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cupra crackers The all-new Leon & Formentor are very impressive... but at a high price

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Cupra - Formentor VZ 2.0TSI 310hp and Cupra Leon

For all the onlookers who kept staring at the badge on the front of my test drives for the last couple of weeks, I will begin with a 'Cupra Focal'.

Back in 2018, some big-wig in the Volkswagen-owned SEAT head office decided to give the performance end of the Spanish motor company its own identity.

At the time, SEAT's chief executive, Luca de Meo, was understood to be passionate about the Cupra name, and had strong ambitions for it. Similarly, the company's head of research and development at the time, Matthias Rabe, had an affinity with the SEAT Sport engineering team, which was highly-focused on touring cars.

In a previous role, de Meo had been in charge of Abarth's launch as a separate brand from Fiat - a move that proved successful for the Italian manufacturer.

At the time, Rabe suggested that hybrid power could be found in future Cupra models: "Cupra and electrification is not a contradiction. I could see a Cupra as an electrified car - and we have something in mind," he said.

Three years on and the Cupra dream has become a reality for the team.

My first test drive was the new Cupra Leon e-Hybrid. Regular readers of this column might remember that the SEAT Leon featured in my top five cars last year and this Cupra Leon takes it to the next level.

Fitted with a 1.4-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, 12.8kWh lithium-ion battery pack and 85kW electric motor, the Cupra Leon has the best of both worlds. Cupra say that you can get more than 60km in pure electric mode however, realistically, you are looking closer to just over 40km in normal driving conditions.

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Still though, the petrol engine is no slouch either and would leave many hot-hatches eating its dust.

On the road, the Cupra Leon e-Hybrid costs from €41,210, which includes the SEAI grant of €5,000.

For me it is a bit expensive considering the new Golf GTE is only €2k more. It is a fantastic-looking car and comes well equipped, but I still think I would be more than happy with the SEAT Leon and save the extra few quid for a rainy day.

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Now on to the pocket rocket all-new Cupra Formentor. From the moment you first see it in the flesh you will fall in love with its to-die-for looks. It cannot be compared to anything in the SEAT range and it's like nothing you've seen before.

Although Cupra offers a 150bhp petrol engine and a slim-fast 245bhp plug-in hybrid engine, I was lucky enough to get my hands on the full-fat 2.0-litre TSI 310bhp pocket rocket.

Press the start button for the engine, which is located on the steering wheel like an F1 race car, and you will hear the loud purrs from the double twin exhaust.

The Formentor comes with three drive settings: Comfort, Sport and Cupra. All three modes really change the dynamics of the drive from pottering around town like Driving Miss Daisy to Jensen Button-type cornering in Cupra mode. It's definitely a wolf in sheep's clothing and handles superbly for a 'coupe-SUV'.

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With everyone seemingly switching over to plug-in and electric cars these days, I am not so sure how well the full-fat Formentor will sell for the brand.

It is a really special car but it does come at a price. The RRP price for the Formentor starts at €37,135 while the full-fat Formentor VZ 310bhp will set you back a Lotto winning €64,425. That's a bit steep for my liking, even if it is a brilliant car.

Meanwhile, Cupra Ireland has this week announced the launch of four new retailers in the key strategic locations of Cork, Dublin, Galway and Waterford, taking the number of retailers across Ireland to eight.

Since its launch in 2018, the Cupra brand has gone from strength to strength, developing a range of premium and technologically advanced vehicles based on contemporary design and sporty performance.

For more information log on to cupraofficial.ie or contact your local dealer.

Robbie Farrell

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