Cupra Born review: Hatchback hero - MrLiambi's blog


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Friday, 29 July 2022

Cupra Born review: Hatchback hero

The Cupra Born is a very tempting proposition. Much like the Hyundai Ioniq 5 and Kia EV6, even a first glance at the overall design suggests you're in for some exciting times behind the wheel.

The car has also been designed using the Volkswagen Group's MED platform, which the Volkswagen ID.3 is based on and is assembled at the same German factory.

In that respect, there are many similarities between those two electric vehicles, with five doors, five seats and a hatchback that offers up practicality - especially for families.

However, while the ID.3 looks okay, the Cupra Born really dazzles with its dynamic styling, both on the outside and in.

Coupled with sporty performance, using any one of three different battery combinations, the Cupra Born promises much. But does it deliver the goods for day-to-day use?

Perfectly cute design

Cupra has done a wonderful job with the Born, and our car really looked the business in the Geyser Silver, which almost looks to be matte in finish when viewed at certain angles, or in a different light.

There are neat flourishes of black trim around the car, too - most notably along the side windows running onto the rear pillar and into the rear tailgate. The dark colour sills and black insert on the front grille and rear bumper add to the clever use of contrasting colours, and Cupra tops all this off with copper-tinged badges and subtle trim embellishments. Add in the silver and black of the wheels and the whole package looks mighty impressive.

What's also great about the Cupra Born is that it looks quite mean, and certainly ready for business - especially from the front. It also looks quite low to the ground, due to the way it's poised, although we found it surprisingly adept at getting over ruts and bumps when we moved the car gingerly into place for a few scenic photos.

collection: cupra born exterior

In terms of size, the Cupra Born is 4.32m long and 1.80m high. Meanwhile, the width, including mirrors, is 1.80 metres, which we found to be really practical in daily use. While the Born feels big on the inside, it seems perfectly happy when you're picking your way through narrow villages and through single-track country lanes. Our model, with all the toys, had a kerbside weight of 1934kg, but it always felt really agile no matter where we took it.

A refreshing interior

As mentioned earlier, while the Cupra Born has eye-catching looks from the outside, it's the interior that really pops. If you're new to EVs, you'll find plenty to get the interest levels up, from the extra space to a collection of driving controls that are refreshingly different.

Subtle flecks of copper trim continue the theme started on the outside, working to great effect on the door panels and central storage area, which has a handy sliding door for covering valuables.

The interior ambient lighting looks cool and seems like a good idea, but it's actually quite intrusive when you're driving at night. Heading home in the dark and with a busy multi-lane motorway to cope with, the glow from the driver's side was actually quite distracting. Perhaps this can be dimmed, but, if so, the controls appear to be buried deep inside the Born's infotainment system.

Where the Born excels, really, is with the space it offers on the inside. The 2.76m wheelbase means the interior feels roomy and airy. There's lots of glass, too, even as the bodyline narrows the glass content towards the rear. Up front, the bucket seats on our model felt really comfy, with the wraparound seatback holding you purposely - especially when hitting the corners full on.

The rear seating setup is a little more conventional, and quite flat by comparison, but no less comfy. Installing a child's seat, for example, would therefore be a doddle. There's a beefy central armrest in the rear, too, and lots of room for feet, phones, bags and everything else a family piles into the car.

collection: cupra born interior

Usefully, you'll find plenty of cubbyholes for drinks of all shapes and sizes, and USB ports and wireless charging under the front armrest, as well.

Meanwhile, boot space is fairly generous, with 385L before you've put the 60/40 split rear seats down.

The only concern with the interior in our example was just how durable it would be after the inevitable spillages that happen in a family car. The suede-in-feel seat inserts certainly look great, but they might not look quite as impressive after a few outings.

A practical technology story

Anyone buying into the Cupra Born vision will feel instantly at home with the technology packed into this car. While much of it is very good, and definitely useful, the way in which this tech is delivered is not always as enjoyable. The main culprit here has to be the 12-inch infotainment screen located in the centre of the dash, though we should preface this by noting that Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also present, if you want to call on either of them.

There is plenty right about Cupra's own creation, but numerous issues make many common tasks a chore. In fact, some elements of it are plain baffling. We'd had the car for a few days and lots of tasks seemed hard to achieve, or downright impossible. Turning the air-con on and tweaking it is definitely a distraction as you drive, for example.

Turning the radio up and down appeared to be an impossible task, too - not helped by the plus and minus tabs on the steering wheel that are just as baffling. You can actually do it the easy way, via the slimline plus and minus buttons beneath the screen, though this wasn't immediately obvious to us. Incidentally, the Bose sound system in our car worked a treat - once the volume was at the desired level, that is.

Elsewhere, the 5.3-inch 'Digital Cockpit' display in front of the steering wheel is simple but effective, showing speed, battery range and sat nav directions. This was further enhanced with, on our car, a head-up display, which ended up being used over the standard issue display.

Not so hot are the touch-sensitive panels on the steering wheel, with, again, the volume options for the radio outlined above being the hardest to get to work properly. Properly infuriating for such a simple job.

The best advice for any of the onboard tech is to download a PDF of the manual, as you'll be needing it. Even that could be improved, however. Continued use of the infotainment system does make things easier, naturally, but it still took us a week to find out how to delete unwanted locations on the sat nat nav, which turned out to be a simple case of swiping left to reveal an icon. The voice-activated controls also work, by the way, but results for us were patchy.

Driving, range and charging

Perhaps the best thing about the Cupra Born is actually driving it. If you've not been used to the style of the drive selector setup in this particular EV, it may feel a little bit alien at first. Spend some time in the Born, however, and it all begins to make sense quite quickly. In fact, the car is ready to go as soon as you sit in it with the keyfob in your pocket. Select Drive from the twistable selector to the right of the 5.3-inch display and the rest is a simple stop/go operation.

There are racy-looking brake and accelerator pedals, while twisting the selector onwards to 'B' means you engage the regenerative braking functionality. If you're a fan of driving EVs with this feature, you'll find it works to particularly good effect in the Cupra Born. The car is essentially a single-speed automatic, which offers a maximum 310Nm of torque from the motor and a 58kWh battery to the rear wheels. Two other battery options, 45kWh and 77kWh, are also available.

Performance is certainly more than adequate, with 0-62mph arriving in 7.3 seconds. The top speed is 99mph, but the really impressive part of driving the Cupra Born is how it handles. The car feels great on a range of road surfaces, but it really excels around winding country lanes and hilly areas where you can really get into tune with the regenerative one-foot driving side of things.

Around town, the Cupra Born is a doddle to drive, too. Even though the view out the rear is less impressive, you've got the backup of decent door mirrors and a rear-view camera. Combined with the excellent steering, which is light but responsive, you always feel in control. The more we drove it, the better it got, though the spongy feel of the regenerative brake pedal setting needs practice to feel fully comfortable, especially during unexpected stops.

collection: cupra born charging

Initially, we didn't think the Cupra Born was that great range-wise, but, over time, it seemed to be perfectly suitable for everyday driving. It also impressed on longer runs, especially with careful driving and making use of that regenerative braking functionality.

In terms of juicing up the battery, Cupra's figures state that you can get from 5% to 80% in 35 minutes using a 135kW charger. In reality, using a fairly common 50kW got us from around 20% to 80% in about 45 minutes, give or take. We found the real-world range on the review car to be just over 200 miles or so, too, though the official figure is 263 miles.

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