At a time when the car industry is shifting towards efficiency and alternative power sources, this new name is aiming to bring back the passion.
At a time when new cars are becoming increasingly sterile and soulless, Spanish brand Cupra is aiming to inject a bit of hot-blooded European passion into the market.
In a clear display of intent, the Spanish brand previewed its new three-car range to local media with a hi-octane drive around Sydney Motorsport Park.
All three models have a sharp focus on performance, with powerful turbocharged engines that throw down the gauntlet to parent company Volkswagen’s Golf GTI and Golf R.
The line-up includes the family-friendly Ateca SUV, the stylish Formentor crossover and the Leon hatchback.
We drove the most powerful versions of the models and they all proved capable and entertaining on the fast and flowing track.
Predictably the boxy, high-riding Ateca felt less planted than the others through corners, pitching and leaning more when asked to change direction at speed.
But while the Ateca is more about brute force than finesse, the Formentor and the Leon are genuine drivers’ cars. The Formentor may look like a crossover, but it drives more like a hot hatch, with sharp steering and loads of grip, courtesy of all-wheel-drive underpinnings on the top-spec model.
The Leon is the pick of the bunch, though. It feels lighter, nimbler and keener to turn in at speed.
There’s plenty of mumbo under the bonnet of all three, especially in the top-spec VZx model. In the Ateca and the Leon, there’s a four-cylinder turbo pumping out 221kW and 400Nm, while the Formentor has the same torque but an extra 7kW of power. All variants use dual-clutch autos.
The cars all look the part as well, with modern digital dashboards, body-hugging sports seats embossed with the Cupra logo and flat-bottomed steering wheels with Ferrari-esque buttons on the steering wheel. On the top-spec Formentor, copper coloured highlights on the seats and dash add a dash of sportiness.
The range starts at $43,990 plus on-road costs for the Leon V hatchback, which is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with 140W and 320Nm. Standard equipment includes a 10.25-inch digital display in front of the driver, sat nav, wireless phone charging and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto. Sporty touches include heavily bolstered bucket seats, ambient lighting, alloy pedals and adjustable suspension.
The VZ Leon has a more powerful 180kW/370Nm turbo engine and will cost $56,990 drive-away, while a plug-in hybrid version, the VZe, costs between $62,990 drive-away and $65,990 drive-away, depending on state government incentives.
The hybrid combines a 1.4-litre 4-cylinder turbo with an 85kW electric motor, producing a combined 180kW and 400Nm. It can run on electricity alone for 55-60km.
The top-of-the-range VZx costs $64,990 drive-away. That compares favourably with the slightly more powerful Golf R, which sells for about $72,500.
The Formentor has the same four-model line-up, adding all-wheel-drive on the V and VZx. Prices start at $54,990 drive-away and climb to $66,490. Buyers looking for a little more spice can add a Brembo brake package for $4150, while grey and blue matte paint colour schemes will set buyers back another $2300.
The Ateca comes only in VZx trim and costs $65,990. It also offers the optional Brembo brake package and adds a sports exhaust.
Cupra brand director Ben Wilks says there is clearly an appetite for a focused performance brand in Australia and points to almost 8000 people who have lodged expressions of interest on its website.
“The cars we make for our customers celebrate the love of performance and celebrate the love of design. It is an intersection of design, performance and technology,” he says.
The brand will begin taking orders in early June, before opening showrooms in July.
Cupra will adopt a different model to the traditional dealer network, encouraging online purchases backed up by select Cupra “garages” manned by product experts in capital cities and major regional centres.
Prior to those garages opening, the brand will release a special allocation of “launch edition” models with extra equipment at drive-away prices early next month. The Ateca and Formentor will cost $69,990 drive-away and the Leon will be $67,990 drive-away.
Originally published as Cupra brand launches in Australia with three-model range
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