Australia has a ton of car makes to choose from – more than most parts of the world – and has seen a ton leave our shores too. 2020 alone saw Holden and Infiniti leave us. Other brands that have jumped ship include Hummer (which nobody missed), Opel (strangely kept on as rebadged Holdens), SAAB (which wasn’t the fault of the Swedes), Eunos (Mazda’s luxury arm), Daihatsu (with their ripper three cylinder engines) and odd bods such Rover and Lada. When these manufacturers leave they often leave a trail of destruction – both in terms of resale values for their customers and in terms of the efforts made by dedicated local staff; often despite the fact that the products themselves are very good. Well, Hummer’s and Ladas are probably best forgotten, but Opels, Infinitis and Daihatsus are good cars.
Another brand that seemed like a flash in the pan was Sociedad Española de Automóviles de Turismo – better known as SEAT. After making cars based on Fiat models through the 1950s and 1960s, SEAT formed a partnership with Volkswagen in the early 1980s. This partnership continues and provided the platforms for SEAT’s crack at the Australian motoring market. The small Ibiza was based on the Polo, the larger Cordoba was based on the Bora and the larger still Toledo was based on the Passat. Every one of them were cracking cars. They were so good that back in the day Trev and I had one each! So good that I bought two – an Ibiza CLX and an Ibiza GTi – cars that I still miss.
Despite the quality of the cars, the writing was on the wall soon after local launch in the mid 90s. I knew the end was near when the local distributor of my funky, value packed Euro rocket chose to market the range by offering them as prizes with Larry Emdur on The Price is Right. As a marketing strategy, it was a disaster and ruined the credibility of the brand as a serious rival to other European options. A couple of years later, it was all over for SEAT in Australia.
With only tiny sales achieved locally, I really don’t think the Spaniards lost any sleep over the brand’s departure, despite Larry’s and Cossie’s best efforts at asking people to “Come on Down”. SEATs sold, and continue to sell, in massive numbers all throughout Europe. In fact, SEAT has recorded double digit growth for the last three years, selling over 130000 cars in Germany alone last year.
CUPRA is SEATs sporty offshoot, formerly known as SEAT Sport, and in charge of SEAT’s rally and touring car racing programs – think less HSV and more HDT, just without Señor Brocky.
A couple of years ago SEAT decided to broaden the CUPRA brand and launch a dedicated range of vehicles branded solely as CUPRA. The range has been developed alongside SEAT’s regular range, but with a much sportier and edgier emphasis. Excitingly, CUPRA is set to launch on Aussie soil in 2022 and I can’t wait.
CUPRA aims to prove that electrification and sportiness are a perfect match with more plug-in hybrid models planned, including the PHEV CUPRA Formentor and the brand’s first 100% electric model, the CUPRA Born. The CUPRA Tavascan will be the brand’s second all-electric model and will reach the market in 2024.
CUPRA’s Australian line-up will include two SUVs and a hatchback: the CUPRA Formentor crossover SUV, the CUPRA Ateca SUV, and the CUPRA Leon hatchback. Interestingly, Australia will be the first market where CUPRA will operate exclusively as a performance brand. It is envisaged that the CUPRA range’s recommended retail pricing will start just north of $40,000 and finish just above $60,000.
CUPRA will use an online platform and pop-up outlets to shift cars, rather than traditional dealerships. It will be interesting to see how successful this will be. If it doesn’t work they can always give them away on The Price is Right. Cars will be serviced at selected VW, Audi or SKODA workshops and will come with a five-year/ unlimited kilometre warranty.
The Australian CUPRA lineup includes:
- 3 petrol engines: 140KW, 180kW and 221kW
- Plug-in hybrid (PHEV): 180kW
- CUPRA Ateca
- 221kW Petrol with ‘4DRIVE’ AWD
- 3 petrol engines: 140kW, 180kW and 228kW with ‘4DRIVE’ AWD
- Plug-in hybrid (PHEV): 180kW
If that isn’t enough, CUPRA is also FC Barcelona’s official automotive and mobility partner, so you can drive the same car as Messi and Griezmann!
Just sign me up for a 221kw Leon!