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What new cars can we expect from Seat's fast brand Cupra?
Here’s what the UK boss reckons, plus some Top Gear fast-Seat dot-joining
If the branding executives are to get their Christmas bonus, you’ll definitely be aware that Cupra is now its own brand. Fast Seats have a fresh identity. New Magaluf-hen-do-tattoo badge, new matte grey and rose-gold corporate colours, and many new buzzwords.
If not, then long story short, VW’s sporty Spanish offshoot wants its, um, sporty offshoot models (which began with the Ibiza Cupra hot hatch back in 1997) to be their own sub-brand. Think Fiat – Abarth.
And yes, the launch vehicle for this bold new plot is… an Ateca. Not a bespoke sports car – heavens, how would the bean-counters sign something that ambitious or original off – but a lower, stiffer, angrier-looking version of Seat’s Qashqai, fitted with the 296bhp engine and four exhaust pipes from a VW Golf R.
In fairness, the Ateca is the best-handling small crossover of the moment (and, well, ever), the small SUV sector is going gangbusters right now, and there isn’t anything sub-Porsche Macan or Alfa Stelvio if you want to sit up high and go fast. Not since the Vauxhall Zafira VXR really. [There’s a very good reason for that – ed]
Anyway, this begs the question: what’s next for Cupra? What new brands depend on is momentum. A gathering pace of ideas and ambition and crucially, lots of money being pumped in to give the thing wings. So beyond a faster Ateca, what can we expect from Cupra next, to tempt us away from our Ford STs, our VW Rs, our Skoda vRSs and even our Mercedes-AMGs?
Seat’s UK boss Richard Harrison says: “I’ve been with the Cupra team this month and they’ve got a lot of ideas in the pipeline. The potential for electric vehicles with Cupra is huge. The question is how do you leverage power, and fun potential.”
Cupra’s first stab at a quick EV is the Leon e-Racer, a 400bhp track-only hyper-hatch that can briefly ‘overboost’ to 670bhp, and get from 0-62mph in 3.5sec. It’s a cross between a touring car and 9,000 mobile phone batteries.
“The e-Racer is ahead of the game and we’ll exploit the area over the next few years” promises Webber. That tallies with the Seat mothership’s stance to offer a fully electric car, based on VW’s ‘MEB’ platform, from 2020. It’ll be a sister model to the VW ID and could be called Seat ‘Born’, according to online reports. In the world of go-faster EVs, a dual-motor, big-battery version could be a (relatively) easy Cupra conversion. And EV architecture means Seat could drape a much more daring-looking body over the top.
While we’ve got the TG.com spec-u-late-ometer fired up, let’s ponder what else Cupra could generate pronto. It’s already shown a Cupra Ibiza ‘concept’ – and the mechanicals for a 2.0-litre, 200bhp hot supermini already exist in the form of the VW Polo GTI. Which could sorely do with a cheekier, cooler twin to bother the Ford Fiesta ST.
What next? A swoopier ‘coupe-SUV’, basically an Ateca with a pointier, Cupra-bespoke body on top. Leaked shots of such a car have been rattling around the internet for a while now. It’ll possibly be called ‘Terramar’. Check out the China-only Skoda Kodiaq GT for a flavour.
Surely there’ll be a new Cupra Leon. It’s the bedrock of the brand, and sales of the outgoing model increased with every passing year. Principally because Seat just kept on upping the power, from 265bhp to 276bhp, then 280bhp, 290, 300… it’s an under-the-radar rocketship with a GTI heart. Hopefully Seat will keep the ‘ST’ wagon version for the next generation, but now the SUVs have landed, we doubt it.
Two SUVs, two sizes of hot hatch and an EV acceleration hero would give Cupra the toehold it needs to take on the other performance subbrands. VXR is currently dead in the water, Ford’s ST range doesn’t have anything like that much breadth in Europe, and Cupras are still likely to undercut the likes of BMW M Performance. So, it’ll be fellow VW Group cohorts VW, Audi and Skoda with the more diverse range of quick stuff. It’s almost as if this sort of strategy is part of a carefully constructed wider plan…