Cupra Urban Rebel Concept Review


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Jan Horn test drives the Cupra Urban Rebel Concept which previews a new electric road car due in 2025.

Concept cars are usually showpieces that preview the future – but not something anywhere near as functional as a real car. So in the vast majority of cases, they’re mostly about looks. Not so with Cupra, because we’ve actually been for a spin in the company’s Urban Rebel Racing Concept – and can testify that it does more than just drive. It flies.

Of course, the Urban Rebel is indeed a preview of a forthcoming road car: the new baby EV, being developed alongside models from Volkswagen and Skoda. But for the time being, Cupra wants to use the show car to demonstrate electrified performance.

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More than that, the firm thinks it can help fill the gap until the production vehicle arrives by starring in three roles. Firstly, it should excel on smooth asphalt. Secondly, it should be comfortable with being handbrake-turned on bumpy, dusty gravel sections.

And thirdly? That’s where things get virtual. In the next installment of the popular Forza Horizon racing-game series, the Urban Rebel Racing Concept will be recreated digitally, giving gamers the chance to identify with it and compete ‘in it’.

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As we stand beside the vehicle, we can see how it would work. A brutal mix of curves, slashes and sharp edges, the Urban Rebel looks wonderfully beastly – precisely the sort of thing that will dazzle on flat-screen TV in countless living rooms.

Cupra has built two examples of its Racing Concept, each featuring a carbon-fibre bodyshell wrapped over the basic construction of an RX2-class electric rallycross vehicle. The bare specs tell the story: a kerbweight of just 1230kg, including the battery pack in the floor, pushrod suspension, four-wheel drive and 320kW of electric shove. We’re told that it’ll reach 100km/h in 3.2 seconds, pretty much regardless of conditions.

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And here we are at a rallycross track, behind the wheel of one of the company’s two prototypes, so we start with respect. From a standing start, the Rebel translates a press on the throttle into a kind of forward detonation. It reacts almost telepathically to steering inputs, and mixes a firm chassis set-up with masses of suspension travel.

We’re not performing in front of a rallycross crowd today, and that’s probably for the best. Despite our best efforts at balancing the distribution of power between the two electric motors in the front and rear, and the T-shaped placement of the batteries low down in the floor and central tunnel, the Urban Rebel reacts quite unpredictably to my inexperienced commands.

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Suddenly, though, it all clicks; I have to work hard on a loose section of the track to manoeuvre the Urban Reben towards the asphalt section. Stones crackle like crazy in the wheelarches, the car grips heartily, buzzes mechanically and then shoots off in the right direction with an electric fizz.

It’s great – and proof that it’s possible to feel emotions from cars even without a traditional engine noise. Something of a Cupra coup, you might say.

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The Urban Rebel Racing Concept’s technical make-up is some way beyond what will feature on the (much cheaper) road car when it turns up in the middle of this decade. And yet as a rolling promotional tool for the idea of a hot baby EV, it’s a fantastic creation. Its digital presence will probably boost Cupra’s chances of selling the upcoming road car to younger customers, too.

Cupra Urban Rebel Racing Concept specs

Model: Cupra Urban Rebel Racing Concept
Price: $750,000 (est.)
Powertrain: 2x e-motor
Power: 320kW
Transmission: Single-speed auto, all-wheel drive
0-100km/h: 3.2 seconds
Length: 4186mm
Width: 1795mm
Height: 1444mm
On sale: 2025 (road car)


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