Volkswagen Group Australia announced in recent days the Cupra brand will launch in Australia in early 2022, bringing a range of European-market, high-performance compact cars and SUVs to Australian shores.
But what is Cupra, what does it sell, and why should you be excited for its arrival Down Under? Here's your Australian-centric guide to Volkswagen's high-performance Spanish subsidiary.
What is Cupra?
The first road-going model to wear the Cupra name, the Ibiza GTI 16V Cupra, launched in Europe in 1996, as a street-legal version (if in name only) of the three-time World Rally Cup-winning Seat Ibiza Kit Car.
The first Cupra-badged Leon debuted after the turn of the millennium, with high-performance, track-oriented R versions of both Leon and Ibiza Cupra models to be offered steadily across the 2000s and 2010s.
In 2018, Cupra was spun off to become its own sub-brand, with all future models from the marque to eschew Seat branding in favour of Cupra's arrow-shaped emblem and copper brand accent.
What does Cupra sell?
Cupra's global line-up currently consists of three models:
- Cupra Leon (pictured above): A small hatch and wagon (badged Sportstourer) based on the regular Seat Leon, and designed to compete with the Volkswagen Golf GTI/R, Ford Focus ST and Hyundai i30 N.
- Cupra Ateca: A high-performance mid-size SUV, riding on the same platform (and sharing many parts with) the Skoda Karoq and Volkswagen Tiguan.
- Cupra Formentor (pictured below): The brand's first standalone model, slotting into the mid-size SUV segment, but offering a sportier design than its rivals and punchy turbo powertrains.
Cupra's first electric vehicle, the Born hatch, will launch in October 2021, with its second EV due in 2024, a production version of the Tavascan concept.
What powers Cupra's range?
Cupra's models offer a wide spread of petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid powertrains, most centring around turbo four-cylinder engines, driving the front or all wheels through dual-clutch automatic transmissions (badged DSGs).
Manual transmissions are only offered on entry-level versions of the Formentor SUV, which feature 110kW petrol and diesel engines and front-wheel drive.
As some Cupra models offer up to six drivetrain options, we've simplified Cupra's global range into a single, easy-to-digest table, found below.
Above: 2021 Cupra Formentor VZ5.
However, that model is left-hand-drive only, and limited to 7000 units – leaving the fastest-accelerating model possible for Australian shores a 4.9-second tie between the 221kW Ateca, 228kW Formentor VZ and the 228kW Leon Sportstourer, all powered by 2.0-litre petrol engines.
|Cupra Leon hatch||2.0 TSI 300HP||2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder||221kW||400Nm||Front-wheel drive||Seven-speed DSG auto||5.7s|
|Cupra Leon hatch||1.4 TSI e-Hybrid 245HP||1.4-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder + electric motor||180kW||400Nm||Front-wheel drive||Six-speed DSG auto||6.7s|
|Cupra Leon hatch||1.4 TSI e-Hybrid 204HP||1.4-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder + electric motor||150kW||350Nm||Front-wheel drive||Six-speed DSG auto||7.5s|
|Cupra Leon Sportstourer wagon||2.0 TSI 306HP 4Drive||2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder||228kW||400Nm||All-wheel drive||Seven-speed DSG auto||4.9s|
|Cupra Leon Sportstourer wagon||1.4 TSI e-Hybrid 245HP||1.4-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder + electric motor||180kW||400Nm||Front-wheel drive||Six-speed DSG auto||7.0s|
|Cupra Leon Sportstourer wagon||1.4 TSI e-Hybrid 204HP||1.4-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder + electric motor||150kW||350Nm||Front-wheel drive||Six-speed DSG auto||7.7s|
|Cupra Ateca||2.0 TSI 300HP 4Drive||2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder||221kW||400Nm||All-wheel drive||Seven-speed DSG auto||4.9s|
|Cupra Formentor||VZ5||2.5-litre turbo petrol five-cylinder||287kW||480Nm||All-wheel drive||Seven-speed DSG auto||4.2s|
|Cupra Formentor||VZ 2.0 TSI 306HP 4Drive||2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder||228kW||400Nm||All-wheel drive||Seven-speed DSG auto||4.9s|
|Cupra Formentor||VZ 2.0 TSI 245HP||2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder||180kW||370Nm||Front-wheel drive||Seven-speed DSG auto||6.8s|
|Cupra Formentor||VZ 1.4 TSI e-Hybrid 245HP||1.4-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder + electric motor||180kW||400Nm||Front-wheel drive||Six-speed DSG auto||7.0s|
|Cupra Formentor||1.4 TSI e-Hybrid 204HP||1.4-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder + electric motor||150kW||350Nm||Front-wheel drive||Six-speed DSG auto||7.8s|
|Cupra Formentor||2.0 TSI 190HP 4Drive||2.0-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder||140kW||320Nm||All-wheel drive||Seven-speed DSG auto||7.1s|
|Cupra Formentor||1.5 TSI 150HP DSG||1.5-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder||110kW||250Nm||Front-wheel drive||Seven-speed DSG auto||8.9s|
|Cupra Formentor||1.5 TSI 150HP manual||1.5-litre turbo petrol four-cylinder||110kW||250Nm||Front-wheel drive||Six-speed manual||8.9s|
|Cupra Formentor||2.0 TDI 150HP DSG 4Drive||2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder||110kW||360Nm||All-wheel drive||Seven-speed DSG auto||8.6s|
|Cupra Formentor||2.0 TDI 150HP manual||2.0-litre turbo diesel four-cylinder||110kW||340Nm||Front-wheel drive||Six-speed manual||9.3s|
What will Cupra sell in Australia?
Now that you've attempted to digest that information overload – which of those engine options will come to Australia?
Given Cupra is expected be positioned as a semi-premium performance brand in Australia – likely sitting above semi-premium Volkswagen, but below full-luxury Audi – expect only the truly high-performance options to make their way Down Under.
Above and below: 2021 Cupra Ateca.
Additionally, it's unlikely we'll see the Leon and Formentor's plug-in hybrid options offered locally, given Australia's lagging emissions regulations and fuel quality behind those of Europe – topics Volkswagen Group Australia has been vocal about in recent weeks.
Cupra's New Zealand operation could provide a hint at what to expect in Australia, despite its lack of Australian Design Rules that can make certifying and importing new vehicles more challenging than in other parts of the world.
Across the Tasman, the brand offers 140kW 'V' and 228kW 'VZ' petrol versions of the Formentor, the 221kW petrol-powered Leon hatch, 228kW all-paw Leon Sportstourer wagon, and the sole variant of the Ateca SUV.
While the Australian Cupra range has yet to be locked in – with more details expected sometime in April – the NZ range's 200kW-plus average power output would be a good fit for the brand's proposed positioning in Australia.
How much will Cupra vehicles cost in Australia?
Australian pricing for Cupra models won't be announced until much closer to the Spanish brand's local launch in early 2022, however New Zealand pricing can provide a hint at what to expect.
Pricing for the Formentor SUV kicks off from NZ$54,900 (AU$51,000) in 140kW V guise, increasing to NZ$68,900 (AU$63,500) for the flagship 228kW VZ.
For comparison, a flagship Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI R-Line matches the Formentor VZ on price at NZ$68,900 before on-road costs, versus $56,290 before on-roads for a similarly-specified variant in Australia.
The Cupra Leon is priced from NZ$59,900 (AU$55,500) and NZ$65,900 (AU$61,000) plus on-roads in hatch and wagon forms respectively – compare that to the new Mk8 Volkswagen Golf GTI, priced from NZ$61,490 (AU$57,000) and AU$53,190 before on-road costs in New Zealand and Australia respectively.
Above: Cupra Leon Sportstourer wagon. Bottom of story: Cupra Leon interior.
Completing the line-up is the Cupra Ateca, priced from NZ$67,600 (AU$62,500) in NZ.
Further details of Cupra's Australian launch are slated to be announced in April 2021.
Stay tuned to CarAdvice for all the latest Cupra news.
MORE: Everything Cupra