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Seat-owned performance brand aims to create a more exciting version of the Volkswagen ID 3 electric hatchback

What is it?

Having brought us a handful of interesting, leftfield petrol and plug-in hybrid performance models since its launch as a brand in its own right in 2018, Cupra’s gradual transformation towards being EV-only starts in UK showrooms this month, as its first electric offering, the Cupra Born, goes on sale. 

The hatchback is available initially in one mechanical guise only as Cupra works through the final throes of its semiconductor-supply problems, and that’s the 201bhp, 58kWh Born driven here.

A cheaper entry-level model (148bhp and 45kWh) and a slightly more powerful one (227bhp and 77kWh) will both follow later in the year. There’s no word yet on the range-topping, dual-motor version.

For the time being, trim levels range from V1 to V3 and prices from just under £35,000 to just under £42,000 – which means none of the Born variants, save perhaps for the forthcoming 45kWh model, will qualify for the UK government’s £1500 Plug-in Car Grant.

But the standard-kit count is fairly generous, giving you 18in alloy wheels, adaptive cruise control and Cupra’s 12in touchscreen infotainment system as standard.

The Born’s 135kW DC rapid-charging capability is available only with the range-topping 77kWh battery; the rest charge at a peak rate of 120kW.

What's it like?

This is, as should be quite apparent, Cupra’s slightly sportier, more stylish and marginally more expensive take on the Volkswagen ID 3; although in the metal rather than photos, it’s a more convincing prospect than that may make it sound. The car’s meaner stare, more aggressive bumpers and lower stance give it a kerbside presence that the iD 3 lacks, while our V3 test car’s interior was made out of and upholstered with a richer and more appealing mix of materials. 

For the greater relative allure of the Born's exterior styling and its cabin, it’s easy to imagine why people might prefer it to an equivalent higher-end ID 3 – especially if, as Cupra promises, more favourable residual values make the Born’s cost on monthly finance little more expensive.

The car’s grey seat textiles, bronze-coloured trim accents and soft-touch dashboard mouldings make it a pleasant place in which to spend time, even if that Volkswagen Group infotainment system still wants too much of your attention while driving and still has some glaring usability issues.  

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Whether people will buy the Born on the relative merits of its driving experience seems more questionable, but it’s possible. Cupra has not only fitted shorter coil springs to the Born than the ID 3 uses but also wider tyres for a higher grip level; a more direct variable-ratio steering set-up as standard (the same steering is optional on the ID 3); and a retuned stability control system.

Dynamic Chassis Control adaptive dampers are an option; our test car didn’t have them but didn’t need them in order to ride perfectly comfortably.

Even in only mid-range form, the Born has plenty of power and response when accelerating up to motorway speeds. It feels performance-car-quick when picking up from the urban limit and speeding up on slip roads, although in give-and-take motoring around the national speed limit, the torque of its electric motor doesn’t feel quite as energetic.

The Born also has marginally stronger lateral grip levels, more level body control and better steady-state handling balance than the ID 3, as well as a shade more rear-driven fun-factor around tighter bends.

On cross-country roads, there’s just enough bite and swivel about the car’s handling and precision and composure about its body control to keep you interested at the wheel – but only just.

Cupra could certainly have delivered better brake-pedal feel here and finer quickfire control of trailing-throttle energy regeneration to really seal the deal.

Some efforts to add driver appeal (such as synthesised engine noise) we can be glad that Cupra didn't see fit to bother with, but if it had been more innovative with its various invitations to the driver to really engage with what they're doing, it might have created a markedly more absorbing car in the end.

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Should I buy one?

Keener drivers might just about see enough in the Born to pick it over rivals at just the right price, but if you could stretch to a Kia EV6 instead, I suspect you would.

For those as attracted to this car for other reasons, however, it should hold a pretty broad-based appeal. It’s not the sort of car that you would expect of a fully independent Cupra brand still setting up shop as a default pick for enthusiasts to be in a hurry to introduce - and, judged as the stand-out alternative to a compact petrol performance car that you might have expected it to be, it actually has most of the same limitations that figure with EVs more widely.

But it’s certainly got more handling dynamism than the average sub-£40,000 EV. In light of where the market is right now, and considering everything else the Born offers, a little bit to get excited about might well prove to be enough.

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Comments
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bol 29 April 2022

The main thing this car has going for it is it's relatively small size compared to the Korean whoppers. It could be so good, and maybe one day it will. I just don't think I'll ever get past the 90s tattoo style branding. 

superstevie 29 April 2022

So it looks better than the ID.3, it has a better interior, it drives better, yet it gets half a star less? Go figure. I'd have this over the VW all day long for the above reasons. Over some rivals? Hmmm 

xxxx 3 May 2022

Looks are subjective, drives better? you mean has harder suspension and wider tyres which will be noiser, lower the range and won't suit all. Horses for courses which is the advantage of having multiple brands.

TS7 29 April 2022
Difficult to see why anyone would look past the Hyundai/Kia cousins for now.
superstevie 29 April 2022

Guess it will come down to looks/finance/availability.