+ Sporty performance
+ Striking looks inside and out
+ 125kW charging
- Fiddly controls
- Infotainment can be laggy
- You’ve got to find a 125kW charger first…
Verdict: Cupra has done enough to distance the Born from the ID.3: it’s livelier to drive and has more personality than its Volkswagen cousin. The same EV problems remain, such as limited range, but for a battery-powered car that stands out from the crowd, the Born is a great choice.
Another week, another electric car launch. This time from Cupra, the sporty subdivision of Seat, which is in turn owned by Volkswagen.
We all know how this goes by now: VW launches a product first and its underlings follow suit in the coming months, and we’re all supposed to pretend they’re not the same car just dressed in a new frock and pair of high heels.
Except Cupra will have you know that this is NOT simply a VW ID.3 wearing flashier getup. It’s sportier, as per Cupra’s mission statement, therefore a different prospect altogether. Let’s find out if that’s true…
The Born is off to a good start when it comes to design. While it doesn’t take a genius to spot it shares a platform with the ID.3 it looks much snappier than the bland VW, with its sharply sloping bonnet slashed by a muscular crease, suite of full LED lights, and spoiler at the rear.
It commands presence on the road, and the copper-coloured accents, Cupra’s signature, drive home the message that this is more than just a re-badged VW.
The same effort has been gone to with the interior. You do spot recycled VW switchgear in places, and it’s not a welcome sight because it means the Born shares the frustrating haptic feedback controls which drive us crazy in the ID.3, but the overall landscape looks prettier.
The textured and rubberised materials that coat bigger expanses, like the dashboard, are more interesting than they are premium, but interesting is good. Cupra’s marketing suits spout a lot about ‘3D materials this’ and ‘3D materials that’, but honestly? It’s just nice to see and touch something a bit different. Citroen’s premium arm DS is attempting a similar thing, but Cupra is doing it better.
The Born comes as standard with a 12-inch infotainment system. Its size and driver-focussed position on the dash add an air of expense, but we weren’t blown away by it. The graphics are sharp enough but the laggy response time on occasion had us prodding the screen for a second, then a third time.
The Hyundai Ioniq 5’s system makes it look immediately outdated.
Being an EV and therefore having no need for a cumbersome transmission tunnel, interior space is decent. You shouldn’t hear taller adults confined to the back seats complaining about knee pain, but they might find headroom a little cramped due to a raised rear bench.
And at 365-litres the boot is a sniff bigger than the VW Golf’s, so enough of room for a weekend away for a family of four.
All Cupra Borns use a single motor on the rear axle. At the (estimated) £32,000 entry to the range is a 150hp model using a 45kWh battery good for a range of 211 miles, and it will do 0-62mph in 8.9 seconds. Jump up a grade and you get 204hp and a 58kWh battery, itself apparently capable of up to 260 miles and the same sprint in 7.3 seconds.
At the top of the tree sits the 77kWh battery with up to 335 miles from a full charge.
The bigger batteries can both be fitted with an optional ‘e-boost’ function: read ‘fun mode.’ Prodding that Cupra-badged over-boost button on the steering wheel brings the 0-6mph time down to 6.6-seconds, which is hot hatch nippy. Obviously it devours the range, but when resisting the urge to press it we found the claimed range to be fairly accurate, which is a good sign.
And if you can track down a 125kW fast charger you’ll be able to replenish the range by 62 miles in as little as seven minutes, which is excellent. But those chargers aren’t in abundance: they’re certainly not common enough to rely on one being on all - or even most - journey routes.
The good news is, the Born does feel noticeably sharper on the road than the ID.3. It’s closer to something like the Polestar 2 in the way it digs in on corners and uses its low centre of gravity to remain planted, negating body roll.
The steering feels completely digital, as in it offers no communication with the road, but at least it’s weighty, responsive and accurate. You’ll need to buy the e-boost models to have real fun, but you’ll enjoy how willing the Born is to twitch its rear end out, even with safety systems switched on.
The Born is also surprisingly comfortable during the day-to-day stuff. Even on our test car’s 20-inch wheels, it soaked up the notchy roads, and it is incredibly hushed at high speeds, with very little wind noise or tyre rumble.
The Born is reassuring proof that affordable EVs can still be fun to drive. It’s not as accomplished all-round as cars like the Tesla Model 3 or Polestar 2, but it’s a much more exciting prospect than the VW ID.3. We’re already looking forward to Cupra’s next EV…