Could this finally be an EV that appeals to both the family driver and hot hatch fan?

Why we’re running it: Could this finally be an EV that appeals to both the family driver and hot hatch fan? 

Month 1 - Specs

Life with a Cupra Born: Month 1

Welcoming the Born to the fleet - 20 July 2022

Over the past few years, the electric vehicle market has matured rapidly. No longer does an EV have to be self-consciously quirky to catch the imagination of buyers (think BMW i3 and Honda E), but that shift has resulted in a swathe of newcomers that are undoubtedly worthy but, well, really rather dull.

Spend enough and there are plenty of thrills to be had from the top-end Porsche Taycans, Audi E-trons and Teslas, but what if you have only a modest budget and fancy something that’s entertaining to drive as well as environmentally friendly?

Cupra reckons the Born could be the answer, even if the raw ingredients aren’t exactly enough to set your trousers aflame: it doesn’t take much of an automotive expert to spot that beneath the bespoke badging and sharply defined copper detailing lurks nothing more exciting than the Volkswagen ID 3’s underpinnings.

That at least means it’s practical. The boot feels larger than its 385 litres – and, thanks to a dealer-fit optional rubber mat, it’s now dog-friendly, too – and the compact electric motor and single-speed transmission leave acres of room for passengers in the cabin.

Plenty of decent-sized SUVs would struggle to better the Born’s rear-seat space, which has masses of leg room, although my kids have complained that the central seat is both too firm and too high, so even my 13-year-old’s taller friends are almost touching the ceiling.

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Things are pretty rosy up front. At first, I was unsure about the Dinamica trim – which looks uncannily like late-1980s Ford Escort RS Turbo velour – wrapping the inviting-looking bucket seats.

It feels hard-wearing, though, and under hard cornering (of which more later) is grippy as well as comfortable. And because my car is a top-spec V3, it adds 12-way electrical adjustment, pneumatic lumbar support and an opulent massage function to the heated seats and wheel of V2 cars.

A set of snazzy seats, buckets or otherwise, does not a hot hatch make. But return to the spec sheet and there are plenty of positives on paper for the keen driver. First of all, 201bhp in a small family hatch is a decent figure, even if it does have nearly 1800kg to haul around. (A more potent 227bhp version is available, should that not prove sufficient.)

Second, that double century is delivered to the rear wheels, and the positioning of the battery pack beneath the floor leads to near-perfect weight distribution. The above is all true of the ID 3, of course, and that’s hardly a ball of fire.

But the Cupra has retuned, stiffer sports suspension to give it that longed-for hot hatch feel. It’s pretty swift, too: in our road test (6 July), this very car sprinted from rest to 60mph in 6.7 sec – highly respectable for a family hatchback, and slightly swifter than a Mk5 Golf GTI.

As for the rear-drive layout, don’t go thinking that will turn it into a lairy, tail-sliding monster; but there is no doubt that the Born has a genuinely playful chassis.

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The steering isn’t full of feel yet it’s precise and accurate, and the Cupra turns in to corners keenly. The biggest surprise is how adjustable it feels on the throttle, tightening its line neatly with a little lift – yes, like a proper hot hatch. At a shade over 4.3m long and 1.81m wide, it feels compact, too, and quickly inspires confidence on a back road.

And that’s in Normal driving mode. There’s also a Sport option, but it’s so hard to find among the endless menus that I usually struggle to summon the enthusiasm. So many of the car’s functions are buried deep in the infotainment system that it makes it all the more infuriating that this system is so slow and unintuitive to use.

After a forensic search, I eventually tracked down and engaged Auto Hold, but I’m not sure I could find it again without a map. When you’re not in the mood to thrash it, the Cupra is a pretty relaxed companion.

Its 229lb ft of torque is available from rest to 4200rpm, giving effortless pace, and, despite the 20in wheels that come with V3 spec, it rides pretty serenely most of the time: firm, but with bump and thump well isolated from the cabin by quality dampers.

That contributes to an overall sense of impressive refinement, and the range is pretty decent, too: 200-plus miles per charge is easily achieved from my 58kWh car, even when driving briskly, although relying on the air-con during the recent hot weather did put a dent in that.

If you often have to do longer distances – or opt for the more powerful motor – the larger, 77kWh battery might be a better option.

It remains to be seen whether the e-Boost motor tips the Born into full hot hatch territory, but there’s also a fine tradition of ‘warm’ hatches that offer just enough entertainment to satisfy enthusiasts without compromising their family car qualities. It’s a moniker that seems to suit the Cupra perfectly. 

Second Opinion

I looked after Alastair’s Born for a while and it really grew on me. After the initial frustration with the infotainment and touch-sensitive steering wheel, I came to appreciate the sorted chassis and comfy driving position. I wouldn’t have minded being able to keep it for a bit longer... IV 

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Illya Verpraet 

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Cupra Born specification

Specs: Price New £38,390 Price as tested £39,230 Options Aurora Blue paint £840 

Test Data: Engine permanent magnet brushless motor Power 201bhp Torque 229lb ft Kerb weight 1811kg Top speed 99mph 0-62mph 6.7sec Range 209 miles economy 3.6mpkWh Faults None

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si73 25 July 2022
Re the fake suede/alcantara. If that is what we have in my wife's Mii by mango, then it does indeed last well, is grippy and comfortable, the mii has faux leather bolsters though, not the dinamica everywhere. But for nearly 30k miles and 8 years old, the seats look as new.
si73 25 July 2022
This would be quite appealing if it weren't for all the touch screen rubbish and lack of physical controls for HVAC and accessing drive modes etc, come on VW, you used to build some great ergonomically useable dashboards and now you're doing this nonsense.
To me it ruins the car and would put me off buying.
Obviously the same can be said for their ice equivalents that appear to be going the same way.
bol 24 July 2022

It always surprises me that people talk about this as the first warm hatch EV, when the Mini has been about for over two years and is such genuine fun. It doesn't have Cupra's 90s tattoos either.