It’s always been a tricky balancing act for the VW Audi Group. All four brands want to offer performance vehicles, but each has to find their own place in the market, making sure they don’t undercut the two big boys – VW or Audi.
SEAT have always done well in this marketplace. They started with the Cupra 17 years ago, whilst that’s relatively new compared to VW and the GTi heritage, it’s been going slightly longer than Skoda with their VRS.
Anyway, with the Golf R Estate hit showrooms back in 2015, it’s now SEAT’s time to offer the same thing. Veedubs offering costs £34,655, SEAT undercut them by just £170…so no great advantage on the face of it.
But is it any good?
Well, not going to lie, I prefer the looks of the SEAT over the Golf.
It’s cleaner, with a fresher face over the more staid looks of its Germanic rival. The side details extending from the front and rear wings, the larger rear lights and the trapezoid front end are all far more interesting to look at.
We LOVED the Cupra SC 280 a few years ago. It was ludicrously quick for a front wheel drive car. Kill yourself quick in fact.
In estate form things get even more ludicrous. 0-62 takes just 4.9 seconds. 4.9, in an estate! What’s not to love?
Equipped with the older, six speed DSG changes are still lightening quick, and flipping through the different drive modes – Comfort, Sport, Cupra – you notice the mapping alterations throughout. Steering sharpens, throttle response heightens and the dampers become stiffer.
Switching to ‘Sport’ and ‘Cupra’ bumps the DSG into sport mode, it will hold on to the revs forever and a day before changing.
But around town once slowed down you’ll be quick to flick it back into ‘drive’ before the revs start to tickle your eardrums too violently.
As with its sibling, grip is incredible. It just doesn’t budge from the tarmac. No matter what you try and do, corner too fast, brake and change direction over a crest, nothing unsettles the Cupra. The traction control light doesn’t even dare hint at a flicker.
Braking is pin sharp, being near instantaneous in nature. They really bite well from the off too, giving you confidence to push deeper into corners.
The extra weight and size over the normal Cupra seems to have little to no effect. This Cupra doesn’t wobble at the back, nor feel too big.
In ‘comfort’ mode, the variable dampers do a sterling job of removing the blighted surfaces we call ‘roads’ here in the UK. Switching to ‘Sport’, or ‘Cupra’ and you soon notice the difference.
Everything becomes rather firm, and you start avoiding the potholes a lot more. Naturally it’s a beauty in this mode when you want to thrash across some B roads.
Inside is typical SEAT/Audi in appearance. Comparing it to the VW, the infotainment sits higher in the dash, there’s a smaller screen with a few more buttons scattered about the centre stack.
Oh, and the air vents are in a different position. Apart from that, they’re pretty much the same.
SEAT do offer their lovely bucket seats as a costly £1,290 upgrade, they look uber cool in the estate. That’s something VW don’t offer with the R.
You naturally get a huge boot, 587 litres to be precise. 18 litres less than the Golf…ah well.
This is where I sum up and say ‘But the Golf is only a few hundred quid cheaper’ like everyone else.
I’m not. You see that’s if you eye the paper prices of standard cars.
Factor in the adaptive dampers that VW dub ‘Dynamic Chassis Control – DCC’ an £830 optional extra. Then upgrade the seats to leather £1,900. You end up with £37,385.
Opt for the no cost (dreary) silver colour on the Leon, add the amazing bucket seats – £1,290 (well remembered) and your total is £35,775. That’s a saving of £1,610. And the fancy dampers are standard.
On the current Golf R Estate you get the same six speed DSG, not the new seven speed as found in the hatch. The same 4wd system is in use below you, the interior may not be as fancy, but it’s within a gnat’s whisker of being so.
So yes, the ST Cupra 300 IS a damn sight cheaper than the Golf when it comes down to actually buying one.
And who buys a car option-less these days anyway?