Where does Cupra go next? New Formentor concept revealed
Having spent a week in the Cupra Ateca recently, I was thoroughly impressed. It’s not every day you get to drive a performance SUV at the kind of price the Ateca is currently listed, with the only comparable options being the Porsche Macan (add about £400 p/m extra) and Audi SQ5 (add about £200 p/m).
But having put Cupra’s inaugural vehicle through its paces, one question persisted for me: where does the brand go next? As with most things in life, we have to look back before we can look forward…
The genesis of Cupra
There has always been a lot of equity in the Cupra designation for Seat, so on the one hand the idea for spinning it off into a sub-brand wasn’t a surprise. On the flipside the name is so intrinsically linked with the Spanish manufacturer that continuing to sell the Seat Leon Cupra muddies the waters and currently makes the spin-off seem half executed.
And it’s in this very model where that brand equity has been built up over time. The Seat Leon Cupra has always been one of the go-to hot hatches for drivers looking for a combination of precision, power, pace and driving performance along with cutting-edge style.
Because of this legacy it would have been right to assume the sub-brand would launch with this model. It would have been an immediate success, taken advantage of the built-in fanbase and given us something familiar but different.
But no, it launched with the Ateca instead. Though it seemed like a left-field choice at the time, if you’ve been paying attention to new-car trends over the past five years the reasons are obvious. We got something familiar (the Ateca) but different (a 296bhp engine), that capitalised on the growing SUV trend. Essentially, it wasn’t the obvious choice but it was the smart one.
What the Cupra rebadge has done is essentially something Ford was going for with the Vignale range: it’s a signal that you’re getting the top spec edition of a Seat car albeit with a highly-tuned engine added as a further sweetener to differentiate it some more. Which brings us to…
The Cupra Ateca
I won’t go into a blow-by-blow rundown of the vehicle, that’s what my review is for, but the general consensus on the vehicle is it’s a hit. The Seat Ateca has always been one of the better crossovers to drive since its launch three years ago, as evidenced by the slew of awards it has won since 2016, and the extra power is the kind of thing that a driver welcomes and can have a bit of fun with.
There are those in the industry resistant to anything new or any form of change that subverts their expectations (“Ohhh isn’t the badge funny?!” is one asinine remark I came across from a certain YouTube review for example) but these types of comments are nit-picking of the worst sort and should be ignored. The car should be assessed on its own merits and to that end it is an undeniable hit. In brief, it offers:
- Crossover practicality with sporty performance
- 0 to 62 in only 5.4 seconds
- A top speed of 152 mph
- A newly developed 7-speed DSG gearbox to offer a sportier feel with more precise changes
- Impressive body control and grip from the 4Drive all-wheel drive system
- Value for money over a Seat Ateca with similarly spec’d interior
Does that equate to sales figures? In January, the carmaker delivered 44,500 cars which is the highest sales volume ever posted for a month of January by Seat. This was also a 14.2% increase on the same month in 2018. The new Cupra brand made a positive contribution to this figure, reaching 1,800 units sold, with Cupra Ateca cited to be a key driver of growth for 2019.
Cupra’s next model?
So where does Cupra go from here? The guessing games have been going on for a while.
One Spanish website reports that the next model will be Cupra Arona, a 2.0 TSI with 200hp and a similarly tweaked exterior to the Ateca. Elsewhere, the next Cupra was stated to be a coupe-crossover developed purely for the brand.
Well, guess no longer. Marking its first anniversary as a brand, Cupra has revealed the Formentor. This concept car is the first model designed specifically for Cupra and integrates the latest technologies to provide the most unique driving experience, with a high-performance plug-in hybrid engine at its heart.
From the first glimpse, the Cupra Formentor is a concept-car full of character. Much like the Ateca, it promises to bring together the benefits of a performance car with the qualities of an SUV at a time when the segment looks destined to see incredible growth.
Mixing the technology of an advanced high-performance PHEV petrol engine with a high power output will also allow the Formentor to surpass the performance expectations of the driver.
Linked to a dual-clutch DSG transmission the total output of 180kW/245PS is delivered seamlessly to the wheels. The intelligent DCC chassis setup and differential lock mean that the vehicle performs majestically no matter what the driving conditions or driving style.
Commenting on the imminent reveal at the Geneva Motor Show, Wayne Griffiths, CEO of Cupra, said: “This concept car is a synthesis of what Cupra stands for, a special and unique car with a striking and sculptural design, which expresses its performance and shows the energy that we have […] to develop the next-generation of vehicles.”