Cupra Born Review 2021 | Top Gear
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BBC TopGear
Car Review

Cupra Born

£ N/A
710
Published: 13 Oct 2021
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A very competent electric hatchback, but not quite the EV hot hatch we expected from Cupra

Good stuff

Sharper styling and a more expensive-feeling interior than you get in a VW ID.3

Bad stuff

Not enough speed or drama to be considered a hot hatch. Lack of buttons is still fiddly

Overview

What is it?

It has been a long time coming, the Cupra Born. We first saw it as the Seat el Born concept – named after a particularly trendy neighbourhood in Barcelona – way back in March 2019. So why the brand change?

Well, if the Born had been a Seat it would have had to be slightly cheaper than an ID.3 (as is the case with the Leon and the equivalent Golf) to attract customers. If you’ve sat in a lower-spec ID.3 and poked around at some of the cheap plastics, though, you’ll know that the Volkswagen has already been designed on a budget. It’s all to do with battery costs and profit margins being much tighter for the so-called legacy manufacturers switching to EVs. As a Cupra, the VW Group can price the Born slightly higher than an ID.3 – charging a little bit more for some sharper design and a touch more sportiness. Apparently.  

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How has it changed since that el Born concept?

Cupra says it has spent more time and money on refining the styling of the Born. It gets a much angrier face than the el Born and the equivalent ID.3, as well as little flicks on the side skirts, a longer rear spoiler, dramatic 18- to 20-inch wheel options and a slightly chubby-looking diffuser (which is exaggerated in the lighter grey exterior colour).

Speaking of colour, Cupra describes its palette as “sophisticated neutral”. From what we’ve seen on the Formentor and its hot Leons, that means a mix of navy blue, a couple of shades of grey and that all-important copper detailing. 

Despite all of the extra styling work, though, in the flesh the Born does look remarkably similar to the ID.3. It’s the boxy shape, the identical glass, the short overhangs and the similar C-pillar that really give the game away. Whether that’s a bad thing will be down to personal preference.

You mentioned extra sportiness?

Correct. Technically there’ll be four different iterations of the Born from launch – with the most powerful pair being offered with something Cupra is calling the ‘e-Boost performance pack’. 

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Tick that box and the rear-mounted electric motor is able to drive the rear wheels with a maximum of 228bhp for a short amount of time under full throttle – bear in mind the most powerful ID.3 available right now makes 201bhp, although we’re expecting twin-motor, 4WD versions of both the VW and the Cupra in the near future. 

You can combine that e-Boost function with a 77kWh battery for max range (335 miles and 0-62mph in 7.0secs) or with the Born’s mid-sized 58kWh unit for its quickest 0-62mph sprint (6.6secs and around 260 miles of range).

There’s a few minor hardware tweaks to try and distance the Born from the ID.3 too, including wider tyres and suspension that’s 15mm lower on the front axle and 10mm at the rear. You also get the option of the VW Group’s Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) no matter what powertrain you pick, and the traction control can be loosened into ESC Sport. 

What about the rest of the range?

Under the two e-Boosters is another 58kWh battery option, although this time it’s paired with a 201bhp motor that means a couple of extra miles of range. That’s expected to be the best-seller when the Born arrives on UK shores and is the only spec we’ve driven to date. Click on through to the Driving tab of this review to see what we made of it.

There’ll also be a base spec version that’s likely to start at just over £30,000 after the UK Government’s plug-in car grant has been applied. That’ll pair a 45kWh battery with a 148bhp motor for a total of around 211 miles of range. Not bad.

What's the verdict?

A very competent electric hatchback, but not quite the EV hot hatch we expected from Cupra

We’ll be able to properly put the Born up against an ID.3 and other rivals when we know the prices for each spec in the UK, but right now the Spanish contender seems like a very decent first EV from Cupra. 

That is as long as you aren’t expecting an all-electric hot hatch… With a maximum output of 228bhp and even that only available for 30 seconds at a time, it’s by no means a hardcore, performance version of the MEB skateboard setup. 

Think of it as an ID.3 alternative with a slightly plusher (and more eco-friendly) interior, lots of copper-coloured detailing and a pointy snout and you’ll be much closer to the mark.

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