This is the Seat IBE concept, described by the Spanish carmaker as a ‘dynamic concept for urban mobility’ and is designed as a purely electric vehicle.
It is very hard to grasp the true size of the Seat IBE, even when you are standing next to it. At first glance it looks like it might be a coupe supermini. In fact, the IBE is 25cm shorter than an Ibiza, 22cm lower but 10cm wider.
This mix of proportions - big wheels, a broad stance and handsome body sections - and the very subtle surfacing, throws your 3D waypoints. The Seat design team have managed to imbue a machine of city car proportions with the visual gravitas of a premium car a couple of sizes larger.
It uses a front-mounted electric motor, good for 204hp and 200Nm of torque at maximum output, driving the front wheels. An 18kWh battery is mounted in the rear of the car.
In normal driving circumstances, the IBE’s motor has a continuous power rating of a modest 68hp with a top speed of 160kmh. Seat says the IBE would weigh just 1000kgs, so the modest power output would allow a handy urban 0-50kmh sprint time of just 3.4secs and 0-80kmh in 6.3secs.
Seat admits that there are ‘elements’ of the VW UP city car under the skin of the IBE, and while its shares the same wheelbase and similar overall length, it is considerably wider. There’s little doubt that one version of the UP will be a pure electric city runabout (it was previewed last September the E-UP! concept) so the technology to produce the IBE will be in the VW portfolio by 2013.
The company says it is serious about an electrically driven future. The Spanish government has brought together 16 different companies and 16 university and research establishments to work on the electrification of, particularly, urban motoring.
Donckerwolke insists that the IBE is a ‘shooting break and not a coupe’. ‘It is an evolution of what came before, we’ve evolved the lines but used the same architecture of volumes’ says Donckerwolke.
The IBE is detailed is much more reminiscent of late 1990s Volkswagens and Audis. Very, very subtle details, all beautifully considered but almost too fine for an object the size of a car.
So will the IBE’s actual form find its way into production? ‘No’ Donckerwolke says, but he does tease at possibilities. ‘If we built this based on an Ibiza, it would be 15cm taller.’
What about the IBE as Seat’s fixed-head version of the mid-engined VW Bluesport roadster?
‘I could build this as a mid-engined car, though the bonnet would be 10mm higher and the roofline 50mm higher.’ However, he also hint that the next-generation Ibiza will probably come as a conventional five door and a more distinctive three-door and it’s easy to see how the IBE could be scaled up into a kind of Latin Mini.
Whether the IBE appears as latter day Fiat X1-9 or Spanish Mini rival, it’s clear that the troubled brand is about to completely re-boot its DNA for the second time in ten years. It can’t afford to miscue again.