New Cupra Born V1 2023 review
The V1 is the cheapest version of the Cupra Born, but it certainly doesn't scrimp on quality
With no discernible difference to the driving experience and little to separate it from its more expensive peers when it comes to kit or cabin quality, we’ve found few reasons to spend the extra money on a mid or top-spec Cupra Born. In fact, the V1 is not only the best-value car in the range, it makes its Volkswagen ID.3 sibling look unjustifiably expensive.
The Cupra Born has been addressing many of the Volkswagen ID.3’s failings ever since it launched back in late 2021. Despite being much the same car underneath, the VW has been criticised for its glitchy technology and low-rent interior – so much so, its maker recently brought forward the car’s mid-life facelift by almost 18 months.
But until now, we’d only tested higher-spec versions of the Cupra – so it was impossible to say with any confidence that all Borns benefitted from the same premium feel. We’ve currently got a bells-and-whistles 77kWh V3 on the Auto Express long-term fleet, no less, so it’s only fair we run the rule over the opposite end of the Cupra spectrum: an entry-level V1 with the smaller 58kWh battery.
First impressions of the basic Born show it as a car easily capable of negating the need for flashy extras – the interior feels suitably plush, in fact, even without the V3’s Dinamica suede upholstery. The dashboard is identical, with the same cool copper accents and stitched trim. The flat-bottom steering wheel uses matching perforated leather, too.
You’ll save over £3,500 (or roughly £70/month on a three-year PCP deal) going for this V1 versus a like-for-like V3, and yet from the driver’s seat you’ll barely tell the difference. Plus, by switching the top-spec car’s 20-inch wheels for this version’s smaller 18-inch rims with thicker-profile tyres, you get a more comfortable ride without any discernible trade-off to the handling.
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The Born’s chassis is inherently quite stiff. So while the car does have a tendency to bounce about a bit on rough surfaces, it’s rarely uncomfortable; the accomplished damping takes the edge of potholes or deep cracks in the road surface.
That rigidity means the Cupra remains almost completely flat during cornering or faster changes of direction. The steering is well-weighted, and being rear-wheel drive, you get the welcome sensation of being pushed out of bends, rather than being pulled. Without our long-termer’s e-Boost function, the cheapest Born perhaps feels slightly slower off the line and through the mid-range, but with just over 200bhp (and 310Nm of torque) it’s far from lethargic.
Opting for the V1, with its smaller wheels, improves range and efficiency, too. Officially, this version will do 264 miles on a charge, while the identically-equipped V3 sees that drop to 255 miles. We were seeing a fairly comfortable 3.4 miles per kWh during our time with the car, which translates to a real-world range of very nearly 200 miles – more than enough for most drivers.
You can’t actually pair this V1 trim with the larger 77kWh battery, unlike you can with the V2 and V3. The smaller battery means a slightly slower peak charging speed (125kW rather than 135kW) but Cupra claims a 10-80 per cent top-up is possible in 35 minutes. Given a perfect set of parameters this is perfectly plausible, too; we saw the Cupra match its claim when plugged into an ultra-rapid charger.
As hinted, V1 doesn’t scrimp on quality, and nor does it appear short on kit. You get full LED lights front and rear, a rear-view camera, as well as a 12-inch infotainment screen and 5.3-inch digital instrument cluster. That main screen still isn’t the most responsive – an unavoidable consequence of sharing its hardware with the ID.3 – and the climate controls remain within a touch-sensitive panel that isn’t backlit at night.
The front sports seats – while not trimmed in premium Alcantara-style fabric – feel well bolstered and supportive over longer distances, however. Options include a fixed panoramic roof (£970), a nine-speaker Beats stereo (£470), and adaptive suspension (£830), plus a selection of packs bringing things like an intelligent parking system and a lane-keeping aid.
V2 builds on the basic car’s spec sheet with 19-inch wheels, heated seats and a head-up display, while V3 gets little more in the way of extras other than a set of electric massaging seats, and those aforementioned bigger wheels.
Cupra Born 58kWh V1 204PS
58kWh battery, 1x e-motor
|Single-speed auto, rear-wheel drive
|264 miles/135kW, 5-80% in 35 mins
Now read our in-depth review of the Born's sister-car, the Volkswagen ID.3...