What Car? says...
The Cupra Born is an electric car that takes its name from a district of Barcelona, although it arguably has closer links to Wolfsburg.
That’s because under the metal, the Born is essentially a VW ID 3. Like that car, this is a five-door electric hatchback that's about the same size as a Ford Focus. It's available with a choice of two batteries (the bigger 77kWh option has an official range of more than 340 miles) and there are three trim levels: V1, V2 and V3.
Cupra has positioned the Born as a slightly sportier option than its Volkswagen cousin. This isn't only through more aggressive looks, it also filters through to what the Cupra Born is like to drive. The steering has been tuned differently and the ride height lowered – plus there's an e-Boost version that has a button you can press to enjoy faster acceleration for a few seconds.
The Born is Cupra's first fully electric model, but there are plenty of alternatives available from other manufacturers. One of those is, of course, the ID 3, but there's also the Renault Megane E-Tech and the cheaper MG4.
Or if you're looking at the bigger 77kWh battery version of the Cupra Born, don't ignore the only slightly pricier Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6 which offer a similar range between charges but much more room inside.
In this review, we'll tell you how the Cupra Born squares up against its key rivals in terms of performance, handling, interior quality and more, as well as running you through which versions make the most sense.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
You can have the Cupra Born with a 58kWh or 77kWh battery, but both versions have a single electric motor that drives the rear wheels. In our tests, the 58kWh version managed 0-60mph in a very respectable 7.0 seconds. That means acceleration is roughly on a par with the Renault Megane E-Tech and slightly stronger than in the MG4.
You can make the Born even faster by paying extra for an e-Boost option. This gives you a boost in power for a limited period and trims the official 0-62mph time down to 6.6sec. However, given that the different is small, we'd say the money.
With an official range of 264 miles, the 58kWh will be all most buyers need. Granted, you won't get that far in real-world driving, but in our real-world range tests the Born managed 182 miles in winter and 219 miles in summer. If you regularly need to go further than that in one hit and don't want to rely on the UK's public charging network, the 77kWh battery gives in official range of up to 341 miles. Expect 235 to 285 miles in the real world.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Born is a reasonably comfortable electric car and does a good job of absorbing lumps and bumps in the road. The ride height has been lowered slightly compared with the VW ID 3 so the Born is a little firmer, but the difference isn’t huge and it's more settled than the MG4.
Just don't expect the Born to be quite as comfortable as a conventionally powered Seat Leon or VW Golf – the ride can get a little choppier over potholes and there's a bit more fidget on the motorway.
Being more focused on sportiness than comfort means the Born offers tidy and precise handling. It won't exactly thrill you on every journey, but it’s an absolute breeze to steer through town and easy to thread smoothly down a B-road.
Thanks to accurate, well-weighted steering and decent body control, it’s certainly more engaging than the Megane E-Tech or MG4 (which loses its composure a little when pushed hard). The Born has an excellent turning circle of 10.2m, making it good at negotiating crowded city streets.
You might expect the Born to feel very similar to the ID 3 because they share many parts, but if you drive them back to back, you'll appreciate the tweaks that make the Born a bit sharper and more fun.
Noise and vibration
With precious little noise from the electric motor and gearbox, the Born is very quiet at town speeds. Indeed, only a bit of suspension noise spoils the serene experience.
Pick up the pace and you'll notice some road and wind noise (the Megane E-Tech is slightly quieter at 70mph), but the Born is still impressively hushed – far more so than the MG4 or, indeed, most petrol and diesel alternatives.
The brake pedal is heavier and more naturally weighted than the set-up in the ID 3 and Megane E-Tech, making it easier to judge how much pressure is required to slow down smoothly. That said, the pedal feels a little spongier than in the best electric cars, including the Tesla Model 3.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
Regardless of the trim you go for, you’ll find two things in the Cupra Born: a digital pod behind the steering wheel with a small but clear 5.3in display that shows your speed and remaining range, and a rotary-style gear selector on the side, similar to that seen in the (now discontinued) BMW i3.
The position of the driver’s seat in relation to the steering wheel and pedals is very good, leaving you feeling relaxed, and the well-bolstered seats are comfortable. Unfortunately, things are soured somewhat by the copious use of touch-sensitive controls. You’ll find them everywhere, and the ones on the steering wheel manage to be both frustratingly easy to accidentally trigger and infuriatingly difficult to operate when you actually want to.
The air-con is controlled using touch-sensitive sliders that don’t illuminate at night, and everything else is operated from the central infotainment touchscreen. It’s all terribly distracting to use while driving and a significantly worse solution than having proper physical buttons and knobs – as found in many rival electric cars. That said, the touchscreen is at least angled towards you (unlike in the MG4) so it's relatively easy to reach the controls.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
Seeing out of the front of the Born is pretty easy. Its deep windscreen and slim front pillars afford you a largely unobstructed view of the road ahead. They are heavily angled, though, so taller individuals might find that they get in the way a little at T-junctions.
The rear pillars are thick and the rear screen is a little shallow, making the standard front and rear parking sensors and rear-view camera welcome additions when trying to park. Making life even easier, opting for the Tech (L) pack gives the Born ‘Intelligent Park Assist (IPA)’ which enables the car to steer into spaces for you.
Bright LED headlights are standard, and while they do come with an auto-dipping feature, you can’t get fancier matrix lights that shape their beam to avoid dazzling other drivers.
Sat nav and infotainment
A 12.0in touchscreen infotainment system comes as standard on every Born and features and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring (the MG4 gets smartphone mirroring too, but it's not wireless).
The screen itself is bright and clear, and the operating system is slightly more intuitive than in the VW ID 3 (which has one of the worst infotainment systems around). It's not perfect though, and, like the ID 3's can suffer from a fair amount of lag between your prods and the system reacting. The menus could be simpler, and some icons could be larger to make them easier to aim for.
The basic layout is the same as the ID 3's, but the Born’s interior is not just a copy-and-paste job. A slightly different mix of materials means it looks and feels classier inside, especially around the centre console and arm rests.
Victory over the ID 3 is by a slim margin, though, and you’ll still find some hard, cheap-feeling plastic in places. The overall feel of quality inside the Born is much better than in the MG4 and the Nissan Leaf but the EV6 feels better all round. That said, most versions of the EV6 are a lot more expensive than the Born.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Even if you’re blessed in the height department, you won’t find yourself struggling for space in the front of the Cupra Born. Indeed, even those measuring north of six feet tall will enjoy ample head and leg room.
On top of that, the Born feels surprisingly wide inside, which means you won’t be rubbing shoulders with your front-seat passenger, even if you’re both quite broad.
There’s pretty good storage space available too. A large chunk of that is in the centre console, which has various cubbies and the ubiquitous cup-holders. The glovebox is a decent size, as are the door bins.
The Born is roughly the same length as the VW Golf and is just as roomy in the back. There’s space for at least a 6ft passenger to sit behind someone equally tall without feeling squished, although there's not a lot of head or leg room going spare.
To give you some context, space in the back is very similar to that in the VW ID 3. That means the Tesla Model 3 is much roomier, and the Nissan Leaf has more leg room (if not quite as much head room). The Renault Megane E-Tech is tighter in the back all round.
The 77kWh model has two back seats, while the 58kWh has three. With three rear adult passengers on board, there won’t be a lot of shoulder room to spare, but the middle passenger will appreciate the flat floor with no central tunnel to straddle – and all models also get three rear head restraints, unlike the MG4 which has only two.
Seat folding and flexibility
There’s not a huge amount to report here. You get 60/40 split rear seats as standard, which, while not as useful as having 40/20/40 seats, is par for the course in small electric cars.
You don’t have the option of sliding or reclining rear seats, which you can get in some slightly pricier electric SUVs including the Hyundai Ioniq 5. To get a ski hatch (which also brings fold-down rear centre armrest) you’ll have to pay for the pricier 77kWh battery in V2 and top-spec V3 trim – but remember this bigger battery version can carry only two people in the back.
At 385 litres, the Born's boot is about the same size as a Golf’s and will be fine for such daily duties as carrying a small buggy, the weekly shop or a weekend away.
The Leaf’s boot is bigger (as long as you avoid higher trim models with the Bose subwoofer that robs space) as is the Megane E-Tech’s, but the Model 3 is in a different league if you need lots of cargo capacity.
We managed to squeeze six carry-on suitcases into the Born's boot, one fewer than in the Megane and one more than we squeezed into the MG4. An optional height-adjustable boot floor removes any load lip when placed in its highest position and has space underneath for smaller items.
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
Just like any fully electric car the Born is incredibly tempting if you're a company car driver, thanks to low benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax rates.
The 58kWh Born has the ability to fast charge at up to 124kW, which means a 10-80% top-up will take around half an hour. The 77kWh version can accept slightly more charging power but because it has a bigger battery, you'll be waiting longer. With a 7kW home wall box, you’re looking at empty to full in around nine hours in the 58kWh version, and 12 hours in the 77kWh.
Equipment, options and extras
Entry-level V1 trim gets you LED headlights, climate control, parking aids and 18in alloy wheels. It's all you really need and there are various option packs available.
V2 comes with bigger 19in wheels, privacy glass, heated windscreen washer nozzles and a head-up display to project your speed on to the windscreen. It also gets heated seats and a heated steering wheel, so is worth considering if you like your creature comforts.
Top-spec V3 is too expensive to recommend, but comes with 20in wheels and electric front-seat adjustment with a built-in massage function.
The Born itself is too new to have featured in the electric cars section as a model, but we can draw some conclusions from the closely related VW ID 3. It finished in a middling eighth place out of 14 electric models polled – behind the Nissan Leaf (sixth) but above the Renault Zoe (10th).
To give you peace of mind, Cupra gives you a three years/60,000 miles warranty. That’s fairly average in the class but doesn’t come close to the generous seven-year offering that Kia gives you. That said, the battery is covered for eight years, as it is with most electric cars.
Safety and security
The Born gets an extensive suite of safety kit. This includes automatic emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keeping assistance, adaptive cruise control, a driver fatigue monitor and traffic-sign recognition, which shows you the speed limit of the road you're driving on.
Just like the closely-related ID 3, the Born scored a full five stars when it was tested by Euro NCAP. The Born scored higher in the adult occupancy section than the ID 3, though, with no mention of the poor chest protection that blotted that car's score book. The Born also outperformed the Renault Megane E-Tech in this area.
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Cupra was originally a subbrand of Seat, and was used to mark out the Spanish manufacturer's sportiest models. These days, Cupra is a brand in its own right, but still has close links to Seat as well as its parent company, Volkswagen.
The 58kWh version of the Born strikes the best balance between price and capability. We’d go for V1 trim, which comes with plenty of kit and keeps the price palatable.
|RRP price range||£36,475 - £43,735|
|Number of trims (see all)||3|
|Number of engines (see all)||2|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||electric|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||2 years / No mileage cap|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£73 / £87|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£146 / £175|