The Good Oil: The confusing history of Seat Cupra

David Linklater
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Photos / Supplied

Photos / Supplied

Cupra (“Cup racer”) is a designation that was originally attached to Seat hot-hatch models developed with the help of Seat Sport.

In 2018 Cupra became a standalone brand, albeit launched via a version of a familiar Seat SUV model. 

There are standalone Cupra models coming, although they will in time also probably be sold as Seats.

Meanwhile, Seat Sport has changed its name to Seat Cupra.

Confused? Yep, us too. Especially since both Seat (and therefore Cupra) are relatively new brands to New Zealand. But maybe just taking a quick look at some of the best Seat/Cupra road cars is a better way in…

Seat Sport was founded in 1985 to run touring car racing and rallying. The competition Ibiza Cupra Kit Car spawned the first –ever Cupra road car in 1996, the (let’s get this name exactly right) Seat Ibiza GTI Cupra Sport 1.8 16v (pictured above).

For the next two decades, Seat rolled out a succession of Cupra hot hatchbacks, based heavily on underpinnings from parent brand Volkswagen. Some highlights: the first Leon Cupra 1.8 20v (1999), the Leon Cupra 4 (2000) – the first AWD Cupra and the only six-cylinder one ever produced (pictured below) – and the limited-run Cupra R of 2018.

Cupra was launched as a separate brand in 2018 with the Cupra Ateca, a thoroughly reworked version of the Seat Ateca SUV – an awesome machine but arguably not the clearest way to differentiate Cupra as a brand from Cupra as a model.

The forthcoming Formentor might do a better job of that. It’s a coupe-style SUV with sleek styling that has no visual relationship to any existing Seat model – at least at launch, although it’s likely Formentor will also become a more mainstream Seat further down the track.

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