New to New Zealand, SEAT (sayat) is a well known Spanish car brand from Europe. They have been around since the 1950s, producing a wide range of low to mid-range price family vehicles. These include the SEAT Ibiza, SEAT Toledo, SEAT Cordoba, SEAT Leon and SEAT Exeo. They have also had a strong motorsport presence in World Rally Championship and the World Touring Car Championship. 

Until 2018 Cupra was the sports/performance division of SEAT, much like Ford’s RS, BMW’s M and Mercedes-Benz AMG. Cupra would be offered as a top-spec performance variant of their available models. Since 2018 Cupra has become its own brand working alongside SEAT, while at the same time SEAT Sport became Cupra Racing. Cupra wants to be seen as an outside-the-box brand offering stimulating style and contemporary performance amongst the sea of similar products available in the market today. 

DriveLife got to spend a week in the new 2021 Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer to see what all the fuss was about while taking it on a road trip from Wellington to Hamilton and back. An 1,100km, trip that included a wide range of weather, road and driving experiences.

Would the new Cupra Leon be everything they said it was?

What We Like and Dislike About The 2021 Cupra Leon VS Sportstourer

What we like

  • Understated exterior style
  • Great balance and driving feel
  • Stable and confident in all conditions
  • Upmarket interior styling
  • High level of technology
  • Sports seats
  • Huge boot
  • Interior finish and materials
  • Options not seen in this price bracket
  • Great Beats sound system
  • Customisable driver’s display
  • Panoramic glass sunroof

What we don’t like

  • Cruise control needs fine-tuning
  • Suspension stiffness in comfort
  • Gear changes in Sport mode
  • Cabin road noise
  • Infotainment not intuitive

What’s In The 2021 Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer Range?

The Leon VZ is available in New Zealand in two variants, the Leon VZ (hatchback) and the Leon VZ Sportstourer. Considering they are pretty much the same car, they are rather different. 

The Leon VZ (hatch) is available in New Zealand for $59,900. It’s got the same engine as the Sportstourer, a 2.0-Litre straight-4 turbo petrol engine, however, it produces 221kW and 400Nm of torque. In the Sportstourer, which starts at $65,990, the engine produces 228kW and 400Nm of torque. Not a huge difference so far, but the real difference is in the running gear, the Leon VZ (hatch) is only available in front-wheel drive, while the Sportstourer is only available in all-wheel drive. 

This is where the big difference is seen, as the 0-100km times are almost a second apart, 5.7 seconds for the Leon VZ (hatch) and 4.9 seconds for the Leon VZ Sportstourer. That’s a big difference these days if you’re after something sporty and fun, and under 5 seconds makes the Sportourer a serious contender in the performance market. Especially when you consider you’re getting pretty much the same performance as the Audi S3 which starts at $89,500, but the Sportstourer is also a wagon.

Spec level is high in the Sportstourer, which is covered in the list below

2021 Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer Standard Equipment Highlights

  • Front Assist, City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Protection
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Side Assist (blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert)
  • Exit Assist (warning of vehicles / cyclists approaching from rear when opening door)   Rear view camera
  • Lane Assist
  • Travel Assist – combines adaptive cruise control and lane assist
  • High-beam Assist
  • Driver and front passenger front airbags with passenger deactivation
  • Front and rear curtain and side airbags
  • Driver’s knee airbag
  • Central airbag (between front seats)
  • ISOFIX points in outer rear seats with top tether anchorage points
  • Seatbelt reminders front and rear
  • XDS Electronic differential lock system (maximises road holding and improves cornering)
  • Traction Control System (ASR)
  • Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Alarm (perimeter and interior monitoring)
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Fatigue detection
  • 10.0″ colour touchscreen including Bluetooth, two USB-C & Auxin ports and integrated voice control
  • Full Link including Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay
  • Wireless phone charger
  • Navigation with Mapcare (map updates for three years)
  • Twin USB-C charging ports for rear seats 
  • BeatsAudio™ sound system featuring 9 premium speakers, 1 subwoofer box, 340W Amplifier and surround technology
  • CUPRA Drive Profile that adjusts steering response, throttle response, gear shifts and suspension. Four different drive modes: Comfort, Sport, CUPRA and Individual   
  • Dynamic Chassis Control with CUPRA sport suspension
  • Keyless Entry and Go (KESSY)
  • 10.25’’ digital instrument cluster with configurable dashboard
  • Speed sensitive power steering

The list goes on and on, which is really impressive to see in this price bracket.

Our Review Vehicle’s Optional Equipment

  • Panoramic sunroof – $2,300
  • 19” Performance Copper alloys with 235/35 R19 tyres – $1900

Including the optional equipment, our review car’s retail price is $71,050

For a full list of specs and options available for the Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer jump on over to the Cupra New Zealand website.

How Does The 2021 Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer Compare To Its Competition?

The market for performance wagons has become smaller and smaller, with very little on offer under $80k that could be described as a performance vehicle. We recently reviewed the 2021 Skoda Octavia Wagon RS, which we loved. A great, sporty wagon, great features and good value for money. The Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer takes what Skoda offered, and pushes up the bar a lot. Compared to the Skoda, the Cupra is almost 2 seconds quicker to 100km/h, which makes it a sub-5-second car for just under $66k. You need to look at a VW Golf R or Audi S3 to see that sort of performance, neither of which is a wagon. 

Make/ ModelEnginePower/
Torque
kW/Nm
0-100km,
seconds
Fuel
L/100km
Boot
Space,
litres
Price
Audi A4 40 TFSi Avant2.0-litre Turbo Petrol I4140/3207.36.0480$79,500
Cupra Leon Sportstourer2.0-Litre 4-cylinder Turbo228 / 4004.97.6620$65,900
Skoda Octavia Wagon RS2.0-litre Turbo Petrol I4180/3706.76.6600$57,990
Skoda Octavia Wagon Style1.4-litre Turbo Petrol I4110/250N/A9.1600$47,990

First Impressions Of The 2021 Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer

The first impression of the Cupra Leon is that it’s understated, and could easily overlook the fact that it’s a performance wagon. There are sporty intakes at the front, a stylish front splitter and some subtle sculpted lines running down the body. Nothing like some of the more shouty German performance wagons, so you could easily mistake this for a base model with a sporty exterior kit. The one thing that does give it away is that it’s got two twin exhaust pipes at the rear, and they are not fake ones either. 

Our review car was Candy White, which really highlighted the copper accents on the badges and wheels. At this stage, I could see that the Skoda Octavia Wagon RS we liked so much from earlier in the year, might have a very serious problem to contend with. 

What’s The Interior Like In The 2021 Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer?

Inside the Cupra Leon is where things take a twist, it’s very nice inside and different. The copper highlights continued into the carbon, on the dash vents, seat stitching and steering wheel. As SEAT and Cupra are linked to the Volkswagen Group there were some similarities, but there were also many differences. 

The first thing you notice is the sports seats, leather-wrapped with cloth centre patches, all highlighted with copper stitching. They are designed and super comfy. It took no time at all to get situated, then to lock it in with the memory buttons. 

The next focus point is the steering wheel, a nice design, again leather-wrapped with the copper stitching and the Cupra logo in the middle. But that’s not the really cool part, which is the engine start-stop button is on the steering wheel, just like a Ferrari. Cupra has finally seen the light, something I have been preaching for many years and until now, no one in this segment of the market has cracked it. Your car needs to be an experience, turning the key is boring, pressing a hidden button behind the steering wheel is boring. Pressing a featured engine start-stop button on the steering wheel, that’s cool. They also tackled the driver mode button, on the other side of the steering wheel. With one press it can set the car to its maximum performance mode, ready for action. This is key to making the driving experience that little bit special, and Cupra has hit the nail squarely on the head. 

The infotainment in the cabin was good, it had all the latest applications; Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and a huge array of settings to play with. It’s a 10” colour touch screen that looks like it’s the latest tablet on the market. From here you can set your navigation, phone a friend, look at your vehicle driver settings, fuel usage, radio and Bluetooth media and air conditioning. It’s an impressive setup, however, several people (including myself) commented that it’s not as intuitive as they would have expected. I am sure you would get used to it over time, but even over the week, some things took a while to find. For example, the air conditioning sync button is not under the AC menu button where you might think, but it’s under the temperature for the AC instead. All little things, nothing that would be a deal-breaker.

The driver’s display however is totally the opposite; it’s just as big, a 10.25” display with a vast array of information just like the central display. But this display is very customisable, way more than I have seen with other brands. You can have the standard setup of two dials, or a central dial, or a fighter pilot display (my favourite) and within each of these displays, you could pick what you wanted additional information you wanted to show across three segments; left, middle and right. Very impressed by this setup, so much so that I didn’t miss not having a heads-up display.

General visibility in the cabin is good, and I really loved the lane assist lights. I’ve only seen this before, in one other car, the latest $220k Mercedes-Benz S-Class. The lane assist lights have been integrated into the ambient lighting led strip that runs around the front of the cabin. So if you have it set to one of the lighting settings like calm, which is blue. Once a car comes into your blind spot, the LED light that runs past the side mirrors glow bright yellow to alert you of a vehicle in your blind spot. I was so impressed by this, as the simplest ideas are always the best ones.

The sound system is another great feature, not an odd brand or own name brand but Beats. A very well-known brand which has been seen in Jeep’s range of vehicles too. The system was very good, clear in both the high and low levels with a great bass feel. There are several sound settings from natural surround sound to forced sound everywhere.

The rear seats are very decent too, not as sculpted as the front, but just as comfy. There is even enough room for a tall guy like myself to fit in the back, but it was a bit snug. Good space for baby seats, which I had in it, but I took it out for the photos. No drama with my daughter getting in and out of her seat as she is in the “I can do it by myself” stage. 

The panoramic roof was a nice addition, at $2,300 it’s totally worth it. It’s a well-designed system with a touch button interface above the driver’s head. It also has an electric cover that you can close over when you may not want all of that light or are parking up on a hot day. 

The boot is great, 600 litres, with adjustable floor space. You can have this floor at the top level so when you drop the rear seats down which opens up to 1,600 litres the boot space is flat. If you don’t need this flat, but you want either a hidden space, under the boot floor for extra security or just a deeper boot, you can slide out the floor and adjust it to the lower setting. The automatic tailgate is standard, which is great to see. Visibility out the rear window is good too, big open space, with no obstructions.

What’s The 2021 Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer Like To Drive?

So far this Cupra has shined bright in many areas, would the drive be the same?

The engine of this mid-sized rocket wagon is a 2.0-litre straight 4-cylinder turbo petrol engine. This engine produces 228kW (around 310 horsepower) and 400Nm of torque. They are impressive figures for such a small 4-cylinder engine, especially when you look at the performance and fuel consumption stats. This engine is also paired with VW’s 7-speed DSG gearbox, which is a proven box, superfluid and easy to use. From there the power goes to all wheels, with a bias to the front wheels. It’s almost the same setup as a Golf R or Audi S3 Quattro, which are all good signs. 

When I was driving the Cupra I had a chance to do a road trip from Wellington to Hamilton and back over the course of 2 days. This was a great opportunity to test many aspects of the Sportstourer’s abilities and comforts. On the day we left Wellington around 1 pm, with the plan of getting into Hamilton before dark. Little did we know at this point that we would be driving through heavy rain and strong winds.

Leaving Wellington, it’s motorway driving for a bit and then on to the single-lane State Highway 1. On the motorway, the Sportstourer handled well, nice and smooth, very easy to drive. The only issues we had were with the cruise control system, which we will come back to. Once off the motorway, it was onto the regular single lane State Highway, most of which had a good flow and was steady easy driving until we got close to Taihape. This is where the rain hit, and it hit hard. After the review, we got an update from Curpa that the issues we were seeing are related to some of the motorway laws in Europe, which explains the confusion.

For 20 mins it was raining heavily, but the Cupra took it in its stride. It never skipped a beat, sure-footed all the way, leaving us feeling as confident behind the wheel as we did in the dry. At some point during the downpour, the rain dialled up to 11, so much water was covering the road and the car, that every vehicle we could see pulled over. It was almost like an instant flood, without about an inch of water on the road. And before we could talk about it, it was back to the normal rain.  

The engine noise is nice, not too overpowering, and it steps up a notch with each drive mode. Getting louder with Sports mode and louder and more gurgly with Cupra mode. Parts of it you can tell are fake, but they sound good, so I didn’t really care.

One area that the Leon is let down is partly due to the car and partly due to our poor quality roads. The cabin road noise can get rather loud, on some roads it can create a loud drone inside the cabin. 

Before we get into the sports section of the drive, I will cover off the drive modes. There are 4 drive modes, the default is Comfort, then there is Sport, Cupra and Individual. Comfort is the default mode for everything when you start the car, and with one press of the steering wheel Cupra button, the car moves to Sport mode. This means the steering sharpens up, the gear changes are a bit faster and the noise gets a bit louder. A second press of that button moves you to Cupra mode, which pushes every setting to the max. Again steering sharpens up, the gear changes are even faster and the noise gets louder again. Individual mode is nice as it lets you set up a mix and match thing, where you can have the sound of Cupra mode but still be in comfort suspension.

After a break at Waiouru, it was the Desert Road, the fun bit of the drive. Thankfully, due to the time of day we left Wellington, there was not a lot of traffic on the road. After the long straights of Desert Road, we got into the twisty stuff. Over to Cupra mode, and we pushed the car to see if it’s got what it takes or if it’s just talk.

We are very happy to report that it’s not just talk, the car handled very well. It’s got such light steering which makes it so easy to place in the corners. The AWD gives you the confidence to go into a few corners a little faster than you would normally and without a problem the Sportstourer powers out using that 310 horsepower. Braking is also good, better than expected as it did not have the upgraded sports brakes option. No matter what corners we threw at the Cupra Leon, it just seemed to take it and leave us with a big grin on our faces.

During this section the only note we would have about the performance is that the gearbox has a split second of a lag to it, other cars like the Audi S3 or Golf R are sharper and quicker, but the Cupra had a slight delay to the changes in the Sports and Cupra modes.

The overall ride quality for the trip was okay, but the passenger and I both agreed that even when the car’s suspension was set up in the Comfort driver profile, that it was still a bit on the stiff side for New Zealand roads. The Sports and Cupra mode were fine, and you would somewhat expect stiffness, but Comfort really should have been a bit softer. We found when looking in the manual that it’s referred to as the Convenience mode, which might have been a better word to stick with over Comfort.

After the Desert Road, it was back into the regular grind as we saw more traffic on the way to Taupo. From there it was a pretty easy run over to Hamilton where we got in around 7 pm. The drive was not a bad one, and neither of us felt drained after it, which is a good reflection of the car’s comfort levels and the build quality of the seats.

Over the course of the drive, we had many opportunities to use the radar cruise control. 90% of the time it seemed to work how it or we expected it to. But there were a few issues when it came to dual carriageway driving. On several occasions when driving on a motorway or dual carriageways and in the middle lane, when we were trying to pass a car in the next lane over the car would slow down as if the car was in the same lane, and it wouldn’t pass. We thought it might have our position on the road or if there was a slight bend, but it did it again and again without much understanding of why. Each time we just applied the power and moved past the car it was trying to slow down for. Maybe it’s a bug or something that needs to be worked out.

Over the week that I spent in the Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer, we covered over 1,500km. During this time I managed to get a fuel consumption rating of 7.6-litres per 100km. This figure is pretty good in the overall economy for a petrol vehicle, but it’s also the exact same figure that Cupra has advertised in their advertised specs. This almost never happens, as most are recorded in perfect settings, with trained drivers, that achieve figures no mortal can reproduce. What’s also interesting, is that I know I could have achieved a lower figure, as we also tested the sporty nature of the vehicle pretty well over the week too.  

2021 Cupra Leon VZ Sportstourer Specifications

Vehicle TypeWagon
Starting Price$65,900
Price as Tested$71,050
Engine2.0-Litre inline 4 turbo petrol engine
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
228 / 400
Transmission7-Speed DSG
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1617
Length x Width x Height, mm4642x1799x1448
Cargo Capacity, Litres
(seats up/seats down)
620 / 1600
Fuel tank capacity,
litres
55
Fuel Economy,
L/100km
Advertised Spec – Combined – 7.6
Real-World Test – Combined – 7.6
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
750 / 1900
Turning circle, metres10.5m
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
Warranty5 years / 100,000 KMs mechanical warranty
5 years CUPRA Assist roadside assistance
3-year paintwork warranty and a 12-year anti-perforation warranty
Extent to 5 years / 150,000 KMs mechanical warranty for $400 
Safety informationANCAP Rating – 5 stars – Link
Rightcar.govt.nz – 5 Stars – NPN248
REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
9
Handling
9
Infotainment
7
Interior
9
Performance
9
Ride
7
Safety
9
Styling
8
Value
9
Driver Technology
9
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It started at a young age with bedroom posters, the Countach of course. This slowly grew into a super car die-cast model collection, fifty five 1:18 models at the last count. At which point it had almost taken full control, the incurable Mad Car Disease ran deep though my veins all the way to the bone. And things for my loved ones just got worse as the cars where now being bought at 1:1 scale, after a BMW, HSV, and couple of Audi's, the disease reached my brain, pushing me over the edge and down the rabbits hole into the world of the bedroom poster.

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