The new Cupra brand is set to serve as a technological figurehead for Seat and could be used to introduce hybrid and electrified tech into the manufacturer's range
The only Cupra model confirmed so far is a petrol-engined Ateca, alongside a new Seat Leon Cupra R ST estate – which will maintain Seat branding along for model consistency, but will feature new Cupra copper colouring. The Cupra range will rapidly expand to feature seven models by 2020. Cupra versions of the Ibiza and Arona are likely in 2019, and the firm showed a concept sketch at its launch event that previews a possible Cupra-only model in the future.
The expanded model range, which will include three new cars in 2020, will include alternate powertrains, with an early focus on plug-in hybrids. Seat boss Luca de Meo has hinted that the higher price of Cupra models would enable them to feature such variants, along with other cutting-edge technology, ahead of Seat-branded machines.
“We're in a phase where we will have to integrate a lot of technologies into the product because they are available, from engine technology to connectivity, driver assistance systems, everything,” he said.
“When you do it on a car supposed to be sold at, say, £11,000, it’s something, but do it on a car two to three times the price you have some space to integrate that technology. We will use Cupra as a gate to bring technology that will cascade to the rest of the Seat range.”
Seat’s R&D boss Matthias Rabe added: “In the future, we'll look at alternative powertrains in the Cupra division. There will be more electrification in Cupra, and we’re thinking about battery electric vehicles. We’re also looking at the digital world, both inside the car and how it connects outside it.
“We will continue with the internal combustion engine, but we have ideas of how to get more power as well. We’re looking at the idea of electrification in a sporty way, not in a limited way like with a PHEV today.”
Rabe said that hybrid and plug-in hybrid power will come first, stating that it'll be introduced to Cupra in the near, rather than distant, future.
De Meo said the high cost of designing and building new cars is why Cupra's initial focus will be on producing variants of existing machines. However Seat’s marketing chief, Wayne Griffiths, said Cupra versions of future models could launch ahead of Seat versions. He also revealed that a hybrid Cupra was more likely to feature in the future line-up than a diesel version, although he refused to rule the latter out.
Griffiths said: “I’m a big fan of diesel, and if you look at what Audi did with the S models, there is potential for [performance] diesel with Euro 6 and Euro 7. I wouldn’t bet on it at the moment for Cupra; I’d rather try and look at plug-in hybrids.”