Seat Leon ST Cupra R Abt Review: The £500 Upgrade That Creates Our New Favourite Hot Wagon

For a mere £500, Seat will add an Abt power pack to the wagon version of the Leon Cupra R. Here's why you'd be mad not to

The phrase “no-brainer” is bandied around a little too much in the world of motoring journalism. We’re as guilty as anyone when it comes to this old chestnut, but when it comes to the ABT pack on the new Seat Leon Cupra R ST, there really is no better description.

Tick the £500 Abt option, and your hot Leon wagon’s power output will jump from 296bhp to 345, the torque swelling from 295 to 325lb ft. The increase in poke slashes two tenths from the 0-62mph, yet official fuel economy figures are barely affected. Most importantly, despite the 345bhp figure being made possible by a third-party tuning company, Abt-converted cars still get a full Seat warranty and are insurance rated.

Officially, this isn’t a modified car. No wonder most UK ST R buyers thus far have had the Abt stuff fitted.

Seat Leon ST Cupra R Abt Review: The £500 Upgrade That Creates Our New Favourite Hot Wagon - Features

Initially, it doesn’t feel all that different to a regular Cupra ST, but as soon as you’re past 3000rpm and the twin-scroll turbocharger has properly awoken from its slumber, the increase in performance is immediately noticeable. It certainly feels quicker than the new acceleration figure might suggest.

Speed builds at a startling rate, and yet, the character of the ‘EA888’ 2.0-litre TSI engine is intact. I’ve driven modified cars with this engine before, and it’s usually involved a burly, boosty mid-range. With the Abt pack, though, it’s still a smooth, flexible lump, and one that’ll still happily rev. It sounds great, too.

Seat Leon ST Cupra R Abt Review: The £500 Upgrade That Creates Our New Favourite Hot Wagon - Features

The front-wheel drive Leon ST Cupra was killed off years ago, so the ST R is - unlike its five-door hatchback equivalent - four-wheel drive. This makes the wagon Leon Cupra a little less exciting and less engaging, but with this well-judged extra portion of power, I didn’t find myself pining for the old FWD version.

What is a shame, though, is that there’s no manual. The six-speed stick shift fitted to fast VW Group MQB stuff isn’t the sweetest-shifting thing, but we’d still take it over the seven-speed auto. It’s mostly on the ball when left to its own devices, but the manual mode is a myth - set thusly, the Cupra R still shifts up for you at the top end, and even kicks down when you put your foot down. Not cool.

Seat Leon ST Cupra R Abt Review: The £500 Upgrade That Creates Our New Favourite Hot Wagon - Features

To go with the very lovely carbonfibre trim on the rear spoiler, front splitter and side skirts, Cupra has also given the Leon’s chassis a little fiddle for this special edition. It doesn’t go quite as far as the radically overhauled R hatchback, but you do get new front suspension uprights that increase negative camber, plus some more effective Brembo brakes.

It tackles corners much like any other Leon Cupra ST. The car stays remarkably flat even when being haphazardly thrown around, and the body control is well resolved on the whole, even if the ride errs a little too much on the firm side in Cupra mode.

The steering is fast, heavier than what you experience in the Cupra’s cousins like the VW Golf R, although ultimately quite lifeless. The four-wheel drive system is more than capable of handling the extra grunt Abt has unlocked - you won’t ever be wanting for traction unless deliberately provoking the car into understeer.

Only 150 ST Cupra Rs are coming to the UK, but at the time of writing, there are still some available
Only 150 ST Cupra Rs are coming to the UK, but at the time of writing, there are still some available

In calmer moments, the Leon is quiet, comfortable and good at all the boring stuff, like providing an infotainment system that isn’t irredeemably shit. The latter detail being surprisingly rare in modern cars.

The cabin’s copper bits and pieces - mirroring the design theme on the outside - won’t be to everyone’s taste, but I like them. Our main gripe about the normal Cupra Leon has always been the dull interior, but together with some Alcantara-trimmed parts like the steering wheel, the copper stuff makes the car feel as special as it should do.

And it really should do - with the Abt pack added, the Seat Leon ST Cupra R is £38,475. That said, the standard spec includes everything you’d ever realistically need, and I’m struggling to think of much else out there right now that ticks as many boxes with such an agreeable package. This might just be our new favourite fast wagon.