Cupra Born hatchback review
"The Cupra Born is effectively a sportier, more distinctive version of the Volkswagen ID.3"
- Good to drive
- Stylish design
- Respectable range
- No frunk
- Some cheap trim
- Frustrating controls
The Cupra Born is the first all-electric model from the sporty offshoot of SEAT. Sharing its platform with the Volkswagen ID.3, it's intended as an electric car ‘with attitude’ that aims to take on the likes of the Tesla Model 3, Polestar 2 and Peugeot e-308. It's slightly lower, longer and more aggressively styled than the VW on which it's based.
It has more flair and feels less clinical than the ID.3 by comparison but you pay a small premium for this. Features like copper accents, dramatic LED lighting and 20-inch aerodynamic alloy wheels add some cool to the eco-credentials of electric motoring. Inside, a central display and digital instruments are just as crisp, and the software is marginally better to use than the VW's, even if frustrating touch-sensitive temperature and volume sliders are shared between the two cars.
It feels a bit more special inside thanks to some nicer materials and racy sports front seats. These are trimmed in a choice of materials containing recycled substances. A decent 385-litre boot should be just big enough for most owners but there's no 'frunk' under the bonnet. Rear passenger space is also a bit tighter than in the ID.3 because of the lower roofline.
Three versions of the Born are offered at launch, starting off with a 45kWh battery and 148bhp motor entry-level version that can do 211 miles on a charge. A larger 58kWh model has 201bhp, for a nippy 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds and a 260-mile range that should suffice for most drivers. A 77kWh range-topper will also be offered, with a range of up to 335 miles. Charging speeds of up to 100kW and 125kW for the larger two battery packs mean a public charge from 0-80% can be done in as little as half an hour or so.
MPG, running costs & CO2
How far the Born can travel between charges depends on the exact model; three are available. The entry-level model has a 45kWh battery, which is smaller than you'll find in a Renault ZOE and gives the Born a range of up to 211 miles. This is best suited to buyers who’ll use the car for short trips around town and anyone who plans to use their car for a short to medium commute.
The mid-range 58kWh battery improves range to 260 miles, while the range-topping 77kWh battery can officially get the Born 335 miles, making it ideal for higher mileage drivers. In comparison, the Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus can manage 278 miles, while the Long Range can go 360 miles on a charge.
Fitted with a 77kWh battery, the Born supports 125kW rapid DC charging, making it possible to add 62 miles of range in just seven minutes. A charge from 0-80% takes around 35 minutes. The mid-range version gets 100kW charging but charging times are similar thanks to its smaller capacity. Like all electric cars, the Born is exempt from VED (road tax) and will appeal to business users thanks to its very low Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) band, especially when compared with petrol and diesel models.
Engines, drive & performance
Cupra has structured the lineup so that power increases along with battery size. The entry-level model has 148bhp - the same as a 1.5-litre petrol Volkswagen Golf - and takes 8.9 seconds to get from 0-62mph.
The mid-range trim has a more generous 201bhp, still with a single electric motor and rear-wheel drive. This cuts 0-62mph to 7.3 seconds and, despite the Born being heavier than an equivalent petrol car, we thought it felt quick enough. This sensation is helped by the instant power as you press the accelerator pedal. It's also available with 'e-Boost' which temporarily increases power to 228bhp, cutting the acceleration time to 6.6 seconds.
The brakes in electric cars can sometimes feel a little odd but pedal feel isn't an issue in the Born. It's also accomplished when you get to a winding stretch of road, with precise steering that feels sharp without making the car too nervous or twitchy. First impressions are of a slightly more sporty feel than the Volkswagen ID.3, especially in Cupra mode. This gives the steering extra weight, helping the Born feel even more unflappable.
Interior & comfort
Sitting in the front of the Born is a comfortable experience, thanks in part to hugging sports seats. Not everyone will love the integral headrests, though, which are bulky and tilt forwards. There is, however, plenty of adjustment for the driver's seat and the steering wheel.
The ID.3 has been criticised for the quality of its interior and the Cupra Born appears better in the most crucial areas. It could still be better, as there are still some noticeable signs of cost-cutting, presumably done to ensure the cutting-edge Born remained affordable. In keeping with Cupra's design theme, there are distinctive copper accents that help the interior stand out.
There's also a more successful infotainment setup with an intuitive voice control system and intuitive menus. Unfortunately, this only makes the touch-sensitive sliders on the dashboard (for the climate control and volume) and steering wheel even more frustrating to use. No such complaints can be levelled at the graphics, which are crisp and vibrant, for both the central screen and the instrument display.
Leather-free upholstery called Dinamica and Seaqual Yarn are offered, manufactured from recycled clothing and single-use plastics or marine plastics respectively.
A number of options are available, adding features such as a Beats audio system with nine speakers, a panoramic glass roof, an augmented reality heads-up display and adjustable suspension. There are also several tech packs, bundling features including wireless phone charging and keyless entry. A 'Below Zero' winter pack brings heated front seats, heated washer jets and a low washer bottle warning light.
Practicality & boot space
The Born is slightly lower and longer than the ID.3, and rear passenger space can feel cramped for taller passengers as a result. This is exacerbated by the rear seat being slightly raised, although this does help with the view out for those in the back of the car.
The boot is respectable at 385 litres, making it ever so slightly larger than you'll find in a Volkswagen Golf but not as large as the Polestar 2's 405-litre boot. The Tesla Model 3 has 425 litres of space when its 'frunk' is taken into account but its traditional boot opening isn't as accommodating as the Born's hatchback for bulky items like pushchairs and bicycles.
Reliability & safety
The Volkswagen Group has invested millions of pounds in its all-new electric architecture and the Cupra Born benefits from this extensive development and testing. Build quality and reliability are an important part of the manufacturing giant’s effort to steer people away from combustion-engined models. If there are gremlins early on, they're most likely to be software related, as so many of the car's systems are electronic.
Lots of safety equipment is available for the Born, including features like predictive cruise control and even semi-autonomous driving that can assist with steering, accelerating and slowing the car in heavy traffic on the motorway to make long trips more relaxing. The Cupra can also be fitted with a 360-degree camera view to make it easier to park, along with sensors to detect other traffic and help prevent collisions.