What's going on with Seat's new standalone brand Cupra? TG is your guide
This is the Cupra Ateca, the first buyable offering from Seat’s newly independent special branch (reminder: as of a few weeks ago Cupra is a separate brand, not just a boot badge, with a new logo apparently inspired by a budget tattoo).
Whatever it’s called, what we have here is a scorchio version of Seat’s big-selling crossover. You might have hoped that Cupra’s first solo effort would be a wingy Leon. But no. Even Cupra can’t resist a crossover.
Still, like the fastest Leon it has a 2.0-litre turbo with 296bhp and 400Nm which, along with a seven-speed double-clutch gearbox and four-wheel-drive, means a 0-100km/h time of 5.4s and top speed of 245km/h. It also gets adaptive suspension, a louder exhaust and optional four-piston Brembo brakes.
In other words, proper hot hatch performance in a family friendly, SUV-type package. Maybe they’re on to something here: it’s hard to think of a direct rival, apart from the likes of the Audi SQ5 and Porsche Macan, which are obviously more expensive.You’ll also notice wider intakes, glossy black grilles, Cupra wheels, quad exit pipes (real ones) and a rear spoiler. Options include copper and carbon trim – both inside and out – and some very middle-aged paint choices. In fact, you could say that despite the fast stats, it’s all gone a bit Farrow & Ball. Aren’t Cupras supposed to be a little more… Crayola?
To find out, we sat down with Dr Matthias Rabe, Seat and Cupra’s R&D boss. Here’s what he had to say.
TG: Is this still the Cupra we know and love?
MR: “Cupra is very clearly a sporty brand, but it’s different to maybe seven years ago. We still have the passion and excitement, but also a little bit more sophistication and detail. The cars are still really fast, but also extremely balanced; you can use them all day, every day.”
Is choosing to launch Cupra with an SUV a sign of things to come?
“Seat’s centre of gravity has moved more from Ibiza to Leon. Then there are the SUVs – Ateca, Arona and this year the large SUV. So it’s no coincidence that we’ve launched a brand with the Ateca. We realised it could be a fantastic base for Cupra because it’s compact and delivers what you need as a daily car, but it’s also agile, and – with 296bhp, 400Nm and all-wheel-drive – also great fun.”
Will Cupra cars always be based on Seat vehicles?
“I think for the time being yes. Probably sometimes we will launch vehicles with the Cupra versions first, then bring Seat versions in later. But for the next years it makes sense for Cupra to make sporty versions of the base models.”
Can we expect anything more extreme?
“We will have some sport packages, some aerodynamic packages. You see it with the Leon Cupra R, it’s a little bit more extreme, and in the future sometimes we will have variants like that. There’s room for us to go further.”
How important is 4WD to your vision of performance?
“In the estate or SUV segment, 4WD makes tremendous sense, especially if you go on terrain where you have lower grip. For the daily sporty car, used in all weather, a shift to 4WD makes sense. I personally like the FWD Leon, especially in Spain where there’s less rain, because from the handling point of view it’s more agile, but in Germany I’d have 4WD because it’s better all year round.”
What about EVs and hybridisation?
“I could imagine fully electric Cupra cars. Before that, plug-in hybrid Cupra cars will definitely work. For me it’s a new opportunity. We will go that way.”
Would Cupra ever make a bespoke sports car?
“We have to concentrate on really feasible products. That means volume, and beside the emotion we need to have rationality. In the next years we will deliver very exciting cars, but based on the normal Seat line up.”
So can we expect a Cupra version of every Seat?
“The cars we have planned in the next years will basically be Leon size or maybe a little bit bigger, but we are looking at opportunities with smaller cars – the Ibiza and Arona technically would be a fantastic platform to create a Cupra, but we have to see how it fits volume and price wise.”
How long will it take Cupra to establish itself as a standalone brand?
“When you start with a new logo/brand, you have a lot of opinions and the discussion goes for a long time. But the point is about what products we deliver. If we deliver what we promise, I think people will understand it very quickly.”
So there you have it. Cupra has grown up, left home and started a family. Let’s just hope it remembers its wild side every now and then.
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