You may not have heard of SEAT (pronounced say-at), a Spanish automaker owned by Volkswagen that does not sell cars in the U.S. You almost definitely have not heard of CUPRA, SEAT's new performance brand that launched last year. But you should check out their latest model, the el-Born, an electric hot hatchback arriving in 2021. It may offer a preview of where VW is heading in the future.
Performance details for the el-Born remain scarce. CUPRA says it will use a 77kWh battery and projects about a 310-mile range. Presuming that figure refers to the NEDC measure, it might translate to somewhere between 200-250 miles of range on an EPA test. CUPRA also promises an acceleration time of 2.9-seconds, to 31 mph. No word on the standard 60 mph measure. Though the former time is far more relevant to real driving.
The el-Born will be very much a Volkswagen. CUPRA will build the el-Born on Volkswagen's MEB platform that underpins VW's new ID.3 electric hatchback. It also looks remarkably like someone made a more menacing, performance-oriented version of the ID.3. Swap in a VW logo and the el-Born could look like an ID.3 R or, with some red lipstick, an ID.3 GTI.
VW has not confirmed it is making an electric hot hatch, but there has been some reporting that an ID.3 R could launch in 2024. Per that reporting, VW's hesitance over building one was whether there would be a market for it. If they were unsure, testing the market for a hot electric hatchback with one of the sub-brands would be a rational way to find out.
Even if Volkswagen does build an eventual electric hot hatch, it's not so certain that Americans will get it. The broader American public has sworn off hatchbacks, which is why the ID.3 and the Mk8 Golf won't be coming stateside. Driving enthusiasts do still love hatchbacks, which is why the U.S. will get the Mk 8 GTI. But whether those enthusiasts would embrace an electric car remains to be seen. It's worth noting VW did not attempt to bring the GTE plug-in hybrid stateside.