child occupant protection rating of 88 per cent, a vulnerable road user protection rating of 71 per cent, and a safety assist rating of 80 per cent.
Standard safety equipment includes autonomous emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, front and rear parking sensors, safe exit warning and a driver fatigue monitor.
The Cupra range is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty in Australia.
Details for the Sportstourer haven’t been locked in, given it’s not confirmed for an Australian launch.
When it comes to the hatch, however, Cupra no longer offers three-years of free servicing – instead buyers can choose from three and five-year service packs. The three-year pack costs $990, while the five-year pack is $1990.
While SUV sales in Australia have gone through the roof, some people don’t want the bulk of an SUV but still need the storage space for all of their things.
Something like the Sportstourer hits the nail on the head for a performance offering that still has stacks of cargo space.
While the plug-in hybrid achieves of the goal of minimising fuel use, the VZx really gets us excited for a go-fast family wagon. Let’s hope the business case stacks up and it makes its way to Australia.
It suffers from road noise that comes from a sportier tyre combination, but the rest of the package should make up for it.
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