Cupra Born review: a true electric hot hatch?
Expect thrills aplenty with this fun and funky five door EV
This five-door, rear-driven, hatchback EV shares more than a few nuts and bolts with the Volkswagen ID3 – but it’s very different in the looks department. And underneath the eye-catching design, the Cupra Born has a tweaked chassis and suspension that promises to liven up the drive a bit.
It’s available in three different model variants: the entry level V1, the V2 (which packs in lots of additional trim goodies) and the V3. The latter delivers everything Cupra has to offer, plus a little bit more besides. Both it and the V2 can be had in fizzier e-Boost form, with a splash more power.
The Born might be an EV, with a limited top speed of less than 100mph, but it’s how you get there that’s the fun part. It packs plenty of torque and is a hoot off the lights. If you’re looking for something electric that just about fits into the hot hatch category, this is it.
Cupra established itself as a brand that does things differently, which is definitely a good thing given so many rival cars look like an exercise in by-numbers automotive design. The Born is a great example of this, with its own distinctive vibe.
There’s nothing really wild about the overall shape, but it still manages to look much more inspiring than its close VW Group relative, the ID 3. It’s got a more aggressive posture, starting out at the front and carrying right on through to the tail-end. Our car rode on 20in Hurricane alloys, which compliment the body colour and make the little car a bit of a head-turner. Badges and trim elements come complete with Cupra’s trademark bronze finish, another small touch that gives the car a distinctive touch of flair.
The theme continues on the inside. The V3 trim of our test car is definitely the one to go for, with Granite Grey Dinamica bucket seats up front gripping you in all the right places. They’re 12-way electrically adjustable, with pneumatic lumber support, and topped off with a massage function.
For those in the back, the experience isn’t quite as exotic. The rear seat proved to be rather bench-like, but the mix of recycled nylon-esque fibre and suede-style seat coverings makes for a cosy yet durable interior.
The Cupra Born is such a fun car to drive, even in its base-level V1 incarnation. Head on up through the range though and things really start to pop when you get to e-Boost cars. Set the drive mode to Cupra using a button on the steering wheel and the extra power is tangible. You pay more for the privilege, but it’s the closest the Born gets to emulating the traditional hot hatch experience.
Whichever battery and motor combo you choose, much of the Born’s thrill factor is derived from the chassis. This car is so much better to drive than the VW ID 3, and delivers huge amounts of fun on winding B roads out in the sticks.
While it obviously has to lug a heavy battery pack around, it sits suitably low down in the car’s floorpan, which seems to help rather than hinder the handling. Cupra’s engineers have also done a fab job with the suspension. This is an EV that dazzles around tight corners. Spend a little time getting a feel for the regenerative braking and you’ll have a ball putting it through its paces.
Equally, the Cupra Born is easy to drive around town, feeling narrow and agile enough to squeeze into tight spaces. Reversing into said parking spots is helped by a standard-fitment reversing camera. The view out the back window is less impressive, but you get a fine view of the road ahead from the drivers seat.
With the keys in your pocket, the Born is ready to go as soon as you sit in it. Press the brake pedal, select drive from the twistable selector on the side of the dash-mounted pod and you’re in business. Come to a halt, push in the handbrake button on the same selector and simply get out and go. It’s all really slick and simple.
As much as Cupra’s design team has done a cracking job with the Born, the software division could do with having another look at the infotainment system. The central dash-mounted screen looks good enough and has everything you need, but its delivery isn’t quite so hot. Case in point: setting up the air-conditioning. You need to eye up an onscreen toggle switch, pinpoint with your finger and switch on or off as you drive. It’s distracting.
Similarly, the sat-nav wasn’t the best we’ve used, while the voice controls are also a little on the disappointing side. Using it to request directions to Winchester, being told to merely try again later was not what we wanted to hear.
Still, the central cubbyhole offers up wireless charging for your phone beneath a funky little sliding cover, and Cupra even includes some colour co-ordinated charging cables in there for your mobile devices.
Cupra Born verdict
The Cupra Born is a real gem of an EV. Any of its trim levels make for a great place to start your electric journey, but if you’re looking for the most performance, it’s the Born V3 e-Boost that gets our vote. With a 58kWh battery pack, it’ll do 261 miles – enough for longer runs, and perfect for daily commuting – but can see off the 0-60mph sprint in just 6.6 seconds.
Anyone wanting the reassurance of more range should consider the 77kWh model, which bumps up to 340 miles of range. Though the extra weight makes it slower from 0-62mph, with a time of 7 seconds, and it’s around £5k more than our pick of the crop.
Whichever model you choose, the Cupra Born is a success story on all almost levels, bar the slightly weak infotainment system. It’s definitely a driver’s car, for sure.
Cool styling, great handling and beefy performance takes the Cupra Born into all-electric hot hatch territory.
Cupra Born technical specifications
|Cargo volume||385 litres|