The Seat Leon ST Cupra is kitted out with an impressive 280 horsepower

 

Price: £28,505
Engine capacity: 2 litre petrol
Power output (PS @ RPM): 280@5,600
Top speed (MPH): 155
Fuel economy (MPG): 42.2
CO2 emissions (G/Km): 157

How do you get a family estate car to go around a hairpin bend at 100mph? The answer is, first, to engineer it as well as the Seat Leon ST Cupra is set up. Second, to load on all the performance-oriented kit you possibly can, to make the most of its 280 horsepower, including 19in-diameter super fat wheels and special tyres (via an optional £2,485 performance pack). Third, don't ask me to do it.

Instead, place the task in the confident, capable hands of Jorde Gene, World Touring Car champion for five years running. He goes sideways, you see. Oh, and please do it on a racetrack with a team of Seat technicians and PRs on hand to maximise safety and fun. Somewhere near Barcelona, preferably.

So you get the idea, I hope. Here is a prime example of the latest niche in the car market – the compact performance estate. Until recently the Skoda Octavia VRS estate had the space all to itself, in effect a VW Golf GTI with a biggish, boxy body on top, to put it at its simplest. Ford has joined in in earnest now with a Focus Estate ST, and a Golf R Estate is promised for this summer, and will be the most powerful of this select bunch. Others will surely follow.

Why then bother with the Seat – given that it uses the same basic architecture as its familiar VW Group siblings the Golf and Octavia? The answer is that it is a more attractively styled car than the others, especially in some of the colour and trim options.

It offers a few more features than the competition – dynamic chassis control and "drive profile", which will fine tune the car's performance set-up, though your Skoda will still be cheaper and roomier. With a Seat, though, you will be in something just that little bit rarer and more special than the rivals.

But please don't specify the "orange line" option, which will leave you with garish alloy wheels, and a grille liveried in that same hue, which inevitably brings to mind a cruel line about putting "lipstick on a pig". In fact, the colour is strongly reminiscent of pa amb tomàquet, a tomato-paste-on-toast snack native to Catalonia, as, indeed, is the Leon. Anyway, this Seat is just as tasty.

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