The fully-electric Cupra Born is a certainty for Australia, with senior executives confirming the EV hot hatch was a matter of “when, not if”.
Global Cupra president Wayne Griffiths is targeting an Australian launch date of late 2022 for the brand’s first all-electric model – the 2022 Cupra Born hot hatch.
There’s the small matter of establishing the Cupra brand in Australia first, with the marque’s local representation working feverishly within the Volkswagen Group’s local headquarters to design an online sales system and a retail concept based around “urban garages”.
Speaking to Australian media from the 2021 IAA Munich motor show by video link, Mr Griffiths confirmed that the Cupra Born would launch at least a few months after the first trio of Cupra models arrived on the local market.
The Spanish performance outfit will initially come to Australia earlier in 2022 with three models headlined by the Formentor midsize SUV, alongside the Ateca small SUV and the Leon hatchback. The Formentor and Leon will offer plug-in hybrid powertrains from launch.
While the Leon and Ateca are shared by Cupra’s parent brand Seat, the Formentor is the marque’s first ‘exclusive’ model whose core design is not shared by any other manufacturer within the Volkswagen Group.
The all-electric Born shares the underpinnings of the Volkswagen ID 3 hatchback which remains under consideration for Australia, though there is little debate that the Born will be here first, with the Spanish hatch likely to land in Australia at a similar time to the electric Volkswagen ID 4 midsize SUV.
In Europe, Cupra Born buyers can select from two levels of power and three battery sizes offering shorter, medium and longer range versions. It is likely that the Born range will be smaller in Australia, with product planners likely to prefer the high-power, long-range combinations.
All Born variants are rear-wheel-drive, with a choice of 110kW or 150kW of power generated by a rear-mounted motor. With Volkswagen this week confirming a hotter dual-motor ‘GTX’ version of the related ID 3 hatchback, it is possible that Cupra will also offer an Born with dual-motor AWD in the future.
Three battery sizes offered in Europe span 45kWh, 55kWh and 77kWh, with the smallest pack offering 340km of range (WLTP) and the longest-range version providing a WLTP range of 540km.
By way of differentiation from Volkswagen’s ID 3, the Cupra’s dynamic chassis control damping system is comprehensively retuned for a sportier ride with superior body control, while a boost mode is likely to be available to trigger a short period of maximum torque.
Mr Griffiths said electric powertrains make it more difficult to infuse a car with spirit and personality – as does the mass of the battery pack, but he argued that Cupra’s chassis tuning expertise was capable of meeting this challenge.
While Australia’s slower uptake of electrified vehicles has barred a timely local arrival for some Volkswagen Group EVs in the past, Mr Griffiths told Australian media that emissions and environmental issues were not a source of delay for the Cupra Born.
Instead, the reason for the year-long wait until the Cupra Born’s Australian launch comes down to the more mundane: an issue with the car’s online connectivity system that appears to not work seamlessly with Australia’s mobile networks.
Mr Griffiths said it would be a challenge to implement “platforms that had not been developed for Australia” but that Cupra was committed to the work involved, and that budget had been set aside for the 2022 calendar year for extensive local testing of the Born on Australian roads.
Cupra Australia managing director Ben Wilks suggested that a 2023 arrival date is on the cards, noting that the Born is locked in for Australia as “a matter of when, not if”, but that specifics were still to be worked out.
Global boss Griffiths was more bullish, insisting that 2023 represented the “latest” date he was comfortable with for a local launch, noting that “for me, 2023 is like forever [away] … we need to get [the Born] ready next year … we need to have the testing done by then and to launch by the end of next year or the beginning of 2023 with the Born. It shouldn’t take that long.”
Cupra’s launch in Australia will see customers able to select a plug-in hybrid powertrain from the start of sales, Mr Wilks confirmed.
The Born will join Cupra’s Australian lineup later on, but the electric hot hatch will be far from the last battery-electric model to wear the Cupra badge in the local market.
Mr Griffiths confirmed that work is advanced on two new electric cars that are intended to come to Australia, including the Tavascan electric coupe-SUV and a production version of the Urban Rebel supermini concept race car shown at this year’s IAA Munich show.
“It is a show car but it’s very close to the final design,” Mr Griffiths said of the Urban Rebel. “If you take off the whale-tail, take off the fin at the back and the big fin at the front, you are roughly at the design of the car.”
Cupra says it will target 2024 and 2025 for the launches of the Tavascan and Urban Rebel respectively.
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