SEAT’s First Standalone Electric Car Will Debut in Geneva
The Spanish manufacturer will offer a roomier alternative to the I.D. Hatch with very different stylingby Michael Fira, on
Seat is set to unveil its first all-electric car next week at the 89th edition of the Geneva Auto Show. The compact model will be the first non-Volkswagen to be underpinned by the MEB platform that is known to be underneath each and every vehicle part of VW’s I.D. family. In fact, Seat’s EV will be a close relative of the entry-level I.D. Hatchback.
When Volkswagen announced it is developing the global MEB platform, we were told that it will end up as the base for just about any new EV built under the Volkswagen Group’s umbrella. Up until now, we’ve only heard news about Volkswagen’s own plethora of EVs sharing the MEB platform, but Seat will join in soon enough, followed by Skoda who’s working on a crossover that should be similar to the Vision E and Vision iV concepts presented in the past couple of years.
Seat’s first EV offering won’t be just a rebranded Volkswagen
The 2019 edition of the Geneva Auto Show will be jam-packed with EV offerings. Just about all of the major manufacturers have announced their presence at the Swiss show with at least some concept previewing a future electric vehicle. Seat, one of VAG’s budget brands alongside Skoda, will have its fair share of electric news to share with the world. The Spanish company will present its first car built from the ground up as an EV.
Present at the unveiling of the Seat Minimo concept, an ultra-light and small city car similar to the Renault Twizy EV that will hit the showrooms in 2021, Luca de Meo, Seat’s CEO, said that "over the past five or six years, we’ve shown that, given the right ingredients, we can cook very well. Just look at [the success of the] Leon," as quoted by Autocar. Indeed, He’s referring to the company’s best-selling model that sold 158,300 units last year in Europe alone. That’s almost a quarter of Seat’s total sales for 2018 that reached 517,600 units, up by 10.5 percent compared to 2017.
Seat’s Chief of Design, Alejandro Mesonero, said that the new car’s final design is 97 percent ready, but in spite of this, we have no knowledge of what it will be called. Still, the automaker did mention the hatchback’s range: 310 miles, just as much as the I.D. Hatchback and Skoda’s crossover. To put that in perspective, a 1.6-liter diesel Seat Leon with a claimed fuel economy of 58.8 mpg could go 770 miles on a tank of fuel, given the Leon’s tank can hold 13.2 gallons of diesel. That being said, the 1.6-liter engine is the least powerful of the lot with only 113 horsepower on tap, but other more peppy mills also offer good fuel economy as well with miles on a tank varying depending on the way you drive and the roads you drive on. In any case, the Leon offers a ton of engine options, but just about any one of them will cover more than 310 miles on a tank.
|Note: 2019 Nissan Leaf pictured here.|
Then again, if we are to compare the upcoming Seat EV with similar-sized EVs, the story is completely different. The Nissan Leaf can cover only 168 miles on a charge on the WLTP cycle, while the Hyundai Kona and its 86-horsepower electric motor can surpass 300 miles on a charge if you don’t give it the beans too often. These are the new Seat’s (and Volkswagen’s) biggest rivals in terms of mileage considering there are EVs like the Renault Zoe R11 that can easily turn 150 miles of mixed real-world use with its 41-kWh battery option. That’s up from just 80-odd miles with the smaller 22-kWh battery package, according to Autocar.
Seat will roll with the new EV a new design language that will also be shared by the upcoming fourth-generation Leon, a highly-expected car as it will replace the current one that’s already seven years old. According to Seat’s Head of Design, the new design language is bolder than anything seen on Seats ever before. Mesonero argues that "sometimes you need to take a bigger step so as not to be obsolete."
Aside from the refreshed styling, the EV will get a taller roofline than the I.D. Hatchback, which in my mind will position it closer to the 2020 I.D. Neo in terms of size. The Neo itself is about as long as a Golf at 157 inches in length, but the prototype seen in the spy shots was dressed in the Golf Sportsvan’s clothes. It won’t be a rival for the I.D. Crozz though, as Seat is bound to introduce an electric SUV that’s too similar to the Skoda’s emission-free SUV.
|Note: Seat Tarraco pictured here.|
Plans are also afoot to introduce the new Tarraco SUV this year, a brother of Skoda’s Kodiaq. We also know that the fourth-gen Leon will introduce a plug-in hybrid version, another first for the Spanish carmaker. It will be a competitor for VW’s own Golf E and the sporty GTE variant. The latter can only go about 31 miles (according to VW) in all-electric mode, and in hybrid mode, Autocar found out that "with considerate driving, on a mix of A- and B-roads the car comfortably managed the +54.6 mpg we saw in the A3 e-tron. Not the 138 mpg claimed, of course, but a decent rival for turbodiesel power, away from a motorway at least."
A fuel economy of 36.47 mpg powered by the ICE only is the best the GTE can do in the real world if the engine isn’t also tasked to recharge the batteries. I reckon the PHEV Leon will do better than that as it must, at least, match the 150-mile range of the standard Golf E. According to the same British outlet, the Golf E is also surprisingly brisk as it reaches 60 mph from a standstill 0.3 seconds quicker than the Nissan Leaf and is also 0.3 seconds quicker to 30 mph than the 2.0-liter, diesel Golf with 148 horsepower at the ready (34 more than the Golf E).
Moving on to technology, Seat’s Chief of R&D was quick to point out how advanced the company’s EV will be in this department: "[it will feature] fantastic technology and a fantastic user interface," Matthias Rabe said. That’s in line with what we’ve been expecting from the I.D. Hatchback. Currently, the model is testing in freezing temperatures where we know for a fact it won’t have similar problems to the Tesla Model 3 because it features traditional, cheaper door handles. The infotainment system will surely trickle down to other Seat models later on.
Finally, performance-wise, the Seat EV should be roughly as fast as the I.D. Hatch. Reports say a 125-kW (168-horsepower) electric motor will power the Volkswagen and, since the platform will be the same, we expect as much power to motivate the Seat. The power will be transferred via a single-gear transmission to the rear wheels and computer simulations have shown that a 0 to 62 mph sprint in 8.0 seconds is possible while top speed will be limited to 100 mph for the sake of improving mileage. Obviously, a fast-charging system will be available that will charge the battery pack up to 80% in just 30 minutes.
Herbert Diess, the boss of VW, said that the new I.D. Hatchback will cost about as much as a diesel Golf. In the U.S., the diesel version is priced between $31,880 and $46,584 (Highline trim level), but over in Europe you can buy a base 1.6-liter diesel, two-door Golf with a five-speed manual for just $20,529, cheaper than the American 110 TSI with the 1.4-liter gas engine that starts at $22,000. The Seat will cost just as much.
|Note: Cupra e-Racer pictured here.|
Away from the world of mass-produced cars, Seat already unveiled and allowed journalists to test its first EV racing car: the Cupra e-Racer. It was first shown at last year’s Geneva Auto Show and is an electric version of the very popular Cupra TCR race car. Just like the production models, it uses a single-ratio transmission but this transmission has to deal with 400 horsepower at all times as well as bursts of up to 670 horsepower.
The e-Racer is 660 pounds heavier than the front-wheel drive, ICE-powered Cupra TCR because it features no less than 6,072 round cell batteries. According to Seat, the silent touring car goes from 0 to 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and from 0 to 124 mph in 8.2 seconds. Its top speed sits at 168 mph. That’s actually quicker than the gas-guzzling model since that one has to adhere to the strict rules of the TCR category that mandate the use of 2.0-liter, 350-horsepower, and 309-pound-feet of torque engines for all manufacturers. The DSG version costs almost $107,000, while the sequential one is available for $20,000 more. We don’t know how much the electric car will cost but the folks behind the TCR class - that is currently the most popular touring car formula with over 250 cars sold worldwide in four years - want to introduce an E-TCR series soon.
Read our full review on the 2018 Seat Arona
Read our full review on the 2018 Seat Leon Cupra R ST
Read our full review on the 2010 Seat Ibe Concept.
Read our full review on the 2017 Seat Leon.