The CUPRA Born adds a more appealing twist to established VW Group engineering for compact EVs. Jonathan Crouch takes a look.
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.4 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.
Even though the CUPRA Born has almost exactly the same engineering as its Volkswagen ID.4 and Skoda Enyaq iV VW Group EV cousins, we're promised that it will offer a quite distinct driving experience. The Spanish brand spent a lot of time fine-tuning the chassis, the steering and the powertrain in order to deliver this. As a consequence, the speed-sensitive Progressive steering's more direct and the ride height's lower than the in-house EV rivals just mentioned - 50mm lower at the front and 10mm lower at the rear. 'DCC' 'Dynamic Chassis Control' adaptive damping has been standardised - and specifically tuned with four selectable settings: 'Range', 'Comfort', 'Individual' and 'CUPRA'. There's also a specially calibrated traction control system supposed to be able to keep the Born moving in all conditions. Otherwise though, the engineering is as you'll find it with the ID.4 and the Enyaq iV - in terms of the available battery packs and electric motors you can have. There's an entry-level version with a 45kWh battery and a 150PS electric motor, but most will want the extra range of the 58kWh variant, which can be had with either a standard 204PS motor or an 'e-Boost' one with 230PS. That top 230PS 'e-Boost' motor can also be had mated to a longer-range 77kWh battery. The E-Boost function offers a short-term power boost for easier overtaking.
Design and Build
As befits its sportier positioning, the Born looks a touch more dynamic than its VW Group ID.4 or Enyaq iV cousins. Measurements of 4,322mm in length and 1,537mm in height make it about 100mm longer and 30mm lower than an ID.3. And the styling is quite different too, with an unusual textured C-pillar panel which is supposed to give the impression of a 'floating' roof line. Plus there's CUPRA's usual trademark copper -coloured trim for the front splitter and for alloy wheels available in sizes between 16 and 18-inches. There's a sportier feeling inside too, with bucket seats and more copper-coloured trimming touches. And there's a 12-inch centre touchscreen to replace the 10-inch one you'd get in an ID.4. The environmental theme is pursued via a couple of eco-conscious leather-free upholstery options. Either 'Seaqual Yarn' (made from upcycled marine plastics); or, as an extra, 'Dinamica' (an alcantara-like material made from reclaimed polyester fibres). The relatively long 2,767mm wheelbase benefits rear passenger legroom. And boot space, which at 385-litres is slightly more than you get in a conventional family hatch like, say, a Golf or a SEAT Leon.
Market and Model
Pricing here is slightly above what you'd pay for rival Skoda Enyaq iV but it isn't very much different to what you'd have to find for a directly equivalent Volkswagen ID.4. Which means that for a CUPRA Born, you'll be paying from around £35,000 for the base 'V1' version with the 58kWh battery and 204PS electric motor; there are also plusher 'V2' and 'V3' variants of the same car available. And you can ask your dealer about a smaller-battery 45kWh 150PS derivative, which will be slightly more affordable. The remaining batteries - 58kWh 230PS e-Boost and 77kWh 230PS e-Boost - both only come with either 'V2' or 'V3' levels of trim. The Born 58kWh 230PS e-Boost costs from around £37,500, while the Born 77kWh 230PS e-Boost costs from just over £40,000. Lots of safety equipment comes standard across the range, including predictive adaptive cruise control, traffic sign recognition and high beam assist. Plus there's the Travel Assist system which can take over steering, throttle and braking on the highway. Options include a 360-degree parking camera, a 'Parking Assist' set-up that can steer you into spaces, 'Side Assist' to help with overtaking blind spots and 'Exit Assist' to warn passengers from getting out of the car into the face of oncoming traffic.
Cost of Ownership
First and foremost, you're going to want to know about driving range. The base 45kWh 150PS model offers up to 211 miles of driving range. Most customers though, will probably choose the mid-level 58kWh 204PS variant, which improves that showing to 263 miles of range. Stretch to a top derivative with the 77kWh battery and the range figure rises to 335 miles. As for charging, well for the 58kWh battery, 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. The larger 77kWh battery can gain 62 miles of range in just 7 minutes if you happen to be using a 125kW charger, which can manage a 5 to 80% charge in 35 minutes. Customers will be offered a CUPRA-branded domestic wall box for home charging, which can be controlled using the company's 'Easy Charging' smart phone app. CUPRA reckons that a typical Born user will save about £730 a year in operating expenses over what they'd pay to run a comparable combustion-engined model. It's not only that your energy costs will be lower: you should also make savings in insurance, road tax and the fact that no oil changes are required. The Spanish maker says that its aim is to make sure that the battery pack lasts as long as the car and, sure enough, that battery pack is warrantied to have at least 70% of its usable capacity after eight years or 100,000 miles.
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. And it also fits with this design's mildly dynamic vibe. Yes, in some ways it's a Volkswagen ID.3 and Skoda Enyaq iV clone, but at the same time, it also offers something just a little different - and arguably more appealing. The sort of EV customer looking at cars in this sector like, say, Nissan's Ariya or Ford's Mustang Mach-E who probably wouldn't have been interested in an ID.4 or an Enyaq iV might well take a second glance at this Born; and possibly also a test drive. At which point CUPRA's efforts in fine-tuning the drive dynamics of this car may well shine through. This Born has identity.