Cupra is set to become Australia’s newest car brand – offering a range of performance SUVs and hot hatches starting in 2022.
Volkswagen Group will grow its operations down under, adding the Spanish models alongside its existing Volkswagen and Skoda brands (as well as bringing Audi Australia under its VW Group corporate umbrella). Cupra is the performance division of Seat and will be positioned as a “boutique” range of vehicles to complement Volkswagen and Skoda’s own range of hot hatches.
Seat, which was briefly offered in Australia during the 1990s by an independent distributor, spun-off Cupra in 2018 and having achieved success in the European and UK markets is now looking for global expansion.
“Australia is a young market and Cupra is a young brand,” said Cupra’s global CEO, Wayne Griffiths. “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.”
While Volkswagen Australia told Torquecafe that details of the brand’s initial line-up are still about a month from being finalised, it’s believed Cupra will offer three models starting 12 months from now – the Leon hot hatch and Ateca and Formentor SUVs.
Despite the obvious similarities between Volkswagen and Cupra, the company believes there is enough demand in the market for both of these sporty line-ups to find buyers. Especially as demand for hotted-up SUVs continues to rise.
“The proof is going to be in the driving,” said Volkswagen Australia’s spokesman.
The Leon is based on the same underpinnings as the Volkswagen Golf GTI. It uses the 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine last seen here in the Golf GTI TCR special edition, making 221kW of power and 400Nm of torque. It has a front-wheel drive chassis and comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The Leon will have to compete against an extensive range of hot hatches, including not only the Golf GTI but the Hyundai i30 N, Ford Focus ST and Honda Civic Type R.
The Ateca, which is similar in size to the Volkswagen T-Roc, uses the same powertrain – the 221kW/400Nm engine and seven-speed transmission – but gets an all-wheel drive system for better traction. It’s most obvious rival will be the upcoming Hyundai Kona N.
The Formentor gets an even more potent version of the 2.0-litre turbo four, making 228kW and 400Nm with the same transmission and all-wheel drive system as the Ateca. The Formentor is roughly the same size as the VW Tiguan, which means it will have to compete against the upcoming R version of that as well as the Hyundai Tucson N-Line and Skoda Kodiaq RS.
Next year is shaping up as a big one for fans of Volkswagen Group performance models. While Cupra will arrive with its trio of go-fast machines, Volkswagen is also due to launch the new generation Golf R, T-Roc R and Tiguan R in a major expansion of its R product range.
While nothing has been said by the company on the record, Cupra could also allow VW Group to experiment with electrified performance cars locally, with both the Leon and Formentor available with plug-in hybrid powertrains. The two share the same combination of a 110kW 1.4-litre petrol engine paired with an 85kW electric motor that produces a combined system output of 180kW, while also providing a 60km range on electric power only.
Cupra is pushing its performance and electric credentials hard through motorsport. The brand signed up former DTM legend, Mattias Ekstrom, as brand ambassador and will back the ABT Sportline Extreme E entry. Cupra has also built a TCR-version of the Leon as well as a similar electric version for the new ETCR series.