Cupra Born review: Bringing hot hatch attitude to the electric family car segment

First electric family car from Spain’s performance-focused brand has hot hatch looks and decent handling but lukewarm straight line performance

The Curpa Born is the first purely electric car from the Spanish performance brand and, like the Formentor, is unique to the marque rather than being a rebadged Seat.

Cupra says it is the perfect match between electrification and performance, using the proven VW Group MEB platform but with Cupra’s own sporty spin on it.

Recently the EV market has been dominated by large SUVs, so the Born is a breath of fresh air in offering an EV drivetrain in a regular family hatchback form. That puts it in competition with the related VW ID.3, the venerable Nissan Leaf, Citroen e-C4 and newcomer the MG4.

Design and interior

Despite sharing certain structural elements with the ID.3, Cupra has gone all-out to make the Born as individual and sporty looking as possible, and it’s paid off. Where other EVs have smooth, almost grille-less fronts, the Born has an aggressive black air intake that stands out thanks to the copper trim line that runs across it. Gloss black lower door trims and a chunky rear diffuser help make the Born look hunkered down over its 20-inch alloys and the side-to-side rear light bar emphasises the car’s width, adding up to one of the most stylish and sporty EVs out there.

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The interior is a picture of simplicity - until you need to do anything. Cupra has gone for a buttonless interior which means surfaces are flat and uncluttered, with just a roller cover on the bare centre console and a massive 12-inch touchscreen and 5.3-inch instrument display breaking up the simple lines. Most materials are standard VW group greys and blacks but the Born is enhanced by the trim finished in Cupra’s trademark gleaming copper.

It all looks great but the Born, like the Formentor, is betrayed by the absolutely appalling user interface. With no physical controls, everything is buried in touchscreen menus or beneath touch sensitive sliders that offer no feedback and require you to look away from the road for even the simplest tasks. Like most modern VW group cars, it’s treading a fine line between the incredibly infuriating and the actually dangerous.

Away from the hateful HMI, the Born’s interior is spacious and well-appointed, with plenty of charging points and storage spaces, plus a 385-litre boot. The deep sports seats look great finished in Dinamica - a faux suede made from recycled materials - and are supportive without being too grippy, while rear leg and headroom is good for the class.

Motor and driving

The Born is offered with a choice of rear-drive powertrain setups, running from a 201bhp model with a 58kWh battery (tested here) up to a 210bhp version offering 343 miles from a 77kWh battery. There’s no confirmation yet if or when the UK will get the entry level 148bhp version with a 45kWh battery.

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On paper, our test car’s spec is good for a 0-62mph time of 7.3 seconds and up to 260 miles of range. On the road, this lower-powered Born doesn’t feel as quick as you might expect from a “performance” brand. It has the instant low-speed response common to all EVs but not the hot hatch urgency that its looks and market positioning suggest. On the bright side, we saw an impressive 3.9 miles/kWh efficiency over the course of a week and several hundred miles of mixed driving.

In keeping with its sporty image, you can specify an optional dynamic chassis control pack with adaptive damping but even without that the Born is a pleasure to drive. With a lower, stiffer ride and wider tyres than the ID.3, it strikes a good balance between responsive handling, composed body control and a supple ride that avoids the bashing and crashing of some “sporty” cars. The low centre of gravity also helps with impressive grip but the weight of the batteries is always apparent, so while it’s better to drive than its rivals, it’s no match for the best hot hatches.

Price and specification

The Cupra Born range starts at £34,715, rising to just under £42,000 for the top-spec, big battery model. Every model gets LED lighting all round, a full suite of connected services, wireless smartphone mirroring, reversing camera and driver assistance including adaptive cruise control, predictive brake regeneration, lane assist and forward collision warning. Step up to the tested V3 and you’ll get electrically adjustable, heated massage seats, a heated steering wheel, augmented reality head-up display, 20-inch alloys and the Dinamica upholstery for just under £40,000.

Verdict

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The Born looks brilliant and has its rivals beaten for driving dynamics thanks to Cupra’s tweaks to the platform. It’s also well priced among those rivals. However, despite its pleasing handling, the 201bhp version lacks the feel of a performance model and the buttonless interior is a nightmare to use, harming the car’s the appeal.

Cupra Born V3

Price: £38,390 (£38,995 as tested); Motor: Single synchronous electric motor; Battery: 58kWh; Power: 201bhp; Torque: 229lb ft; Transmission: Single-speed automatic, rear-wheel-drive; Top speed: 99mph; 0-62mph: 7.3 seconds; Range: 260 miles; Consumption: 3.4-4m/kWh; Charging: up to 120kW