For those unfamiliar with CUPRA, it used to be SEAT’s performance division like VW’s GTI or Ford’s ST, and like most performance divisions of European manufactures that aren’t German, they specialise in hot hatches.
SEAT recently spun CUPRA off into its own standalone brand, as a performance brand for the enthusiasts, with it’s own new badge and everything. I’m not entirely sure why, considering SEAT is already positioned as the sportier option to the mainstream Volkswagens and sensible ŠKODAs, but whatever. However, their first model was this:
Mmmm, doesn’t that get the enthusiast in you moist? This is the CUPRA Ateca, a performance version of the SEAT Ateca. I’ve heard that the SEAT Ateca is one of the better driving crossovers in its class, and from what I could look up, the CUPRA Ateca is fine, but nothing special. It definitely doesn’t look very special either, with the only obvious visual difference being it has a tribal tattoo instead of a SEAT badge. It looks like an aftermarket styling package. Mind you, that this is the car that SEAT decided was worthy enough to start a new brand, to put CUPRA on the map, to show why you should take notice of this hip new performance brand.
Now if you’re gonna make a new brand you have to go guns blazing at the beginning. Genesis came out with a massive S-Class competitor to show they were not playing around. Tesla made the Roadster to prove electric cars, and therefore their cars were cool. The original LS firmly established Lexus’s place in the market.
I groan every time someone complains a company should make a sports car, which in these times are forever doomed to low sales, but I feel that if you’re gonna be launching a performance brand, you just have to start with a sports car. It doesn’t have to be fully bespoke or nothing. Mechanically the Polestar 1 isn’t much more than a hybrid Volvo S90 coupé, but it works. Just jazz up the Audi TT, or even a Porsche 718 with some new styling, or something. SEATs head honcho at the time said there are no plans for one, and I get his point, but I can’t feel that it was a mistake, no matter how many times they abuse the word “sports car”.
Now they still sell the León Cupra, a holdout to when CUPRA wasn’t its own brand, but as you can see, they still have the SEAT badge, just copper coloured. Is the make considered a SEAT or a CUPRA? I don’t know. Well why isn’t branded as a CUPRA now?
Speaking at the launch of the new Cupra brand and the Cupra Ateca in Spain, Seat’s vice president for sales and marketing Wayne Griffiths confirmed that the Leon Cupra will remain a Seat. Giving it a re-brand would be “cheating” he said, as the intention is for solely Cupra-branded cars to be new vehicles. Simply swapping out the badges on an existing car isn’t exactly what the firm is aiming for.
HOW IS THIS ANY DIFFERENT?!
In fact, their racing Leóns are fully badged as Cupras.
But hey, at least they have a sweet new, smaller CUPRA Ibiza hot hatch coming out, along with a CUPRA Arona, a smaller crossover.
Both of these models are based off existing SEAT models. But still, hot hatches have been CUPRAs speciality in the past, so it’s nice to see a return to form for them.
Yes, another crossover. No more hot hatches for you. This is the CUPRA Formentor (technically just a concept for now, but it’s not fooling anyone), and it’s just what we needed to bring more excitement into the CUPRA brand. Sorry, I don’t have anything against crossovers on their own, and I’m not against them making hot SUVs, but- Did Porsche start off making SUVs, before making sports cars?
But hey, at least it’s their first standalone CUPRA model, maybe they cancelled the Ibiza and the Arona to truly show that they’re gonna take their word and not gonna be glorified SEAT models from now on...
Maybe CUPRA has just decided their whole brand identity will be fast SUVs. Hot crossovers are the new hot hatch, and CUPRA has decided to capitalise on that. Yet I can’t help but ask who the target audience is for these hot SUVs. The CUPRA name has barely any resonance with the average consumer, compared to say BMW M, or even Ford ST, so it’s hard to see them as aspirational. Most enthusiasts probably wont care for them, and if they wanted/needed a fun CUV, they would probably go for something like a CX-5, or a used Macan.
The only reason I can think of is someone who is buying a SEAT SUV, wanted the most expensive one, and liked the cool copper accents. CUPRA feels more like an upmarket brand than a performance brand. Heck, I think CUPRA would be way more suited as an electric brand. This whole thing just screams that SEAT has absolutely no idea what they’re doing with CUPRA, like they thought “Wow, there’s tons of new startup brands these days, let’s make one ourselves!”