Road tests

New Cupra Born 2022 review

The Cupra Born is the sportier twin of the fully electric Volkswagen ID.3, so can it deliver on its promise of extra fun?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Verdict 

Cupra’s first full EV builds on the brand’s work with the Formentor, offering refinement, comfort and solid handling in a slightly sportier package that’s just different enough from that of its sister car, the Volkswagen ID.3. However, we’d like even more sportiness and driver involvement, plus a bit more performance. Range and recharging are fine, but we can’t wait to try the even sportier version when it arrives.

If the Formentor SUV was a critical car for Cupra as the brand’s first standalone model, the Born is doubly so as the firm’s first full EV, giving us a showcase for the sporty Spanish maker’s approach to involving enthusiasts in electric motoring.

The Formentor was a success for the offshoot from SEAT that now stands as a constructor in its own right, so here’s hoping Cupra can work its magic on the Born as well.

It’s in the UK where we get to truly make that assessment, and here we test the left-hand-drive Spanish model that most closely aligns with the 201bhp VZ2 variant in the UK line-up. Prices for the Born range will start from an estimated £32,000 including the £2,500 plug-in car grant.

It’s powered by a 58kWh (usable) battery for a claimed range of 263 miles – relatively strong figures, although our car struggled to break a predicted 200 miles from a full battery in cold conditions, returning around 2.7 miles per kWh.

The Born is based on the VW Group’s MEB platform for electric cars, which means it benefits from this economy of scale and shares many mechanical and electrical components with the VW ID.3. Cupra’s engineers have calibrated the car’s systems in their own way, but it’s a shame there isn’t more of a difference between the two.

With 201bhp and 310Nm of torque in a 1,736kg car it means a relatively swift 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds. However, it’s the shove from 0-30mph where the Cupra is strongest, with its punch out of slow speed corners. The acceleration tails off as you get farther down a straight and the Born never actually feels all that fast. The power delivery is linear and smooth, which does at least make it predictable, rather than thump-to-the-chest fast like some EVs with a sportier side.

It’s a shame that the chassis isn’t just a little more involving, because the Born doesn’t feel all that willing to engage with your inputs in some situations. Instead, it feels inert and a bit flat; we know there’s a fun side to the MEB architecture in here just waiting to be unlocked. Think what Cupra has done with the MQB platform that underpins both the regular SEAT Leon and Cupra’s own hot hatch and you’ll be on the right lines.

At least there is good grip, which means you can make the most of direct steering that offers little reward when it comes to feedback, but is at least a nice weight.

However, the Born’s make-up does mean you can cover ground at an impressive rate over the kind of roads sportier hatchbacks should excel on. We’d stop short of saying the Cupra Born is a proper hot hatch (at least with this powertrain) but the chassis does deliver acceptable body control and balances this with enough ride comfort in most situations, despite our test car’s relatively chunky 20-inch alloys.

Inside, the Born’s MEB roots are obvious when it comes to the shape of the dash, but Cupra has done enough to give the car its own feel, applying sportier materials such as Alcantara in places to mix things up. Material quality in some areas is good, which only highlights the harder plastics in others.

The sports seats help to give a little more differentiation, although the driving position could still be a bit lower given this is a sporty hatch.

The same problems that afflict the ID.3 are present here when it comes to the infotainment. While Cupra has reskinned the appearance, the interface still features touch-sensitive sliders for the climate and volume controls (which aren’t lit at night) and an overly complicated menu layout, so it’s just as frustrating to use. Our car’s tech was also a little laggy.

Space in the rear is ok, but nothing special, with acceptable leg and headroom given the car’s relatively compact dimensions. However, the 385-litre boot is only five litres up on a Cupra Leon’s – blame the Born’s rear-mounted electric motor for that.

At least practicality is boosted by its standard 100kW rapid charging capability, with a five to 80 per cent top-up taking 31 minutes. A home charge will take six hours and 15 minutes, so overnight charges shouldn’t be a problem.

Sportier Born variants will join the line-up with even faster charging capability. While this initial 201bhp 58kWh model is a sound first step for Cupra into electric mobility, we can’t wait to try the hotter model when it lands.

Price:From £32,000 incl. PICG (est.)
Batt./motor: 58kWh (usable)/1x e-motor
Power/torque: 201bhp/310Nm
Transmission: Single-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
0-62mph: 7.3 seconds
Top speed: 99mph
Range: 263 miles
Charging: 100kW DC (5-80% 35mins)
On sale: 

Early 2022

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