Cupra Born long-term test: report 9

When we first tested the Cupra Born we were so impressed that we named it Small Electric Car of the Year. But does it continue to impress when you live with it every day?...

Cupra Born climate control

The car Cupra Born 58kWh V3 150kW Run by James Tute, senior sub-editor

Why we’re running it To see if our Small Electric Car of the Year still makes sense as commuter and leisure transport if you don't have access to a home charger 

Needs to Deliver on the promise of a fun driving experience, low running costs and good practicality, while having enough range for weekend getaways

Mileage 5135 List price £38,390 Target Price £38,390 Price as tested £38,390 Official range 250 miles Test range 215 miles

25 November 2022 – The frost report 

I planned to make this latest report all about using the climate control in my Cupra Born – but it’s mostly about not using it. In fact, if I get to the end without telling you how easy or otherwise the system is to operate, make sure you give me a nudge...

Anyway, why might I not be using the Born’s temperature settings to keep warm while driving in the winter chill? Yes, you guessed it: battery range.

As you know, electric cars are not yet at the stage where a full charge of the battery can offer the same range as a full petrol or diesel tank. With the Born, I’m getting between 200 and 250 miles (the official range of this version) depending on my speeds and other factors – including, very noticeably, whether the climate control is on.

I put that to the test at the weekend, on a 140-mile round-trip from London to Colchester. I’d be setting off with a 78% charge, and the driver display told me that was good for 169 miles in default Comfort driving mode with the climate control in its lowest setting.

Cupra Born driver display

Although I knew I could find a public charger if necessary, frankly I had better things to do with my Sunday afternoon. Instead, my plan was to make sure I did the trip with 20 miles of range to spare, then ‘fill up’ the next day.

Those numbers made me nervous. A chunk of the journey would be dual-carriageway driving, and I knew I’d see the remaining range drop far more quickly at 70mph than in my usual city driving.

And that’s where it got interesting. You see, when I switched the car to Eco driving mode – which you might expect to do wonders for range – it added a meagre one mile to the displayed figure. In contrast, switching off the climate control as well bumped it up a reassuring 34 miles, to 203.

Cupra Born air-con

Long story short(ish), I kept it off, made do with the occasional blast of air to clear the windscreen, and got home with 41 miles remaining. And I should point out that freezing is optional in the top-spec V3 Born (and mid-spec V2) because it has a heated steering wheel and seats.

Usually, I keep the climate control on, set low, but I rarely tweak the settings because it’s far too fiddly. The only physical controls are weirdly thin red and blue temperature buttons below the infotainment screen, which are invisible in the dark, and a button to the right of the driver display to crank up the vent to clear the windscreen.

To do anything else, I need to go into a page on the infotainment screen, with an awkward digitised On/Off toggle. That’s a shame, because it’s a versatile system, with five power levels and six vent ‘zones’ you can switch off and on independently.

I still think the Born is a cool car – but it’s not so hot when it comes to keeping warm.

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