Spanish brand CUPRA has joined the Motability Scheme with this car, the Born. It's based on the same running gear as Volkswagen’s electric ID.3, but CUPRA promises improved driver engagement and a more premium feel. So, is it any good, or is it just an ID.3 that's been fitted with a sporty body kit? We find out.
Cupra joined the Motability Scheme during quarter 2 2023 with the addition of the electric Born 'V1' trim. This is now even better value, priced at £499 (down from £2699), with the 'V2' and 'V3' versions now available from £1495 and £2495 respectively (section updated October 2023).
It was only a matter of time before we started seeing performance-orientated versions of compact family EVs, but what if you could have one that was, in all its forms, fundamentally developed for enjoyment at the wheel? Yet still as practical, ecological and frugal as its battery-powered rivals. That's the promise of this car, the CUPRA Born.
You may by now be vaguely aware of the CUPRA brand. Once it was purely a performance badge on fast SEATs, but now it's a marque in its own right offering two repackaged SEAT models (the CUPRA Ateca and the CUPRA Leon) and one design of its own (the CUPRA Formentor SUV). CUPRA was clear from the start that electrification would play a major part in its product development and, sure enough, the Leon and the Formentor can both be had in Plug-in 'e-Hybrid' forms.
The Born though, is a full EV, using the same engineering you'll find in a Volkswagen ID.3 or a Skoda Enyaq iV, but packaged with a performance twist. You'd think this CUPRA EV model would have had a wider audience with the SEAT branding it was originally supposed to have (initially it was slated to be sold as a SEAT el-Born). But the VW Group has decided instead that this car should be a touch more aspirational than that. Let's check it out.
The Born springs away from rest of course, as all EVs do, running out of puff just after the point where you realise that the torque rush has inadvertently pushed you over the speed limit. Everything so far is just as it would be in the Volkswagen ID.3 this Born is almost entirely based on. But CUPRA wants to convince you that this is a far sportier confection. And to that end, has fitted shorter coil springs lowering the ride height, along with wider tyres, a more direct variable-ratio steering set-up and a retuned stability control system.
To fit with all this, the electric power output of the kind of Born model most people will choose - 204PS - is the kind of output only offered at the heady heights of the ID.3 line-up, though the 58kWh battery it's linked to is the one that most versions of that VW use, here delivering a range of up to 265 miles. That figure falls fractionally to 262 miles if you add in the optional e-Boost motor you can't have on an ID.3, which adds an extra 26PS of power for 30 seconds when you stamp on the throttle. The 230PS e-Boost motor comes as standard with the larger 77kWh battery, which increases driving range to 343 miles.
There are four main drive modes - 'Comfort', 'Performance', 'Range' and 'Individual', with a further 'CUPRA' setting for the e-Boost models. Optional 'DCC' adaptive damping enhances the 'Comfort' setting, but you don't really need it because the standard passive set-up is very good indeed. The Barcelona engineers must have worked really hard on that: a pity then, that they weren't given leave by Wolfsburg to fiddle with the steering, which despite its quicker rack feels remote and very light on feedback. Even as it is though, this is (as intended) a far more engaging thing than its ID.3 cousin; to the point where we'd find it hard to think of another similarly-sized EV in this price bracket that we'd recommend over this one to a keen driver.
CUPRA says this Born was 'designed and developed in Barcelona' - which is poppycock of course: it's a restyled Volkswagen ID.3. And rolls down the same German Zwickau production line as its sister car, unlike CUPRA's other Iberian-built models. You can't deny though, that it's got a bit more flair, attitude and presence than its Wolfsburg cousin. It's been described as the 'scary big sister' to the ID.3. Maybe so. It's certainly a little bigger, something you may pick up from a profile perspective, the Born measuring in 61mm longer, though that still leaves it some way short of the upper mid-sized EV hatches and crossovers CUPRA also wants to target - Volkswagen ID.4 for instance, is 262mm lengthier.
At the wheel, you get quite a different ambiance from the other compact VW Group EVs available at this price point - and quite an agreeable one. What is familiar is the futuristic feel: as with an ID.3 or a Skoda Enyaq, there's no need for a gear lever, an ignition slot or a handbrake. And, also as with those cars, there's a 12-inch centre monitor and a 5.3-inch 'Digital Cockpit' instrument screen attached to which is a gear selector, the whole binnacle moving up and down as you adjust the wheel. Otherwise, this Born sets itself apart with a darker vibe, a strange indented passenger-side dash finish, sustainably-sourced soft-touch surfaces and the usual CUPRA brand copper-coloured highlights, which here appear on the steering wheel, the vents, the seat stitching and frame the open part of the lower centre console.
There's a surprising amount of room for two adults at the rear. And out back, there's a reasonable 385-litre boot, the same as an ID.3. Push everything forward and that extends to 1,267-litres.
There are three trim levels - 'V1', 'V2' and 'V3' - and all variants come well equipped. There's LED headlights and tail lamps, auto headlamps and wipers, adaptive cruise control, sport suspension, all-round parking sensors, keyless entry and a 'Drive Profile Selection' driving modes system with 'Range', 'Comfort', 'Performance' and 'Individual' settings.
Inside every Born, expect to find a 5.3-inch 'Digital Cockpit' instrument binnacle screen, ambient lighting, a rear view camera, an auto-dimming rear view mirror and front sport bucket seats. Media's taken care of by a 12-inch centre Navigation display with an online voice assistant and all the usual smartphone-mirroring and EV features. Plus there's a 'CUPRA Connect' app so you can remotely interact with your Born, even when you're not with it.
Most customers will choose the 58kWh 204PS package we're trying here, which offers up to 265 miles of driving range.
As for charging, well for the 58kWh battery version, charging from 0-100% takes 6 hours 15 minutes using an 11kW AC wall charger, but it can also be recharged from 5-80% using a 120kW DC rapid charger in just 35 minutes.
CUPRA Born 150 kw 58 kWh Real Range Estimate - 215 miles
|Cold Weather||Mild Weather|
|City Driving||210 miles||320 miles|
|Motorway Driving||155 miles||200 miles|
|Combined||180 miles||250 miles|
CUPRA Born 170 kw 77kWh Real Range Estimate - 280 miles
|Cold Weather||Mild Weather|
|City Driving||270 miles||405 miles|
|Motorway Driving||200 miles||255 miles|
|Combined||235 miles||320 miles|
CUPRA Born 170 kw 58kWh Real Range Estimate - 215 miles
|Cold Weather||Mild Weather|
|City Driving||210 miles||315 miles|
|Motorway Driving||150 miles||195 miles|
|Combined||180 miles||245 miles|
Source: EV Database, last updated June 2023.
Indication of real world range in several situations. Cold weather: 'worst-case' based on -10°C and use of heating. Mild weather: 'best-case' based on 23°C and no use of A/C. For 'Motorway' figures a constant speed of 70 mph is assumed. The actual range will depend on speed, style of driving, weather and route conditions.
The decision to replace SEAT badges with CUPRA ones on this Born EV was interesting and says much about the VW Group's commitment to its sporting brand. Plus, it also fits with this design's mildly dynamic vibe. Yes, in some ways it's a Volkswagen ID.3 in a track suit, but at the same time, it also offers something just a little different - and arguably more appealing.
It's not as different from an ID.3 as CUPRA thinks it is. The Born's cause would have been helped in this regard if the brand has standardised the faster e-Boost motor and made that a unique selling point. But this car is more engaging to drive - and to our eyes more engaging to look at too.
Do you really want to pay considerably more in this segment to get only slightly more space and fractionally more driving range? From an EV that almost certainly won't be as interesting at the wheel or look as good on your driveway? Such is the Born ultimatum. And we can understand if you found yourself tempted by it.
People with a disability and carers who choose a new CUPRA Born through Motability will receive a brand new car, delivered by a Motability Specialist at a local CUPRA dealership, complete with insurance, servicing and maintenance, full breakdown assistance, replacement tyre cover, windscreen repair or replacement cover plus a mileage allowance of 60,000 miles over three years.
This month, these Cupra Born models can be ordered through the Motability Scheme: