I MUST admit to feeling a little torn when it comes to Electric Vehicles. I love the way EVs drive but I hate the charging infrastructure in the UK, which is utterly shocking (pun intended).
And it’s not just the lack of forward-planning that tarnishes the EV-experience. Selfish individuals that park their diesel Audi A3 in the only charging bay in the car park, don’t help either. I assume all the disabled bays were full . . .
There’s also the distinct possibility that once you’ve been able to secure an EV parking bay, it turns out to be either “offline” or – even worse – teases you by acting like it’s playing along, only to laugh in your face 10 minutes later by refusing to charge even though you’ve followed the charging routine to the letter.
I’ve even had instances where the charging cable refuses to uncouple after a successful charge. Perhaps the charger was expecting a cuddle before withdrawing . . . I really have no idea.
All I know is that I’ve had to call the supplier’s helpline too many times to either start (or even stop) a charging session. It can all get very frustrating; and irritating when the helpline bod sympathises by telling you, “Yes, we get a lot of complaints about that.” Duh?
However, I’ve found an electric vehicle that is so good, I’d be willing to live with the pitfalls of public charging. Ok, the fact that I recently had a Pod Point home charger fitted in my own garage also helps enormously, but even without that I would suffer the slings and arrows of ChargePlace Scotland to have my daily-driving spirits lifted by the Cupra Born. It’s a little cracker.
“But what about those awful, touch-sensitive controls for the climate?” I hear you cry.
“Get used to them”, I reply. Yes, they’re a silly idea and VAG should hang their heads in shame, but it shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. You won’t find yourself suffering hypothermia in the depths of winter because you just couldn’t get used to sliding your index finger along a piece of plastic.
Anyway, my Cupra Born came equipped with heated seats and a heated steering wheel – so my only potential problem would be overheating in the summer if it turned out my fingers were non-touchy and really, really needed a knob to grip. Let’s leave it there . . .
And that, ladies and gentlemen is about the only issue you may find with the Cupra Born. Not much is it?
I mean, just look at the Born. It manages to look both aggressive and cute at the same time. I know, I don’t understand it either but no matter which angle you look at it, the Born could be the love-child of an over-amorous VW UP! GTi and an Audi RS3. It’s super-cool and if it was Swedish, it would be called the Cupra Bjorn.
Imagine owning a Volkswagen ID.3 (on which the Cupra Born is based) and coming out of the supermarket to see a Cupra Born parked next to your car. How are you not going to think maybe you bought the wrong EV?
The ID.3 is certainly a good car but it is a little dopey looking at the front, compared to the frowning, purposeful Born. But to be fair to the ID.3, the Born is aimed squarely at those wanting a sportier offering and that’s not for everyone. The Cupra Born sits on stiffer and lower suspension and is no quicker than the ID.3 unless you go for the more powerful version.
However, the Cupra Born is no less practical either. It has 5 doors, 5 seats and the same amount of interior space.
And I love the interior. The materials and finish are of a higher quality than you’ll find in the ID.3, including a larger 12in touchscreen (10-inch in the ID.3) that is slightly angled toward the driver. The operating system is leagues ahead of the VW offering being very intuitive with clear and bright icons that are easy to hit on the move. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also wireless, which is definitely a bonus.
The digital dash pod that sits just behind the multi-function steering wheel does a remarkable job of showing you clearly all the data you might need, with just 5.3inches of space available.
The rotary gear selector, mounted to the right top corner of this pod is simplicity itself to use, while the sporty, grippy seats are as good as the driving position. You won’t struggle to get comfortable with both reach and height adjustment on the steering wheel as well as 12-way electrical adjustment on the driver’s seat.
Available in V1, V2 and V3 trim levels, you get a choice of 2 battery sizes (58 kWh and 77 kWh) and 2 power outputs – 204 PS as standard and 230 PS for the e-Boost models. All models have a single electric motor driving the rear wheels.
My test car was the V3 with a 58 kWh battery and 204 PS (£40,150 OTR). It was more than quick enough. 0-62mph comes up in just 7.3 seconds of smooth, utterly linear acceleration. It feels quicker and is something that never gets boring. Floor it and listen for the whine as the little Born hurls you up the road. It’s almost silent, but not quite.
With an official 264 miles of range, any anxiety shouldn’t be of the range variety – although I only managed around 220 on a full charge. Probably due to my playfulness . . .
However, if you want max range and max fun you could go for the 77 kWh version which boasts a range of 341 miles. Couple if with the more powerful e-Boost motor and you’ll hit 62mph in just 6.6 seconds. Worth the extra money? Not in my opinion.
The Cupra Born starts at £36,475 for the V1 58 kWh 204. If you want the bigger battery AND the extra power you’ll need to spend £41,975 on the Cupra Born V2 77 kWh 230 e-Boost.
The sweet spot is probably the V3 with 58 kWh battery and 230 e-Boost motor, at £40,955. Which ain’t cheap by any stretch, but you’re getting a peach of a driver-focused electric hatchback that acts as well as looks the part.
On the road the Cupra Born feels nice and tight without any jarring over rougher roads. You could certainly use it as the family runabout without getting constant complaints about ride comfort.
Yes, the batteries add quite a bit of weight, but around corners the Born reins it all in very well. It’s chuckable without skipping sideways when you try a bit too hard. Country roads are very, very enjoyable indeed and tootling around town is a doddle thanks to the precise steering and body-control.
As you would expect from an EV, it’s quiet, with only a little road noise intrusion. Even at motorway speeds the Born remains a serene and relaxing drive.
Regenerative braking helps put some juice back in the battery, but you won’t be experiencing the awesomeness of one-pedal driving like you can in some other EVs.
Practicality doesn’t let the Born down either, with plenty of room both in the front and rear for taller adults. Boot space is decent at 385 litres, which matches the VW Golf.
The Cupra Born ticks all the important boxes for me and if I were to be in the market for a £40k electric vehicle right now, it’s the one I’d go for. I love the styling both inside and out and the driveability/performance is excellent. The decent-looking MG4 EV may be a lot cheaper at £26k but it just can’t match the Cupra for quality of materials, on-board tech and driveability. A star is certainly Born . . .
AT A GLANCE:
CUPRA Born 58kWh V3 204 PS
OTR Price: £40,150
Engine: Permanent magnet synchronous electric motor
Torque: Nm @ rpm 310 @ 0-4200
Power: 204 PS
Transmission: Single-speed Auto
0-62mph: 7.3 secs
Top Speed: 99 mph