Powered by
Subscribe to the only car newsletter you’ll ever need

Cupra Leon Sportstourer 2023 review


The most complete Cupra model yet is a wagon under consideration for Australian sales – and the hybrid model’s sophistication blew us away

Good points

  • VZe hybrid’s pace, efficiency
  • VZx’s 228kW AWD punch
  • Engaging chassis
  • Comfortable ride quality
  • Spacious rear seat
  • Generous cargo room

Needs work

  • Arrival details unclear
  • Resonant tyre noise
  • Non-hybrid’s thirst
  • Hybrid’s brake pedal feel
  • Not quite Golf R’s match

Australian station wagon buyers might be relatively few in number in 2023, but they’re a discerning bunch. Estate aficionados know a low-riding form factor typically delivers balanced driving dynamics. Wagon fans don’t want to buy an SUV.

The ranks of wagons available in Australia have thinned dramatically in recent decades, and a collective wince was felt by the (small) community of estate-demanders when Volkswagen announced this year it would pull its Golf, Passat, and Arteon tourers from the local lineup.

Mainstream brands like Volkswagen don’t want to complicate vast line-ups with low-volume models. VW says it’s an extra cost for dealers.

But niche brands can still offer a home for the long-roof – and in Volkswagen Group Australia’s case, it will look to its performance marque Cupra to carry the flame.

As the Cupra brand enters its second year on sale in Australia, it is conducting due diligence on a plan to supplement its SUV-biased range with a sporty station wagon. The Cupra Leon Sportstourer shares its MQB ‘toolkit’ platform with the Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia.

The Leon forms part of Cupra’s four-strong Aussie range in four hatchback variants locally – all have reviewed strongly.

In Europe, a 25cm-longer Leon Sportstourer body style adds a meaningful serve of practicality to the hot hatch.

Two versions of the Sportstourer are under the microscope for Australia: a VZe plug-in hybrid with 180kW/400Nm of combined front-drive power and about 50km of real-world EV-only range; and a 221kW/400Nm VZx flagship with all-wheel drive (AWD).

Pricing and arrival timing aren’t known, but if the Leon wagon project gets the nod for Australia, expect a mid- to late-2024 landing date at perhaps $2000-3000 more than the equivalent hatchback model.

Cupra Leon VZx 2023 petrol blue interior
Pictured: the interior of the Cupra Leon hatch VZx

Statically – beyond lengthened styling – much of the Leon Sportstourer is identical to the hatch. That includes a pleasant (if not luxe-grade) interior with a 12-inch touchscreen, perforated leather steering wheel and comfy power seats – plus an available Beats premium audio with heavy bass.

Cupra Australia will likely look to the meaningfully longer Sportstourer wagon version of the Leon to kick three goals for the marque.

First, there’s an opportunity for Cupra to soak up the few hundred annual Aussie buyers of the Golf R estate – people who have suddenly found themselves being told ‘no’ by local Volkswagen dealers.

Cupra Leon V 2023 badge

Secondly, with its vast 620-litre boot space in VZx form, the Leon Sportstourer would become, easily, Cupra’s most practical vehicle. Even the more pokily-packaged hybrid wagon, with its 470 litre boot, is 25 percent roomier behind the rear seats than the Leon hatch.

(Space junkies should note that the front-drive-only Skoda Octavia RS wagon is roomier still.)

Thirdly, the availability of the VZe plug-in hybrid will give Cupra a third model to sell to novated leasing customers who can take advantage of the enormous fringe benefit tax concessions on PHEVs sold before mid-2025.

The VZe hybrid versions of the Leon, and especially the brand’s Formentor sports SUV, have been very popular with buyers – partially for their huge tax advantage.

But the slick, well-implemented PHEV powertrain is also the pick of the range for the Leon Sportstourer, in our books.

Most PHEVs are pretty horrid to drive, but that’s not the case for Cupra’s well-tuned co-operative between a 1.4-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder and a wet-clutch DSG-mounted 85kW electric motor, fed by a 10.4kWh-usable battery.

Just as in the existing Leon and Formentor VZe models, the Leon Sportstourer hybrid seamlessly blends a oozing wave of instant electric torque with the flexibility of Volkswagen’s long-running 1.4 TSI engine.

Unlike many other PHEVs that tend to clunkily hand off from one source of motivation to the other – always reminding you of their inherent compromise – the Leon, when driven in hybrid mode, subtly handshakes between the two or blends as the situation requires.

The VZe hybrid is refined and smooth. It’s quick, too, with toey throttle response. Chasing Cars independent performance testing saw us log a solid 6.14sec 0-100km/h time with the Leon VZe hatch with the battery at half-charge. The 60kg-heavier wagon won’t be far behind.

In the other direction, Cupra’s hybrid models typically serve up good braking performance; we recorded a 34.58 metre best stop from 100-0km/h in the Leon VZe hatch. Like that car, the brake pedal feel, which communicates blended regenerative/friction braking, is a bit wooden.

2021 Cupra Leon Sportstourer wide

Most interesting to us was the hybrid’s efficiency. You get the best out of the VZe by charging it – the 10.4kWh usable battery will deliver about 50 realistic kilometres in EV mode, with a six-hour charge time from a standard socket. But this isn’t strictly necessary, as we discovered.

During our early drive of the Sportstourer in Catalonia, Spain, most testing was done with a depleted battery. The VZe still returned 5.6L/100km on the highway – and a staggeringly frugal 6.5L/100km on a B-road loop driven with zeal.

On the same loop, the Leon VZe’s sibling – the muscular and more focussed VZx variant – was faster everywhere. But it was also thirstier to a comical yet slightly depressing degree.

Cupra Leon VZx 2023 EA888 engine
Pictured: the Cupra Leon hatch VZx

Don’t get us wrong: we can appreciate the superior brawn of the flagship Leon Sportstourer powertrain, the 221kW/400Nm 2.0-litre ‘EA888’ tune found in the VZx hatch and cars like the Volkswagen T-Roc R.

The larger non-hybrid engine’s muscularity is always on show, and it’s audible too, thanks to a fairly outgoing exhaust tune that pops on the overrun. The VZx wagon adds AWD; it’s the only Leon model to do so. We expect it will deliver a circa-five-second 0-100km/h time.

Compared to the hybrid, that’s about a 25 percent performance improvement. But it’ll cost you.

We winced that on the same loop where the VZe sipped 6.5L/100km, the VZx gulped 220 percent more dinosaur juice, with the trip computer indicating 14.3L/100km consumption.

The heavy additional thirst of the VZx model just isn’t worth it.

That’s partially because the PHEV model is not that far behind the VZx when it comes to handling. Both versions of the Leon Sportstourer demonstrate beautiful chassis tuning, combining good ride quality and enthusiastic handling.

Back-to-back testing did reveal the Leon VZx to have higher bandwidth in the most assertive mountain road driving – a conclusion blurred by the fact the tester VZx was fitted with much sportier tyres.

Even so, the VZx is a little bit more faithful and a bit more predictable when making mid-corner adjustments. Even with AWD aboard, the 1549kg VZx is still 80kg lighter than the 1629kg front-drive VZe.

The PHEV isn’t too portly overweight by 2023 standards, but the extra kilos are found in all in one lump – the battery – located beneath the boot floor.

This makes the Leon VZe wagon perhaps a little too willing to oversteer when you deliberately overload the chassis. Some will find this fun – and it is to a degree! – but in the same circumstances, the VZx is straighter-laced and that makes it faster, point-to-point.

As an aside: the Leon Sportstourer VZx is not a substitute for the Golf R estate. The ultimate VW R-wagon had a newer-generation engine with higher outputs (235kW/420Nm), plus a more advanced rear differential that allowed greater rear drive out of corners – plus a drift mode absent in the Cupra.

Putting aside the nuances in chassis to be identified between the two Leon wagon variants: both steer beautifully. Cupra has engineered what is easily the most pleasant steering tune for the MQB toolkit, with a relatively rapid ratio – but it’s a stunningly natural rack that makes linking corners feel intuitive.

The combination of great steering with fun, engaging handling is one achievement, but the fact that the Leon Sportstourer’s adaptively-damped ride is also very agreeable is a classic Volkswagen Group flex. Few houses can do all of these things at once.

But the Leon Sportstourer can, and arguably to a more convincing degree than the Leon hatch or either of Cupra’s SUV models.

All of that had us considering that the Leon Sportstourer packs a rare and heady mix of winning attributes: it goes, stops, handles, and rides well; it has a solid interior, room for child seats, and plenty of stuff in the boot; and it should be around $70,000 for either powertrain.

Add in the compelling nature of the VZe hybrid model from performance and efficiency lenses – along with that car’s tax advantage if you’re a user-chooser – and it becomes rather an interesting proposition.

If you’re mourning the loss of the Golf wagon, the Leon Sportstourer’s clear talents should be a crisp tonic.

Getting the details right will be central to the Leon Sportstourer’s appeal in an SUV-heavy market – though nobody is pretending the Leon estate will knock the Formentor from its spot as Cupra’s most popular model with Australian buyers.

But for the rebellious minority who continue to favour low-slung long-rooves, this wagon’s one of the good ones.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Overall rating

About Chasing cars

Chasing Cars reviews are 100% independent.

Because we are powered by Budget Direct Insurance, we don’t receive advertising or sales revenue from car manufacturers.

We’re truly independent – giving you Australia’s best car reviews.

Terms and conditions

The estimate provided does not take into account your personal circumstances but is intended to give a general indication of the cost of insurance, in order to obtain a complete quote, please visit www.budgetdirect.com.au. Estimate includes 15%^ online discount.
^Conditions Apply

Budget Direct Insurance arranged by Auto & General Services Pty Ltd ACN 003 617 909(AGS) AFSL 241 411, for and on behalf of the insurer, Auto & General Insurance Company Limited(ABN 42 111 586 353, AFSL 285 571).Because we don’t know your financial needs, we can’t advise you if this insurance will suit you. You should consider your needs and the Product Disclosure Statement before making a decision to buy insurance. Terms and conditions apply.

Indicative quote based on assumptions including postcode , 40 year old male with no offences, licence suspensions or claims in the last 5 years, a NCD Rating 1 and no younger drivers listed. White car, driven up to 10,000kms a year, unfinanced, with no modifications, factory options and/or non-standard accessories, private use only and garaged at night.

^Online Discounts Terms & Conditions
1. Discounts apply to the premium paid for a new Budget Direct Gold Comprehensive Car Insurance, Third Party Property Only or Third Party Property, Fire & Theft Insurance policy initiated online on or after 29 March 2017. Discounts do not apply to optional Roadside Assistance.
2. Discounts do not apply to any renewal offer of insurance.
3. Discounts only apply to the insurance portion of the premium. Discounts are applied before government charges, taxes, levies and fees, including instalment processing fees (as applicable). The full extent of discounts may therefore be impacted.
4. We reserve the right to change the offer without notice.