How Cupra created a hot electric hatchback alternative to the Volkswagen ID.3

How Cupra created a hot electric hatchback alternative to the Volkswagen ID.3

The Cupra Born is a sporty alternative to the Volkswagen ID.3.
Enlarge / The Cupra Born is a sporty alternative to the Volkswagen ID.3.


Recently we reviewed Audi’s RS e-tron GT, a handsome four-door electric vehicle that, while closely related to the Porsche Taycan, still manages to feel quite distinctive to drive. As I have detailed in this article, the practice of sharing common platforms or architectures has been part of life in the automotive industry for decades.

This is especially true at Volkswagen Group, which uses a handful of platforms as a starting point for its collection of 10 brands. One of the newer of these platforms is known as MEB (Modular Electric Drive Kit or Modular Electrification Toolkit), and so far Ars has sampled MEB-based electric vehicles in the form of the Volkswagen ID.4 crossover and then, more recently, the ID. Buzz minivan and the Audi Q4 e-tron crossover.

However, not all MEB-based EVs are destined for America. Volkswagen isn’t bringing the Golf-sized ID.3 sedan to this side of the Atlantic, although based on the opinions of European colleagues on this car, I’m not sure we’re missing much. It’s more unfortunate that American roads may never see the Cupra Born, an electric hot hatch from a brand that broke away from Seat in 2018 as a more performance-oriented OEM. Ars’ friend Jonny Smith recently drove the Born and came away impressed, especially since he was one of those disappointed reviewers of the ID.3.

To learn more about how it works, I spoke to Dr. Werner Tietz, Vice President of R&D at Cupra. “We can work a lot on all the components, like the steering application, the chassis, we can work on the throttle response, on the recovery behavior,” Tietz told me. “And if you combine all of that and you still have the intention of making the car precise or nimble, so if you know your goal and you force your team to come up with proposals, you end up with the result like we have seen. on the Born.”

Cupra has also increased the power by about 13% to 228 hp (170 kW) compared to the ID.3, “which is not much, but at least it gives you a little more dynamism and makes a bit more fun,” Tietz said. . The result? “[It] is not as comfortable as an ID.3. It’s not that kind of car, but that’s not the intention,” he continued.

You will have noticed that many of the Cupra-specific changes are not to different hardware, but to different code. In fact, EV rigs like MEB easily lend themselves to this sort of thing. “On electric cars it’s a lot easier. It’s a lot easier to do things with software. If you look at the behavior of the powertrain, you can do a lot more with software, whereas on cars combustion, tuning is easier,” Tietz pointed out.

Cupra dominated the 2022 FIA ETCR series.
Enlarge / Cupra dominated the 2022 FIA ETCR series.


Tietz even thinks there is hope that steering feel will return to cars after the switch from hydraulic power steering to electric power steering. “With 100% steering by wire, so it’s a challenge, but we have some companies in the group that are sophisticated enough to develop steering feedback,” he said, referring obliquely to Porsche, another from the VW. group brands.

“There are software tools and you need additional sensors to detect the forces you put on the steering wheel, but then you can mimic them and you can bring the appropriate feel back to the steering,” Tietz told me. Indeed, that’s what a driver does in the loop simulator, but as Tietz explained, “It’s a real-time reaction, and depending on the actual situation of the car…it’s important , especially if you have sporty cars.”

Tietz is optimistic about the future of performance electric cars. “What I think still needs to be improved with this new generation of batteries is the weight,” he told me. “We won the season with ETCR [an electric touring car series], and the advantage of ETCR is that you have a small battery, only makes seven, eight turns. The weight of the car is therefore low. And my dream is that in the future you have an electric car that you accept that you only have a range of 300 km, but the weight is reduced to, I don’t know, 1300 kg or something like that, and then you have it, then you have a real car, then you have a lot of fun and a sporty car.”

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