Cupra Born long-term test

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?...

LT Cupra Born header

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 6553 List price £40,150 Target Price £40,150 Price as tested £40,150 Official range 250 miles Test range 203 miles Dealer price now £31,878 Private price now £31,271 Costs £640.93 (charging)

14 March 2023 – Bye-bye Born

I blush to recall that when I first got behind the wheel of my Cupra Born it took me an embarrassingly long time to get it to move.

Not knowing that the gear selector is to the right of the digital driver display behind the steering wheel, I spent a flustered few minutes fumbling around in all the wrong places.

Thankfully, as I say goodbye to the Born, I’m happy to report that the 10 months and 6500 miles that followed that cringey first experience have been infinitely better.

James Tute with Cupra Born at Battersea Power Station

I’d hoped this small(ish) electric car would be a good fit for my commute – which takes me from the centre of London to What Car?’s Twickenham office and back – and longer trips away in the UK.

Well, I can honestly say that I don’t know of a model that better suits the stressful business of city centre driving. The Born’s sharp handling, rapid acceleration, tight turning circle and modest size allowed me to make the best progress possible in stop-start traffic. Plus, the adaptive cruise control and head-up display took the stress out of camera-enforced 20mph speed limits.

I appreciated those qualities even more on longer journeys, along with the lack of engine noise at 70mph and the comfy, highly adjustable front seats.

Cupra Born dashboard

There was plenty of room for me, my partner and my teenage daughter plus luggage, and my passengers’ only complaint was that the firm ride gave them a few jolts on some of the more pock-marked roads we took. 

As the driver, I was more concerned about whether the Born could make it to our destination on a single charge of the battery. For journeys of 150 miles or so, it did, no sweat, but I never risked attempting the 200-mile journey to my home town in Cheshire without stopping to charge. I think it might have been possible in warmer weather (when range is at its best), but the lack of public chargers around my destination meant I didn’t chance it.

My experience of the UK’s charging network has been mixed. I’ve had plenty of trouble-free journeys, but have also pulled up at lots of broken chargers and been caught up in chaotic queues at services on the M6 just after Christmas.

Cupra Born charging

Day-to-day, though – and after some trial and error – I’ve found running an electric car without access to a home charger fairly straightforward. For a few weeks, I relied on slow lamppost chargers, leaving the car overnight for the nine hours or so needed to get to 100%.

After a while, though, I switched to stopping at Shell Recharge stations, including an excellent site in Fulham, West London with eight charging points. The Born can charge up in 35 minutes with a fast enough charger, but at the stations I used regularly, it took around an hour.

That’s proved convenient enough for me – but not cheap. In July 2022, it worked out at £15 for a full charge, while my most recent visit cost the equivalent of £41 for 58kWh (the Born’s battery’s usable capacity). That suggests I’ve been spending up to 20.5p per mile on electricity.

Cupra Born front cornering

Still, I have saved up to £27.50 for every day I’ve driven in London by avoiding ultra-low emissions and congestion zone charges, because electric cars are exempt at the moment.

Mechanically, I’ve had no trouble, which is as it should be in the first year of a car’s life. The infotainment screen has frozen a few times, but not often enough to be a problem.

In fact, my only big moan is about the buttons on the steering wheel – especially the ones that control the stereo volume. They don’t click in properly, so even after months driving the Born, I struggled to turn it up or down by one level at a time.

In every other respect, the Born has suited my needs admirably.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Also consider