We drive the Volkswagen ID.3’s stylish Spanish cousin, named after the cool El Born district of Barcelona…
I have to be honest, this is a painful article for me to write because I really like the Cupra Born – I just don’t think I could live with it.
Let’s start with the positives. It’s an electric hatchback. SUVs are all very well, but they are two a penny and not everyone wants to sit high up, largely disengaged from the road.
It shares a platform with the acclaimed VW ID.3, which is no bad thing. In fact, Cupra’s done a great job giving the sporty-looking Born a character all of its own with some eye-catching design features. It’s also practical with plenty of space for the family and has a decent 385-litre boot.
And as I’ll explain, even though it would be wrong to call it a hot hatch, there is still fun to be had, while its official range is between 260-340 miles, depending on the size of battery chosen.
However, like most new Cupra and (sister brand) Seat cars, along with many of the other Volkswagen Group models (eg the latest Golf), the Born has an infuriating infotainment system.
And I’m sorry, but for me it’s a deal breaker. Cockpit minimalism is all very well, but channelling so much functionality through a centre touchscreen is a step too far for me. Add touch-sensitive sliders (on the steering wheel) too, and it’s seriously frustrating.
In other words, pretty much everything from the heating to the navigation and radio are accessed via the 12.0-inch touchscreen and there are no physical short-cut buttons.
On a cold day you have to wait for the infotainment system to fire up, then fiddle around with sliders and menus. If you want to adjust the radio volume urgently, you have to mess about with the unresponsive touch-sensitive slider on the steering wheel. The same slider that you can sometimes accidentally touch with your hand when you’re turning the wheel.
If you can live with the above, then stick with this, because the Cupra Born has a lot going for it.
About the same size as a VW Golf, the Born has the edge on the ID.3 in the looks department. It has a lower, more athletic stance, with an aggressive front end featuring an inwardly sloping bonnet and large honeycomb vent below.
The rear gets a meaty diffuser, spoiler and distinctive taillight design, while Cupra’s trademark copper-coloured design flourishes adorn the car throughout.
Inside, the Born gets a digital driver’s cluster with side-mounted drive-mode selector, just like the ID.3. However, the cabin overall gets a darker look with a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel.
There are more copper accents and stitching throughout the interior, such as the air vents, door handles, centre console and sports seats. Oh, and the driving position is excellent, especially if you prefer to sit lower in the cabin (a rarity in an EV).
The Cupra Born range starts at £34,715 and at launch there was a choice of three batteries (45kWh, 58kWh and 77kWh) which power a single electric motor that drives the rear wheels.
That said, only the two more powerful versions are currently marketed. The 58kWh is available with either 201bhp or 228bhp (there’s also a 228bhp with e-Boost), while the 77kWh only comes with e-Boost.
The Born can be charged overnight by a home wallbox, but if you can hook it up to a 120kW rapid connection, 5-80% will take just 35 minutes.
There are three levels of trim (V1, V2 and V3) and we tested the 58kWh Cupra Born V2 with e-Boost, which temporarily increases power to 228bhp.
On paper, my test car had a range of up to 260 miles (closer to 220 miles in real world driving) with 0-62mph acceleration of 6.6 seconds (compared to the regular version’s 7.3 seconds).
The Born may have the looks of an EV hot hatch, but the reality is that it’s a little sharper than the sensible ID.3, but there’s no hiding its 1.8-tonne weight.
Yes, it’s fast off the line and fun to drive, but it can become unsettled if you hustle it in more challenging corners. What’s more, the suspension set-up is on the stiff side, so it’s worth test driving the Born on rougher roads too.
That said, the steering is quick and responsive, there’s plenty of traction when launching, grip in corners is good, and the sports seats are suitably supportive.
You can switch between various drive modes (Range, Comfort, Individual and Cupra) which change the response of the accelerator pedal and you can alter the amount of regenerative braking.
Oh, and the e-Boost button is fun, delivering instant performance at the push of a button on the steering wheel.
Ultimately, for me, the Cupra Born is no hot hatch in the traditional internal combustion engine sense and there’s still space in the market for an electric hatchback with the dynamism of a well sorted Golf R, Focus ST or Civic Type R.
So, there you have it – and I haven’t even mentioned the generous rear passenger space and the 1,267 litres of load space if you flip the back seats, or the maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, or the generous equipment levels.
Verdict: More sporty family hatchback than hot hatch, the Cupra Born is a welcome addition to an EV sector dominated by SUVs. Fun to drive, practical and with a decent range, it’s an excellent choice (if you can live with the irritating infotainment tech).