SEAT Leon Cupra - Driver Assistance?

  • Hot SEAT's electronic driver assistance systems reviewed
  • Car features option packs along with lots of standard kit
  • Find out why we've managed to surprise ourselves

Let me start this article by saying that I love driving. You don’t have a car like this SEAT Leon Cupra if you’re anything close to indifferent about it.

So in a display of blatant closed-mindedness, the second I jumped into the driver’s seat for the first time I searched for a way to turn off anything that would interfere with my driving. I didn’t want nannying, wasn’t interested in computer intervention and frankly didn’t see the value in such equipment.

No-one was more surprised than I, then, to discover that I now make use of many of the Leon’s advanced ‘driver assistance’ systems.

But what exactly am I talking about here? In essence, they’re safety features installed with the aim of preventing - or mitigating the effects of - an accident by keeping the car within certain parameters automatically.

Adaptive Cruise Control with Front Assist

Chief among these, and the one I appreciate the most, is the radar-based Adaptive Cruise Control system. Like normal cruise control this allows the driver to set a speed for the Leon to travel at, and then maintains it automatically without the need to keep your foot on the throttle. But the ‘adaptive’ bit is where it gets clever; the Leon also detects slower-moving traffic in front and slows down to match their speed, so you don’t rear-end anyone.

You’re can set the distance you want to remain behind the vehicle you’re following, and the system will even brake the car to stationary should you hit a traffic jam.

That same technology also serves another purpose: SEAT’s Front Assist will prepare the brakes to apply maximum force if it senses an accident is imminent. Helpfully, it will warn you, too.

Cost: £505


Driver Assist Pack

The biggest shock for me is that I am now a fully paid-up member of the Lane Assist fan club. Coming as part of the Driver Assist Pack, this system uses a camera to sense if you’re drifting out of your lane without indicating, meaning your concentration may have lapsed or you could even have fallen asleep. It will them lightly steer the car back on course.

That’s right. The car will steer for you.  

This is something I’ve used a lot and it’s handier than you’d think. Initially I was surprised just how much it intervened, but then I noticed that it was doing the job rather well. It was my driving causing it to step in.

On longer journeys it’s very easy to become complacent behind the wheel, and especially so if you’ve got the cruise control engaged. I found the Lane Assist system provided a helpful reminder to keep concentrating, as well as offering a safety net that simply wasn’t there with it disengaged. It steps in just before you’re actually over the line, so you always get warning before you’re drifting towards the car next door. 

You can tell the system is active because the little yellow road icon (next to the red (!) icon) you can see below turns green. 

It won’t absolutely take over from the driver, though. If it detects no inputs after a short while from the driver you start to get audible and visual warnings to take control of the steering.

The Driver Assist Pack also includes automatic high-beam headlights, but the polite Brit in me won’t use this. I’m scared of dazzling other road users, preferring to make my own decision as to whether high-beams are required or not. That’s probably a legacy from my hard-headedness more than anything else, though.

Cost: £300


Safety Pack

The cheapest of the packages here, this includes a fatigue-recognition feature which can detect minute driving errors made by tired drivers. It will warn you if it thinks you need a break.

I’ve not experienced this warning yet – which is good, I suppose – but it’s nice to know it’s there anyway.

The second half of this pack is a seatbelt reminder warning for the rear seats. Pointless for me, really, but if you’ve got kids (and presumably a five-door Leon) then it’s welcome peace of mind.

Cost: £120


Standard features

The automatic headlights and wipers are a fantastic feature - but as I mentioned in the previous update, you do need to remember to switch them on manually if it's daylight and foggy or raining. 

One feature I'm not so sure about is the voice control function for the multimedia and telephony system - I've not been able to get it to work effectively, and I find myself concentrating so much on talking, it distracts me from the driving. I suspect, once again, this is more my problem than the car's, though. I shall continue to test it. 

Lastly, who wouldn't want parking sensors? The Cupra has them at both ends and while I'm fully able to park a car, it's always helpful to have a reference as to how close hard objects are. It also means you can be more precise, fitting your car neatly into spaces. 

Mileage: 8,145

Fuel economy: 24mpg