What is a CUPRA, and is it something to get excited about?

CUPRA has now finally started production of the new Formentor, which is the very first vehicle designed and developed uniquely for the new brand, and it will be available to order in the UK from October 20th when full details of specifications and prices are announced. But what on earth is a CUPRA, and is the Formentor something to get excited about?

It seems as though you're nobody in the car making business these days unless you have your own separate luxury or performance brand. Toyota has Lexus, Nissan has Infiniti, Hyundai has Genesis, Citroen has DS, and even the eminently sensible Swedes over at Volvo now have the very interesting Polestar brand. Not wanting to be left out, Seat is now getting in on the act with CUPRA, which is the performance sub-brand of the company that itself is a brand under the umbrella of the mighty Volkswagen Group. Are you keeping up at the back?

CUPRA used to be used for the sporty trim levels of Seat models in the same way Ford has ST, Nissan has NISMO, and so on. CUPRA has now been spun off as a brand in its own right, and the Formentor is the first of its lineup to go into production. Apart from a single image, all we really know so far about the new CUPRA Formentor is that it will start with a 2.0-litre 310PS petrol engine under its bonnet that will then be followed by other engines that will include an inevitable plug-in hybrid version.

The Formentor is very much the key pillar in CUPRA’s overall strategy, and with this completely new model, the brand hopes to establish and consolidate itself in the major European markets as well as entering new markets around the world. Formentor is the first model to be homologated under the CUPRA brand, but along with the upcoming CUPRA Ateca and CUPRA Leon, the trio will be entering the UK in the fourth quarter of 2020.

Since 2018, more than 55,000 cars with the CUPRA name have been sold globally, so it's this success that has encouraged Seat and parent company VW to make it a standalone brand. The new CUPRA vehicles will be sold via a dedicated network of retailers and not just through existing Seat dealers, with the ambitious plan of reaching something like 520 specialists globally by the end of the year.

SEAT and CUPRA President, Wayne Griffiths, says of the Formentor: "The new Formentor is a big step for CUPRA. As its first uniquely developed car, it will make the brand grow, be more visible and more desirable. We aim to exceed our initial goal of doubling CUPRA’s sales volume with the launch of this car and break into new markets thanks to its wide range of engines. I am convinced that this model will change the future of the CUPRA brand."

The plans are ambitious, and who doesn’t want more performance models to choose from? However, these offshoot brands don't always result in extra sales and success stories. Even the biggest brands can get it wrong sometimes, with Toyota being an obvious example with its now-defunct Scion brand in the United States that was supposed to appeal to a more youthful audience but failed to attract enough interest and was eventually swallowed up by the parent Toyota brand.