The Car.co.uk verdict:4.2
If you’re looking for Volkswagen build quality and reliability but have decided the electric ID3 is just too unexciting for you, then fear not because zooming in from left field is this, the Cupra Born. It’s the ID3 with added Cupra style and dynamics and with tonnes more attitude.
Cupra is not a brand familiar to everyone, but it’s actually been a round for a while. Cupra was always the name for the sportiest of Seat models, but in recent years it has been turned into a brand on its own, one that appeals to the urban trendsetters and those looking for something a bit different.
It’s almost hard to spot the underlying ID3 body shape in the Born, such are the changes that give it a way more dynamic look. Up front it has a sloping bonnet with aggressive lines, copper-coloured highlights and a deep front valance. The fading diamonds in the C-pillars give it a look of speed and flow into a rear design that features a real hot hatch look complete with the latest in lighting tech.
There are deep side sills that enhance both the looks and the aerodynamics as do the 20-inch Hurricane wheels fitted to the V3 models. It’s all complimented by the stylish and optional Aurora Blue paintwork on our test model.
Practicality with style
Don’t think that because it looks cooler than the ID3 it’s not as practical. It still sits on the same platform which means anything the ID3 can do, the Born can do, only it does it better and with more style.
It has a great driving position and loads of rear legroom. The back seating position is slightly obscured by the C-pillars but not enough to bother the occupants too much. Boot space is good for an EV with more than enough room for your monthly shop, the kids sports bags or weekend luggage and the charging cables are easily stored in a bag.
Most of the main touchpoint feature padded materials but there are some hard plastic surfaces but these should prove to be hard wearing in the long term. The Dinamica seats are comfortable but could be tricky to clean if the little’uns make a mess.
Trendy and urban with useful tech
There’s a great look and feel to the interior. The Marvel-esque Cupra logo sits in the centre of the steering wheel and its copper colour is reflected in many of the trim components. The dash has a good flow to its design and the 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system is angled well towards the driver, although the screen itself can be fiddly to use and you’re reliant on it for everything from climate control to driving modes.
The gearstick is a rotating piece stuck on the side of the 5.3-inch digital instrument panel and can take a bit of getting used to. There’s a well-integrated central storage space with cupholders and more space beneath the armrest where we were convinced there was a wireless charging pad, but it was just a place to rest your phone when it’s connected to the USB-C port. The door pockets all have ample space too and there’s a decent size glove box.
It’s all sporty, trendy and has a feeling of tech about it, more so than many of its rivals, making the Born’s interior one of the best in the category.
Equipment and options
This V3 spec is very well equipped with the only option being the Aurora Blue paint and the Dinamica bucket seats, although the latter is a no cost option on the V3 model. The Cupra Connect infotainment system allows for wireless connection to your phone, plus it has navigation with traffic info, DAB radio, media streaming, ambient lighting selection and driver profile settings. There’s also an augmented reality head-up display which works really well, especially when it comes to navigation instructions.
The seats and steering wheel can both be heated, there’s a rear view camera, LED head and taillights and a load of driver assistance systems that you’ll read about further on.
Engine and power
Power for the everyday
While the model we tested featured the high-spec V3 trim, the motor is the entry-level 58kWh with 204hp. 310Nm of torque is available from zero revs and Cupra claims a range of up to 264 miles. The Born can charge at up to 135kW on a DC rapid charger and can top-up from 5-80% in just 35 minutes. Plug it into an 11kW wallbox at home and it’ll take around six hours.
Instant torque makes the 0-62 mph of 7.3 seconds feel much quicker than it is and it’s only when you are overtaking at A-road speeds that you find the 58kWh battery a bit down on power. Top speed is marked at 99 mph and Cupra reckons on an average usage figure of up to 4.0mi/kWh although we achieved 3.1.
If you want more power then there is a 58kWh 230hp version with e-Boost and you can have the same power but with a bigger battery in the form of the 77kWh model.
Dynamic with attitude
Settle into the driver’s seat and it’s immediately clear that Cupra designers and engineers have worked together to create a great environment. The position is excellent, the flat-bottomed steering wheel feels good and there’s very much a driver-focused approach to many of the essential controls and storage spaces.
It’s not the fastest thing out of the blocks but that instant torque gives it a decent whoosh factor and you can switch between a number of driving modes to make the most of the 204hp on offer. It’s no pocket rocket, but dynamically it scores well, with a pliant ride that’s not as firm as some other EVs. The electric steering provides adequate feedback and there’s a good level of grip, although a moment of understeer was a surprise considering the rear-wheel drive layout. Perhaps that’s not surprising though, after all, the Born weighs in at a hefty 1,736kg.
It made for a great local commuter car, but was equally impressive on a couple of long distance journeys, with acceptable levels of road and wind noise and a comfortable ride from the sports suspension on all but the bumpiest of roads. Range mode dialled things back a bit to help when we needed to get to the next charger but most of the time Comfort mode was the sweet spot, with the occasional road enticing a switch into Performance Mode.
Born to be safe
Euro NCAP gave the Born five stars, with it scoring particularly highly in adult occupant protection at 93%. As well as a bunch of airbags it has a number of electronic systems, including pre-crash assistance, Predictive Adaptive Cruise Control, forward collision warning, lane keeping assistance, blind spot assist, traffic sign recognition and Intelligent Park Assist.
We did experience a glitch in the matrix though and it’s one that’s not uncommon. A few times the lane keeping system got rather confused and on once occasion while reaching the end of a section of traffic light-controlled roadworks, the Born tried to steer back towards oncoming waiting traffic rather than cross the lane markings back into the left lane. We’re guessing the computer wanted us to use the indicator but who does that in that situation. Tech can be weird sometimes.
Too early to tell
Reliability should be good, after all it’s essentially a Volkswagen, but at the same time this does mean it might have the same electronics issues that affect all VW Group models lately. It could be a frozen infotainment screen or a problem with the active safety systems, either way clever boffins are on the case and as most of the issues are software related, if they arise they should be fixed with updates.
Pricier than a Golf
The retail price of the model we drove is £38,390, although the stunning Aurora Blue paintwork then added another £840. It’s not cheap, the fact is that EVs are more expensive, that’s just the way it is at the moment, so don’t expect to be paying Golf prices. In fact you could get into a Golf GTi for less money if you’re after something sporty, but you’ll have to pay for fuel and emissions tax and ULEZ charges in London. Plus you’ll have emissions, the kind you can’t go and see a doctor to get cleared up.
That said, it’s only slightly more expensive than the equivalent ID3 but it is way off the price of an electric crossover like the Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia e-Niro, MG ZS EV or Peugeot e-2008. Talk about that in PCP terms though and it could mean as little as fifty quid a month extra for the Cupra over some of its lesser priced rivals depending on terms.
Because we would
Why should you buy the Cupra Born? That’s easy - we would. It’s by far the best compact electric hatchback we’ve driven and more stylish and more fun than some of its more expensive rivals. In contrast to the rather bland styling of models like the Nissan Leaf and VW ID3, the Born is like an energy drink with trendy packaging and it definitely made us thirsty for more from Cupra.