New supermini-sized SEAT and Cupra EVs to slot beneath Born hatch

Spanish brands plan to launch a smaller electric hatchback which will share underpinnings with the upcoming Volkswagen ID.1

Cupra is gearing-up to launch a new supermini-sized electric hatchback, based on the same MEB architecture as the Volkswagen ID.1. The company’s sister brand, SEAT, will also produce its own version, and was recently chosen to lead the development of a new four-metre-long EV – the bones of which will eventually be shared out across all the Volkswagen Group brands.

A launch date of 2025 is targeted for the new electric supermini, along with the recently revealed Formentor e-Hybrid PHEV, Cupra Born EV and upcoming Tavascan EV, will set the tone for the Spanish brand’s electrification drive. In the short term, Cupra aims for the Formentor PHEV to account for 25 percent of its total sales this year.

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Cupra’s main concern for its EV supermini project is making it profitable, as the technology is still quite expensive and the car will sit on the very bottom rung of the company’s line-up. SEAT and Cupra President Wayne Griffths said: “When you look at the A0 segment – so the Ibizas, Polos and Fabias – this segment is huge in Europe, particularly in Southern Europe. 

“And this segment is going to change [from combustion cars] to an electric car. And this is the most difficult one to do it on. To do it with Porsche Taycans at the top end of the market is a bit easier, but small cars and making money is more of a challenge. It’s something that we're working on. You have to find the synergies and efficiencies everywhere otherwise you don’t get to a price level that customers can afford.”

These “efficiencies” will likely involve heavy parts sharing across all of the Volkswagen Group brands, as Cupra takes advantage of economies of scale. We’ve seen this already with the ID.3 and ID.4, both of which feature the same electric motor, the same infotainment technology and similar battery packs.

Given the new EV’s compact size and target market, it would make sense for Cupra to carry the ID.3’s entry-level 143bhp electric motor onto its new supermini. However, as the new car will be shorter than the ID.3, Cupra will have to fit a smaller battery pack, meaning it won’t be able to match the car’s 263-mile range.

Cupra is aiming to build its new electric supermini in Spain, although the firm will need the financial support of the Spanish government and the European Commission to do so. However, Griffths thinks the project could give the local economy a boost following the hardships of the Coronavirus pandemic.

He said: “Obviously, Spain has been hit harder than many other places by Covid. Not just in health terms but in the structure of the industry – a lot of it depends on tourism, and now there’s been no tourists here for a year. 

“That’s had a big impact on the economy and on employment – we have a big youth unemployment of 40 percent and, obviously, transformation of the car industry is important not only for building cars here in Martorell [the SEAT plant situated North of Barcelona], but also for the whole chain: batteries, battery assembly, electric motor assembly.”

Despite Cupra’s push towards clean motoring, the firm isn’t ready to ditch combustion power yet. Cupra has just launched a 385bhp 2.5-litre five-cylinder version of the Formentor which doesn’t feature hybrid assistance – and SEAT’s research and development vice president, Dr. Werner Tietz, has confirmed a new combustion-only halo model is on the way.

Cupra is now entering its third year of trading, hoping its planned new models will continue the sales successes it has enjoyed thus far. Last year, Cupra sold 27,400 cars despite the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic. That’s an 11 percent improvement over the previous year – but Griffiths thinks the brand can do better.

He said: “Cupra has surprised everyone in these three years and has even continued to grow during the pandemic. These great results make us optimistic to push harder in 2021; this year we’re looking to double the sales volume of 2020.”

Now read all the latest news on the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid PHEV. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below…

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