Cupra to graduate from fast boot badge to bonafide brand
For 22 years the Spanish word for hot hatch has been ‘Cupra’. It has engendered a following among younger and sportier drivers that overshadows even the name of its manufacturer, and now it’s official: ‘Cupra' is to be a brand in its own right.
Seat today confirms it is spinning off its performance arm into a standalone operation with its own logo – revealed for the first time here – and its own model range with “its own soul, its own DNA, its own identity.”
The move promises to be good news for fans of the CUP RAcing edition cars which in first Ibiza and now Leon forms have been sought-after by younger drivers impressed by their combination of affordable performance, everyday practicality and Spanish flair.
Since the first limited-edition Ibiza Cupra in 1996 – brought out to commemorate Seat winning the World Rally Championship 2.0-litre category – there have been more than 15 Cupra badged models, all based on shared German (either Polo or Golf) underpinnings.
As a brand rather than just a model, a range of Cupras can be expected, including performance versions of new Seat SUVs like the Ateca. A Cupra version of that is tipped to be a star at the forthcoming Geneva Motor Show. The move also opens up possibilities for more racing activities with Seat Sport.
All recent Cupras have been Leon models. But with three-door SC, five-door hatch and five-door estate (ST) versions, with manual or dual-clutch auto and front or four-wheel drive options, there has already been a wide range beyond most manufacturers’ hot hatch offerings. Prices range between £30-35k for the 296bhp (badged 300) cars, with the 306bhp FR (Formula Racing) the Cupra of choice.
We’ll know more when the world’s newest car marque is officially declared open for business at a special event on 22 February.
Five things you may not know about Cupra…
A Leon Cupra Performance Pack model took the front-drive Nürburgring lap record in 2014 with a time of 7:58.44. A year later a Leon ST Cupra went slightly quicker.
In 2010 a reader poll by motoring magazine Autocar put the MkI Leon Cupra R number seven in a list of the best hot hatchbacks of all time.
The original performance Leon, with 177bhp and available only in red, yellow or black, was badged as the 20VT before it changed its name to Cupra.
The Seat Sport Cupra GT was a bespoke racing car unveiled in 2003 and aimed at teams wanting to take part in the Spanish GT Championship.
Seventy-eight drivers, including Gordon Shedden, Rob Huff and Mat Jackson, took part in the Seat Cupra Championship one-make series for Leon Cupras that ran between 2003 and 2008 as support for the BTCC.