Forget everything you know about the Spanish Cupra brand. Screaming engines and firm suspensions that were a Seat Ibiza, Cordoba and Leon trade mark are now a distant and fond memory. Cupra is now a brand in its own right. Just like the rest of the Volkswagen group brands, it dives into electrification at breakneck speed. Having access to VW technology and shelves makes things easier and quicker.
The Cupra Born is based on the already well-known but not yet largely widespread MEB platform. It is dedicated to 100% electric vehicles that can come either in two or four wheel drive, depending on the number of generators fitted to it. Quite logically, the engine and gearbox drivetrain (known as APP310 among the VW group of companies) is compact and light, weighing a mere 90 kg. The two Born that were lent to us muster 204 and 231 hp, respectively. That’s no big deal between the two but Cupra pitches the more poweful version as a sportier car. Both reach a 160 km/h restricted top speed. However, the less powerful one gets to 100 km/h in 7.3 secs while the other needs only 6.6 secsto reach the same speed. Rangewise, we obviously didn’t tested both cars in ideal conditions as we got one back in early December last year and the second one in February : outside temperatures were still close to 0 degrees.
I like it
As we haven’t tested the Volkswagen ID yet, we won’t use it as a fit and finish benchmark for the Cupras. At first, we were rather worried to get into those Borns but things turned out rather pleasingly. We had already tested the € 1795 optional Dynamica sportseats in the past and think they’re a must have ! The coloured inserts brighten up the car’s interior. Inside the car, the dashboard upper part is a high quality affair with top grade materials. However, even if it’s not a bad thing, the plastics become harder and more scratch-prone the lower you look and touch. The whole dashboard is quite uncluttered and the 12-inch central touch screen is well designed. All the controls are easy to reach. They obviously need some getting used to, but you eventually find the right one. The large storage bin between the front seats hides a wireless phone charger. Finally, the back seat offers generous space but their passengers’ outside view is hampered by the high backrests of the front sportseats.
As ever with electric engined cars, acceleration is breathtaking. It’s even quite fun to take advantage of such high performance to ″hustle″ other road users without making the slightest noise.The bad boy in me will definitely never disappear… However, the first corner gets us back to reality : the 1800 kg inducing an untimely early braking. The centre of gravity is low and you really want to have fun behind the wheel. Mind you, you feel a bit helpless knowing that you can’t change gears down, braking being the only way to reduce the car’s speed. The dashboard Cupra switch allows you to take advantage of maximum power straight away but… the range melts away and quickly stops your irresponsible desires. Driving this car in town clearly shows it’s nimble and imbued with nice handling and roadholding. You even quickly forget its size and weight. A real pleasure!
I don’t like it
If you’re a fan of driving on remote winding empty country roads, you won’t have fun behind the Cupra Born wheel, even in its most powerful version. It badly lacks feeling and doesn’t inspire trust in it. It’s a shame because with its Rayleigh Red colour and its nice 20″ wheels called Firestorm, it would be a worthy modern take on the little rockets that we miss so much.
Why I buy it
The Borns look better than the VW IDs, they’re bulky without being too cumbersome. Using them in town is easy and they truly shine there, preserving range in low speed zones. That doesn’t stop it from winning the red lights grand prix and remaining the most unassuming dynamic sedans. Not to mention its devilishly good handling and mesmerising lines. Driving position is great while the modern infotainment system will please any self-respecting geek. It’s so easy to turn it on and off using the small switch located on the right of the dashboard screen : just put it in P, leave the car and close the doors…
Why I don’t buy it
First of all, let’s start with steep retail prices for the segment. The 58kWh version was €47,225 including extras (seats, wheels, keyless entry and start). Its starting price is €42,930. The most powerful version starts from €46,020 without extras. The car we tested was €52,121. On top of that, there’s still the range problem. While many colleagues brazenly talk about… a 550 km range, reality is far from it. The less powerful car we drove displayed 320 km range before we started. Over the 350 km we drove, we averaged 25.3 kWh/100 km. The other one’s range was 345 km and we averaged 23.5 kWh/100 km over a 362 km test. What’s the point in having a more powerfull battery, then ? Selecting the 58 kWh version is therefore more appropriate. Even more so as it can get its more expensive sister’s sporty look… (Translation: Dimitri Urbain)