CUPRA Born: Sportier and more stylish than its Volkswagen ID.3 stablemate
Discover EV expert verdict...
- Sporty styling
- Entry level models well-spec’d
- Good range
- No frunk
- Irritating controls
- Firmer ride than the VW ID.3
While there’s an argument that running your old petrol or diesel car into the ground is better for the climate than buying a new electric vehicle (the answer depends on how the emissions are calculated), no one can deny that EVs have a more positive impact on the environment as a result of increased energy efficiency and zero tailpipe emissions compared to traditional cars – widely accepted as a trigger for global warming and legislation such as the Climate Change Act 2008 being introduced to bring this under control.
While the number of upcoming electric cars increases by the year as big car makers seek to enter the market, there are many brands that still don’t have an all-electric car on the road… Suzuki, Alfa Romeo, Land Rover, Toyota, then there are the American car makers who are still sitting on the fence. So it’s therefore rather commendable that niche brand CUPRA (who split from SEAT in 2018) has launched its all-electric Born, although it must be stated that it is able to take advantage of the hardware developed by parent company Volkswagen.
That said, in the words of Wayne Griffiths (CEO of SEAT and CUPRA), “a conscious decision was made to elevate CUPRA and to do something different with a clear differentiation and with a sporty EV brand”. And it does seem to be working, with the new manufacturer tripling sales driven by success of the Formentor, in 2021, its own distinct identity clearly attracting younger buyers to the Volkswagen Group. So, while those who work for CUPRA can’t call it a ‘re-badged Volkswagen ID.3’, is it just that? We get one in for a week to find out.
There are three powertrain variants: 58kWh 198bhp (150kW), 58kWh 225bhp e-Boost (170kW), and 77kWh 225bhp e-Boost (170kW). Our test car is the second fastest-accelerating version, which hits 31mph from standstill in just 2.6 seconds, faster than any petrol hot hatch thanks to 229lb-ft of available torque from the get go, but then seems to tail off, taking a further 3.4 seconds to reach 62mph – slower than quite a few of its competitors within this price range, but that said when you have speed limits to abide to all of the power is at least useable and it’s got a great chassis to cope with it, too. The e-Boost version has a button on the steering wheel with a Cupra logo which when pushed adds a 26bhp temporary power hike, but personally we felt that extra burst of extra acceleration was barely noticeable… Pointless if we’re brutally honest!
It’s based on Volkswagen Group’s MEB architecture (that underpins the Audi Q4 e-tron and Skoda Enyaq iV), with MacPherson struts up front and an advanced multi-link rear design – a good suspension setup anyway, but also boasts a few tweaks especially for the Born. First off it is 15mm lower at front and 10mm at the rear, and the way the Cupra applies its power to the road is different, too – it has wider 235 section performance tyres, less restrictive stability control and a different tune for the optional adaptive dampers fitted to the eBoost models, enabling five modes: ‘Range’, ‘Comfort’, ‘Performance’, ‘Individual’, and ‘CUPRA’.
It has a quicker ‘progressive’ steering rack than the ID.3, which is speed-sensitive and is really rather good – communicative and direct, it’s ever so eager to turn in, and with the battery positioned centrally between the axles, a low centre of gravity and weight distribution of almost 50:50 is enabled, so it tackles the bends without drama. Overall, the suspension is firm which may put some people off, while on the motorway it’s super smooth and refined but with a fair bit of wind noise (despite the fact it’s fitted with an acoustic windshield). It also has an excellent turning circle of 10.2m, making it rather good at negotiating tight city streets.
Engineers apparently focussed on brake actuation and feel, particularly when blending between using the electric motor for energy recuperation and use of the friction brakes, but we’re not so keen on the system. While it does enable one pedal driving, which we like, offering up to 0.3g of braking force when the accelerator is released (same as the Tesla Model 3), the hydraulic brakes themselves lack feel and are very spongey.
Range and running costs
The 58kWh version (available with either 198bhp or 225bhp as previously mentioned), deliver up to 264 and 261 miles of range respectively while a 77kWh battery pack offers up to 340 miles of range. Take that with a pinch of salt though, as on a full top up we were only seeing 289 miles. That said, this is a press car, so it’s probably been thrashed. Driving it fairly sedately we left for a 136 mile trip with 195 miles on the clock and came back with 85 miles.
Fast recharging (135kW DC rapid charger) is possible, with 62 miles of additional range delivered in as little as seven minutes (77kWh battery). With a 7kW home wall box, you’re looking at empty to full in around nine hours. That’s faster than the Nissan LEAF and Renault ZOE, but the Model 3 can charge even faster, and its Supercharger network is still unbeatable in terms of reliability and how many of them there are.
With the V3 (more on trim levels later) starting from almost £42k out test car is not cheap. However, the entry level V1 with the 45kWh battery and 148bhp starts from just below £32,000 and in May CUPRA and Volkswagen Financial Services UK launched a subscription service with Wagonex. The package includes the cost of the vehicle, insurance, 24/7 roadside assistance, as well as any maintenance support, and it starts from £699 a month for the V2 (58kWh battery and 201bhp). It is all done online and apparently you could be driving a Born in less than 14 days – the only stipulation is that it is limited to 89 days (three months) as it’s a pilot and they are just gathering learnings.
All 201bhp Born models come under insurance group 25, while moving up to the 228bhp version (58kWh battery) jumps it up to 26 and the 77kWh variant is in group 28. With the Volkswagen ID.3 sitting in groups 25-26, there’s not much of a penalty to pay by going for the sportier Born. It also has strong residual values. Over a typical three-year/36,000-mile ownership period, the Born is predicted to hold on to around 61 per cent of its original value, again, similar to the ID.3.
It comes with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty as standard, and you can extend cover for an extra two years at additional cost, while the batteries are covered for eight-years/100,000 miles. Servicing is recommended every two years, and CUPRA offer its e-Care plans over two, three or four years, with prices starting from £11 per month. Like all EVs, the Born is exempt from road tax, and business users will benefit from its very low Benefit-in-Kind band, compared with petrol and diesel models –costing as little as £10 per month.
Whilst there is a hint of Volkswagen ID.3 about it, CUPRA have managed to make it look sportier. It’s got a bit of Spanish flair about it and during our time with the car, it turned a lot of heads and mainly prompted the line – ‘what is it?’ CUPRA Born’s newly designed LED headlights which stretch across the shark-like nose of the car ending in small triangles either side and a copper-framed lower intake (designed to channel air towards the radiator for battery thermal management), lend the front a distinctive look. The lighting technology features an animated ceremony as you approach and start the vehicle, and the puddle lamp, which shines down from the side mirrors, displays the CUPRA logo onto the floor which is a cool little touch. In profile, the sharp A-pillar design helps it to look sleeker, whilst also improving airflow over the vehicle and allowing for integration of the head-up display, and the chunky 20 inch wheels as fitted to our test car are also functional with aerodynamic inserts and feature machine-finished copper highlights tying in with the other accents. The C pillar features a three-dimensional, textured surface finished in a contrast colour to apparently help give the impression of a floating roofline, but for us it was just a reminder of its origins. The rear spoiler, body coloured, integrated diffuser and coast-to-coast light, help to provide a greater perceived width to the vehicle and thus reinforce its sportier nature.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, for all of its merits and the fact we don’t think there’s a better car than the Tesla Model 3 (within that price sector), it is lacking a traditional driver’s binnacle. In comparison, the Born boasts a fully customisable 5.3 inch digital cockpit display (and our version had a head-up display, too) giving you all the essential information you need at a glance together with a rotary-style gear selector on the side, similar to what the BMW i3 had. The floating 12 inch infotainment touchscreen utilises its own software but VW Group’s hardware and it is certainly not the best on the market – it’s laggy, unintuitive and trying to operate a function via the screen on the move is really tricky. There are far too many touch-sensitive controls as well – the buttons on the steering wheel were infuriatingly easy to trigger by mistake but seemingly impossible to operate when you wanted to use them – I later learnt you needed to adopt a scrolling type of move! It also features voice assistant technology –activated using the words ‘Hola Hola’, but again we found that to be unresponsive at times! The systems in the Kia EV6 and Niro EV are easier to operate, and the latter has physical shortcut buttons, too. In terms of fit and finish, it’s what you’d expect from a German derived Spanish car – it is refined, stylish, well-built and equipped. Definitely feels more premium than the VW ID.3. It’s also environmentally conscious – depending on what trim level you go for parts of the seat and trim are finished in either SEAQUAL Yarn, made from upcycled marine plastics or Dinamica microfiber, derived from polyester fibres found in clothing and PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) from single-use plastics. It is available in either Aurora Blue or Granite Grey colour finishes.
Comfort and practicality
It’s extremely comfortable – with every version boasting a pair of well-bolstered bucket seats (V3 adds 12-way electric adjustability, they’re heated and include a rather lovely massage function) with great all round visibility, but it is not the most practical car in its class. While there’s plenty of head and leg room all round – even for those over six feet tall (like my husband and step son), in the back of the 77kWh version, something had to give to make way for the bigger battery and it’s the middle seat. Instead you get a slightly concave section that allowed our two little boys to put their school and swimming bags in. The smaller battery version will house three but whoever sits in the middle would have to be pretty skinny!
There’s no frunk like in the Tesla Model 3 and the boot isn’t the biggest at 385 litres, although 5 more litres than you’d get in a VW Golf and there’s a handy cubby under the floor for cables, together with quite a few useful storage areas up front.
Customers can choose from three highly specified trim levels: V1, V2 and V3. Whilst the 58kWh 198bhp powertrain is available in all three trim levels, the e-Boost variants for both 58kWh and 77kWh batteries are only available in V2 or V3 trim.
The entry level version is well spec’d with 18 inch alloy wheels, electrically adjustable, folding and heated door mirrors, rain sensing wipers, full LED headlights and taillights with welcome home and adverse weather functions, 12 inch infotainment system with navigation, smartphone integration and CUPRA Connect (including remote access to battery charge, climatisation, profiles and timers), predictive adaptive cruise control, rear view camera, lane assist, front and rear park distance control, drive profile selection (Range, Comfort, Performance, and Individual), tiredness recognition system, emergency steering support with turn assist, multi-coloured interior ambient lighting and multi-function heated sports leather steering wheel.
The V2 adds 19 inch wheels, tinted rear windows, heated washer nozzles, augmented reality heads-up display system and heated front seats. The V3 obviously includes all of the above as well as all of the aforementioned stand-out features. Additional safety and driver assistance systems are available, so for example our test car was fitted with a Tech pack which includes a parking assist system, alongside advanced keyless entry with illuminated door handles and wireless phone charging. The only trouble with the parking assist is when we went to reverse onto our drive – from a busy road – it mistook overgrown bushes as an obstruction and would slam on the brakes almost every time… Sometimes human judgement is better than tech.
As CUPRA’s first electric vehicle, the Born has kick-started the brand’s electric journey in style, offering a sporty edge over its rivals – the brand also claims the electric hot hatch is delivered net carbon neutral, offsetting the production impact on the environment. In 2024, it will be joined by the electric SUV, Tavascan, followed by its first city EV, inspired by the UrbanRebel concept, in 2025. The CEO calls it a ‘game-changer in the electric market’ but we wouldn’t go that far, and while its name comes from the trendy El Born district of Barcelona it’s more intrinsic to Wolfsburg in terms of its underpinnigs. We think the entry level 58kWh version is the one to go for (unless you travel long distances regularly, of course) because at £34,715 it is probably one of the most attractive EVs at that price point. However, when you’re looking at almost £42k for our test car there are a lot of other EVs with more space such as the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, and the slightly more expensive, entry-level Tesla Model 3 and Polestar 2 are also a lot brisker and handle better. The Mazda MX-30 is another stylish choice, but if it’s range you’re after forget it.
2022 CUPRA BORN 77KWH 230PS V3 (WITH E-BOOST)
Price (RRP OTR): From £41,975, £43,280 (model as tested)
Top speed: 99mph
0-62mph: 7 seconds
Driving range (combined): 340 miles
Charging time: 7hrs 30m (11kW, 0-100%), 36 min (135kW, 5-80%)
Insurance group: 28P
Vehicle warranty: 3 years / 60,0000 miles
Battery warranty: 8 years / 1000,000 miles