In-depth reviews

Cupra Born review

More adventurous styling and a better-quality interior help set the Spanish brand's first electric car apart from the Volkswagen ID.3 it's based on

Overall rating

4.0 out of 5

Pros

  • Looks great
  • Decent ride and handling
  • Better interior than VW ID.3

Cons

  • No 4WD version offered yet
  • Only slightly quicker than ID.3
  • Some rivals offer faster charging
Battery/motorRangeWallbox charge timeRapid charge time
45kWh/148bhp217 miles7hrs 30mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)26mins (10-80%, 100kW)
58kWh/201bhp265 miles9hrs 15mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)33mins (10-80%, 100kW)
58kWh/228bhp261 miles9hrs 15mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)33mins (10-80%, 100kW)
77kWh/228bhp335 miles12hrs 15mins (0-100%, 7.4kW)34mins (10-80%, 125kW)

The Cupra name isn’t new, although it has only been a standalone brand within the VW Group empire for a few years now. Formerly a badge applied to hotted-up SEATs, the sub-brand was split from its parent company and now has a range of bespoke offerings – the most groundbreaking of which is this, the new Cupra Born electric car.

Despite going its own way, the Spanish company still has access to the same technology and parts that SEAT, Audi, Skoda and Volkswagen itself do. So it's no surprise to see its first fully electric offering is a sister model of the Volkswagen ID.3, using many of the same underpinnings that make up that car, as well as the Volkswagen ID.4, Skoda Enyaq iV and Audi Q4 e-tron SUVs.

The challenge for Cupra, then, was to make the Born different enough from those cars for it to have a distinct appeal to certain buyers. The first element of this is styling, where a sculpted bonnet, sharp LED lights and eye-catching wheels have been employed to make the Born look sportier and a lot more aggressive than the largely smoothed-off, non-threatening Volkswagen.

Under the metal, things are less different, with the Born offering two of the same powertrain choices available to ID.3 buyers: a 45kWh battery with a 148bhp electric motor and a 58kWh battery with a 201bhp motor. However, unlike the ID.3, the Born can also be had in 58kWh form with an 'e-boost' function that temporarily increases power to 228bhp. 

There's also a range-topping model that pairs the same 228bhp-capable motor with the large 77kWh battery used in the long-range ID.3 Tour. A Cupra equivalent of the upcoming Volkswagen ID.3 GTX hot hatch seems a natural fit for the sporty brand, too – although so far there's been no official confirmation as to whether a four-wheel-drive, 295bhp version is on the way.

The 45 and 58kWh cars both have 100kW charging capacity as standard, while the 77kWh model boosts the maximum top-up speed to 125kW. The upshot is that all versions take just over half an hour to replenish to 80% from near-empty at a public rapid charger.

From a typical 7kW home wallbox, you're looking at just over seven, just over nine and just over 12 hours to get a full charge into the small, medium and large batteries respectively. Driving range for the 45kWh model is 217 miles, rising to 265 for the 58kWh model with the 201bhp motor. The biggest battery will officially manage 335 miles on a charge.

Our initial test drive was of the 58kWh/201bhp model. There's no disguising its fairly hefty kerbweight, but 0-62mph in 7.3 seconds is respectable, and if that's not quick enough for you, then pairing the 228bhp motor with the 58kWh battery takes the time down to 6.6 seconds, but trims a few miles off the maximum range. The car accelerates strongly without succumbing to wheelspin and braking feel is good, too – the latter can't always be said for a lot of the Born's direct rivals.

On a twisty road, the Born handles well and is genuinely enjoyable to drive. The car feels agile thanks to its low centre of gravity and strong grip, and you quickly learn to trust it – using the instant power to usher you out of bends with remarkable ability.

But this impressive control and agility doesn't come totally at the expense of comfort; despite its large alloys, the Born absorbed any ruts and bumps encountered on our test route well. How it deals with the generally poorer quality of UK road surfaces remains to be seen, however. 

The Born is also available with the speed-sensitive progressive power steering and active dampers that can be added to the ID.3 as part of option packs. The steering is sharp and responsive, and in the most aggressive 'Cupra' setting it's satisfyingly weighty – although there's no corresponding increase in feel or feedback.

The final point to mention is the Cupra’s brakes. The conventional brakes offer good, progressive feel, but even in its most aggressive setting the regenerative system isn’t strong enough to allow for one-pedal driving. It’s sufficient for slowing the car in faster-flowing traffic or for wide, open bends, but is some way off the strength of the BMW i3's system.

Cupra's more flamboyant styling means the Born is just over 6cm longer than the ID.3, but with no difference in wheelbase, it's no roomier inside than its sister model. Its roofline is also just over 3cm lower, so taller rear-seat passengers may feel slightly more cramped than in the VW – something not helped by the Born's rear seats being set a little higher. The boot has the same practical shape and 385-litre capacity as the ID.3's.

Up front, both the driver and front-seat passenger enjoy supportive sports bucket seats. A higher centre console means the Cupra doesn’t feel as roomy as the VW, but the trade-off is a more driver-focused feel – which ties in nicely with its sporty appearance.

Interior quality is very good, too. This is one area where the ID.3 has come in for criticism – and one area where the Cupra registers a definite improvement over its sibling. It looks and feels nicer than the rather austere VW, and it even has a better thought-out infotainment layout. On the downside, it persists with the annoying touch-sensitive sliders on the dash and steering wheel that cause so much frustration in the VW.

The Cupra Born is estimated to start from around £32,000 in the UK (with the government's plug-in car grant taken into account) – a few thousand more than the entry-level ID.3 model. But you do get a smarter-looking car with a more attractive and better-quality interior for your money. And it manages to offer a subtly different driving experience to the ID.3, too.

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