Spanish performance brand Cupra has been confirmed to launch locally in 2022, with local distributor Volkswagen Group Australia confirming the news this week. A surprise launch into this country, Cupra is the former performance brand of Seat, which was sold in Australia for a short time in the late 90s. It’s now a standalone brand that joins Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda in the Volkswagen Group stable in Australia.
Cupra president Wayne Griffiths made the surprising announcement during the company’s annual press conference.
“I can announce that next year we will start our operations in Australia as a key move towards expanding in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Australia is a young market and Cupra is a young brand. Customers are looking for new brands, there is a high middle-class income and it is a progressive society. We are confident that Cupra can be successful in this country,” Mr Griffiths said.
What products will Cupra bring to Australia? It’s not confirmed at this stage, but for such a new brand, there are a surprising amount of options.
The Formentor is a sporty-styled SUV that offers a range of powerplants, including the sole use of the 2.5L turbocharged five-cylinder petrol engine in the Audi RS3, RS Q3 and TT RS outside the Audi range. With a 0-100km/h sprint time of just 4.2 seconds, the five-cylinder Formentor is pretty damn quick though unfortunately, it’s only going to be made in left-hand drive.
We’d bet on the 228kW 2.0-litre turbo petrol from the Golf R being the sole powertrain available in Australia, though a 1.4-litre turbo plug-in hybrid is available as well in both 150kW and 180kW forms in Europe, as well as the same 110kW 1.5L turbo in the Skoda Scala and Kamiq and even a 110kW 2.0 diesel as well.
The Cupra Ateca is based on the Seat Ateca, which is the sister to the Skoda Karoq and Volkswagen Tiguan in the Seat range. Like the Formentor, it uses a 221kW 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine, a seven-speed dual-clutch auto and all-wheel drive for a sub-5.0 second 0-100km/h sprint.
Competing with cars such as the incoming Volkswagen Tiguan R, as well as higher performance small-to-mid-size SUVs such as the Audi SQ2, BMW X2 M35i, Mercedes-AMG GLA35, the Cupra Ateca is practical with a huge 510L boot. Unlike the Formentor, there are no plug-in hybrid options available just yet globally.
The Cupra name was first used in mass production on the Seat Leon in the early 00s as the performance variant of the range, so it’s fitting that Cupra still makes the Leon – though now it’s available as a wagon as well, which we’re obviously hopeful of it being sold locally.
The Leon hatchback is available in 221kW front-wheel drive form, while the wagon gets 228kW of power and all-wheel drive – given Australia’s love of both hot hatches and how well cars like the Skoda Octavia RS and Volkswagen Golf R wagon sell, we expect both bodystyles to be sold here.
The Born is the brand’s first electric vehicle that, like the Formentor, is not based on a Seat product. It’s launching in Europe in October, and the Born will offer a range of 420km from an 82kWh battery pack.
The Born is based on the VW ID.3 and uses the same 150kW electric motor that’s available on the VW, though the Cupra is meant to be the more emotional choice with more sex appeal and driving fun.
Who will sell Cupra products?
At this stage, it’s not yet known if Cupra will be set up through dealers like its Skoda and Volkswagen cousins, or as a more bespoke boutique set up like South Korean luxury brand Genesis – or an online set up like Tesla could also be approached.
In the UK, for example, Cupra products are sold alongside regular Seats – though they occupy separate zones in dealers, and offer a range of lifestyle products as well, such as shoes. This aspect of the brand will no doubt be under consideration for Australia as brands attempt to sell an experience and not just a car.
How much will Cupras cost?
Because of their semi-premium positioning, we expect circa-$50,000 starting prices for the Leon and Ateca, and potentially around $60,000 for the Formentor. Given that Volkswagen Group Australia is yet to launch a plug-in hybrid product, we expect only the petrol-powered variants of the Cupra range to be launched locally.
More details about Cupra’s local launch are expected to be given in April when Volkswagen Group Australia will reportedly announce the brand’s local lineup and potentially pricing.