CUPRA has been Australia’s hottest car brand for decades

It’s always exciting when a new car brand is launched on the market – and Spanish high-performance car brand CUPRA is especially exciting.

Despite its geographic isolation and relatively small population, Australia has always been one of the most diverse automotive markets on the planet. There are over 50 different major brands active in Australia – not to mention the countless tuning houses, custom manufacturers and importers who also add to the rich mix of cars on our roads.

But not every brand can survive in such a competitive market. Over the years, brands have come and gone, with the automotive landscape constantly changing. Opel, for example, only lasted a year in Australia – one of GM’s biggest failures. Other brands that have similarly thrown in the towel include Daihatsu (part of the Toyota Group) or Smart (part of Mercedes-Benz).

So it immediately raised eyebrows when Volkswagen Group subsidiary CUPRA announced that it was heading lower. Could a completely unknown brand from the other side of the planet – one from a company that already has several active brands in the market – succeed in Australia?

Well, having driven three CUPRA launch models earlier this year, I’m confident to say that CUPRA has a very bright future ahead of it in Australia.

Being inside a CUPRA is a lot like being inside an Audi…a bit less austere.

If you haven’t heard of CUPRA, we don’t blame you – the brand is only four years old. Well, just technically speaking. The Cupra is the performance division of Spanish automaker Seat, one of Europe’s most successful brands – making it akin to the M division of BMW or AMG Mercedes. Seat cars were briefly sold in Australia through Volkswagen dealerships between 1995 and 1999, but did not have an independent dealer network or significant market presence.

In 2018, CUPRA turned into a standalone brand, and Volkswagen gave it a tremendous amount of operational freedom. That’s why only the CUPRA, not both the Seat and Cupra, is being launched in Australia. CUPRA considers itself an unconventional competitor brand; Taking advantage of the fact that it is not bound by history to offer something completely different from Audis and Škodas Aussies.

However, the influence of the VW group is evident when you drive one of these cars – which is by no means a bad thing. The CUPRA falls somewhere between Volkswagen and Audi in terms of luxury, features, performance and refinement, something that is reflected in their pricing (which is actually exceptionally steep).

And the CUPRA’s angular, youthful aesthetic also has a lot in common with another fellow VW Group, the Lamborghini…Again, we’re not complaining. CUPRA’s value proposition is exceptionally robust, which is perhaps the brand’s biggest weapon. The fact that it is part of the VW range is reassuring to consumers as well, thanks to the sharing of parts etc, it is not a completely unknown quantity.

Another big differentiator is their focus on electricity. All three models they launched in Australia with – Ateca, Formentor and Leon – can be an additional hybrid. Furthermore, the fourth launch model, the CUPRA Born, which will join the lineup next year, is an all-battery electric vehicle and will be the first VW Group EV small to hit the market.

The CUPRA Formentor is a pure sports coupe SUV that is unlike any other on the market.

This is no coincidence. CUPRA’s focus on e-mobility is important as an exercise in branding and positioning, sure, but it also reflects the forward-thinking nature of the brand. It’s not just another Volkswagen, it’s something different.

But how do they drive? Let’s start with CUPRA Formentor, the brand’s flagship model and their easily unique cars. This SUV coupe is the first vehicle designed specifically for the brand – which means there is no equivalent to Seat.

While the Formentor shares VW’s MQB Evo platform with cars like the Audi A3, SEAT/CURA León, Škoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf, its slightly higher ride height, larger size and aerodynamic form factor make it feel very different from its stablemates.

I always hated the whole idea of ​​cSUV oupé (or four-door coupe, or four-door shooter brake…) but the Formentor is the first car that actually does that characterization, in my opinion. Despite driving higher than a hatchback, it actually feels as low and fast as a proper coupe, something that is only enhanced by its dynamic, planted handling.

It’s actually a major car in packaging, because it looks like a much smaller car than it is. At the same time, it’s more comfortable for commuters than a regular hatchback while feeling more powerful than a hatchback or crossover. There is no other car on the market that truly looks like the Formentor, which is exactly what you want from a brand new car.

Cobra Leon is an old school hot slot with a new school look.

However, the CUPRA The Leon – as previously mentioned, shares a platform with the Formentor as well as other hatchbacks from the Volkswagen Group – is by no means an ‘identical’ engine. If anything, it’s my favorite of the three I drive.

Top Specs The León VZx features the somewhat familiar 2.0L TSI engine that makes 221 kW, the same as the Mk7 Golf R, 41 kW more than the current Mk8 Golf GTI, 8 kW less than the Audi S3 and 14 kW less than the Mk8 Golf R. (Both the entry-level VZ and the VZe hybrid powertrain are identical to the Mk8 GTI in power.)

Related: The new Audi S3 is the Swiss army knife for sports cars

Until now The León VZ is cheaper than the GTI, and the VZx is much cheaper than the Golf R… while also looking better. It’s silly to talk about value but Lyon represents an amazing value no matter what flavor you get.

It’s also a driving cry. Maybe it’s just about the melody or the exhaust but The León feels wilder and louder than the GTI or even the R. More importantly, it lacks the slightly conservative aesthetic of its VW siblings. It’s an absolute screamer for a hot hole and a no-brainer as far as I’m concerned.

The CUPRA Ateca combines strength and practicality in a somewhat attractive package.

The final of the three launch cars, the CUPRA Ateca, was a real surprise for me. I was expecting the Ateca, a larger, more traditional crossover SUV that shares the MQB A1 platform with the Volkswagen T-Roc and The Skoda Karoq, to ​​be the least interesting car of the three that drives it – but I was wrong.

Ateca actually shares the same running gear as The Leon and therefore the Golf GTI and R too, so this full-size SUV grabs the rear just right. You can even get a truly Akrapovič quad-fruit exhaust as a factory option in Ateca, which makes it totally sing.

It’s the most practical of the three CUPRA models thanks to its 485-liter boot and boot volume, but I also think it’s the best looking too. In a sea of ​​nice crossovers, the Ateca stands out as a particularly elegant engine.

Related: The latest SUV from Peugeot is as exotic as a French car and as luxurious as a German car

As you may be guessing, I was exceptionally impressed with the three CUPRA launch models. They all bring something different to the table, both within the already competitive VW Group as well as the Australian auto market more broadly.

The arrival of the Cobra to Australia was not accidental. We are a rich, open and competitive car market – as CUPRA CEO Wayne Griffiths told DMARGE, “If you can succeed in Australia, you can succeed anywhere.” Australia may literally be on the other side of the planet to Spain, but there is a reason CUPRA made the trip.
Now they just need to wait and see if we Australians are going to take a kick…

2022 Cobra Australia Prices

Model Customize price (AUD, before road costs)
Cobra Leo V 2.0L Turbo Four-Cylinder Petrol Engine
140 kW / 320 Nm
43,990 dollars
Cobra Lion VZ 2.0L Turbo Four-Cylinder Petrol Engine
180 kW / 370 Nm
Cobra Leon VZe 1.4L Turbo Four-Cylinder Petrol Engine
+ Electric Motor (PHEV)
180 kW / 400 Nm
Cobra Leon VZx 2.0L Turbo Four-Cylinder Petrol Engine
221 kW / 400 Nm
Cobra Formentor 2.0L Turbo Four-Cylinder Petrol Engine
140 kW / 320 Nm
Cobra Formentor VZ 2.0L Turbo Four-Cylinder Petrol Engine
180 kW / 370 Nm
Cobra Formentor VZe 1.4L Turbo Four-Cylinder Petrol Engine
+ Electric Motor (PHEV)
180 kW / 400 Nm
Cobra Formentor VZx 2.0L Turbo Four-Cylinder Petrol Engine
228 kW / 400 Nm
Cobra Ateca VZx 2.0L Turbo Four-Cylinder Petrol Engine
221 kW / 400 Nm
Cobra Boy EV, single rear drive
150 kW / 310 Nm

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