Cupra Born overview
The Cupra Born we're already pretty familiar with. Named after a trendy neighbourhood in Barcelona, it's a sharper-looking, and theoretically sharper-driving cousin of the Volkswagen ID.3. Look at both in profile and it's clear that they're closer than cousins, in fact.
Cupra is, of course, the sporty and electric brand spun off from SEAT, and which will in pretty short order entirely replace SEAT as a car maker. Cupra has proven itself a pretty engaging replacement - check out the fun-to-drive Formentor for example, and the sporty Cupra Leons - but has it actually managed to make one of the first true electric hot hatches by adding some extra horsepower to the standard Born, creating this e-Boost model?
Cupra Born model range
The Born range starts with the standard 204hp model, driving the rear wheels with its 150kW electric motor, and with a 58kWh (usable capacity) battery. It has an official range of 427km on a full charge and a price tag - including governmental incentives - of €43,735. That makes it, at the time of writing, a couple of hundred Euro more expensive than the equivalent VW ID.3, but these things tend to fluctuate back and forth a little, and there are differences in specification too.
Speaking of which, as standard the Born comes with 18-inch alloy wheels, dark tinted side glass, LED headlights, all-round electric windows, puddle lights in the mirrors (which shine the pointy Cupra logo onto the tarmac), sports suspension, heated leather steering wheel, multicolour ambient lighting, bucket seats with 'Sequal' recycled upholstery, heated front seats, heated windscreen washers, two-zone climate control, a 12-inch infotainment screen, a 5.3-inch digital instrument screen, adaptive cruise control, auto high beam, rear-view camera, traffic sign recognition, keyless entry and ignition, a wireless phone charger, front and rear parking sensors and an acoustic windscreen.
For €49,385, including incentives again, you can upgrade to the Born e-Boost, which means extra power (231hp) and a slight cut in range (422km). Standard equipment includes 19-inch alloys, an upgraded steering wheel with extra buttons, massaging front seats, a rear armrest, a 360-degree 'top view' parking camera system, rear crossing traffic alert, automated lane change, traffic jam assistance and memory parking system.
You can also upgrade the e-Boost model to the larger 77kWh battery, which will cost €55,410 and which will boost the range to 552km.
On the safety front, all Cupra Borns come with a tyre pressure monitor, three ISOFIX child seat anchors (two in the back and one in the front), pedestrian and cyclist protection, e-call emergency assistance, driver drowsiness detection, and emergency steering support with turn assist. The Born gets a full five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP, with a 93 per cent score for adult occupant protection, 89 per cent for child occupants and 73 per cent for vulnerable road user protection.
For the 241-registration period, Cupra has a PCP finance package available for the Born, with 2.9 per cent APR interest, and repayments of €319 per month, which includes a three-year inclusive service package. Check out the Cupra Ireland website for the most up-to-date offers.
The Cupra Born interior
If the Born looks good on the outside, then it's even better on the inside. It takes the basic architecture of the ID.3 but adds unique materials and a slightly more effusive sense of style. There are more tactile surfaces, and the high-backed bucket seats - with their Sequal yarn made from recycled ocean-recovered plastics - really liven things up, as well as being enormously comfortable and supportive.
The steering wheel gets a neat, small centre and a pleasantly chunky rim, and the small driver's instrument display behind it proves beyond a doubt that it's better to have one than to rely entirely on the central touchscreen as some brands do. There are huge storage bins in the centre console, including cup-holders and a wireless phone charger, and two USB-C sockets. The door bins are large, and have soft material lining so that items don't rattle about too much. I love the little flick-switch drive selector, mounted to the side of the instrument panel, and which you can reach with an out-stretched digit without having to take your hand off the wheel. In the centre of the dash sits the big touchscreen, which looks ok, but isn't the best of the breed.
The Born scores back some points in the back. Space is more than generous in all directions, even though there was a big glass roof with a rolling sunblind in our test car. There are two more USB-C sockets, and just about enough room for a third rear passenger in the centre seat, although they'll be perched up. At least the floor is properly flat, so there's no fighting over foot space.
Behind, there's a 385-litre boot featuring quite a deep loading lip, and the rear seats don't fold fully flat. Equally, there's no 'frunk' in the nose for stashing charging cables, so you'll have to find space for those in the boot.
The Cupra Born e-Boost driving experience
So, the critical question - does the 27hp power boost over the standard Cupra Born make this e-Boost model a sporty delight to drive? Not quite. For a start, the rear-mounted electric motor has exactly the same 310Nm of torque as the standard Born, so there's little-to-no difference in terms of initial acceleration. There is an improvement in the 0-100km/h time, which falls from 7.3 seconds to 6.6 seconds, but to be honest you'd have to have the driving sensitivity of Lewis Hamilton to really detect that on the road. Equally, because the extra power is only produced when you've got our foot flat to the floor, you're just not going to feel it all that often.
In spite of the Born's standard sports suspension, there's also precious little difference between how it drives and how the Volkswagen ID.3 drives. If you spent a day hopping straight from one to the other, I suspect you'd find that the Born has slightly sharper steering, slightly keener turn rates and fractionally better balance but the gap between the two is slim.
Does that really matter though? Well, I suppose it ought to - after all, the whole point of Cupra is that it's supposed to be a sporty brand, offering something different to the VW norm, but we suspect most buyers will choose based on the Cupra's style. What the Born has inherited from the ID.3 is a relaxed and comfortable driving experience, with excellent refinement and a very comfortable ride quality made only slightly stiffer by the 19-inch alloy wheels. In that respect, it's an ideal EV because you won't be driving an electric car as if your hair is on fire very much.
The Born is exceptionally economical with its battery, though. Overall in our week with the car, including some long motorway runs, we averaged 16.5kWh/100km, easily allowing a 400km range on one charge. The battery can be charged at up to 11kW from an AC charger, or 135kW from a DC charger.
Our verdict on the Cupra Born e-Boost
The extra power and acceleration of the Born e-Boost hasn't really changed the car's character. That's both bad and good. It's bad because it's a defiantly un-sporty car made by a sporty brand, and it's also far from cheap. On the upside, it's handsome, exceptionally comfortable and refined, smooth to drive, has decent range and very good electric economy.
What do the rest of the team think?
The car world is changing apace, and I don't believe that there will ever be the same level of demand for truly engaging hot hatches as there once was. Hence, the car makers must change with the times. No, the Cupra Born e-Boost isn't as involving to drive as an older SEAT Leon Cupra, for example, but it's still decent fun framed against the background of other electrically-powered hatchbacks. That aside, it will attract buyers for its sporty image inside and out first and foremost.
Shane O' Donoghue - Editor