The Seat Cupster concept is a birthday present from Seat to the Ibiza in the supermini’s 30th year on sale.
It was first revealed at the Volkswagen Group’s GTI Treffen tuning festival in Wörthersee, Austria in late spring, and reaction was positive enough to the extent that Seat has engineered it to a level to allow it to be driven.
Which is why our interest has been piqued enough to come to the Parcmotor Castelloli circuit on the outskirts of Barcelona to find out more about the Cupster, a two-seat open-top speedster based on a three-door Ibiza Cupra hatchback, and have an early drive.
Barcelona-based Seat may seem ripe for having a convertible in its line-up, but that’s not been the case in recent years. A convertible Seat concept was last seen with the well-received Tango in 2001, which looked a good bet for production as a natural fit for the brand but was never received sign off by the Volkswagen Group board.
The Tango concept is fondly remember by our companion for a drive in the Cupster, Seat design studio chief engineer Angel Lahoz. He’s overseen the build of all of Seat’s concepts dating back to the Walter de Silva-penned Salsa of 2000.
It’s these types of cars that really steal the hearts of designers, according to Lahoz, something echoed by his boss, Seat design chief Alejandro Mesonero. “It’s a fun car to look at and a fun car to drive,” he says. “We respected everything on the Ibiza from the waistline down, then minimised everything on top. You can enjoy the sun and the light – or wind and rain in England – and it has the spirit of the Ibiza in it.”
Fun is the word that comes to wind when witnessing the two-door Cupster in the metal for the first time.
It looks better when up close and when it’s on the move than in static photographers, particularly when looking over it; it’s from this angle when you can admire the low-slung appearance, level of detail and thoroughness of the engineering for a one-off concept car, rather than dismiss the Cupster as a flight of fancy.
Lahoz explains how the Cupster shares its major dimensions – height excluded – with the Ibiza Cupra, and how many of the changes have gone on underneath. “It’s a normal Cupra with a new body and interior, and no roof,” he says of the Cupster, the name coming from a combination of Cupra and speedster.
Mesonero’s design team penned the concept and 10 students at Seat’s own in-house school in oversaw the engineering.
This was a task to get them used to working with their hands, something the students are being less and less exposed to in a growing world of digital design and engineering. The whole concept took four months to design, engineer and build.
Major strengthening work was done to the chassis to compensate to the loss of structural rigidity from removing the roof. The sills were thickened and widened, strut braces were fitted front and back, the base of the A-pillars have been reinforced, and there are further reinforcements running from the top of the rear suspension to the base of the B-pillars.
Despite all this added strength, the Cupster weighs the same as an Ibiza Cupra owing to the removal of the roof.
The suspension has been lowered by around 30mm, and also made around 50 per cent stiffer. Larger brakes from the Leon Cupra have been added, covered by a new design of 18in alloy shod in low profile rubber.