Inside the electric Cupra Born: frustrating touchscreen ruins an otherwise good EV
Time for a little bit of a catch-up with what’s been going on with the Born, including punctures, but before that, a quick look around the interior. First up, there’s the fact that the bigger battery Born is a four-seater - instead of the middle rear seat there’s a shallow indent, and no middle belt. Now that’s because the Born with the 77kWh battery (useable, the battery is actually 82kWh total capacity) weighs in at a not-inconsiderable 1,946kg. If you were to put five rugby players in the thing, it might well go over its max load… hence the seat deletion.
Modern cars may all have got more porky, but batteries are innately heavy - something like a VW Golf with a petrol engine would weigh in around the 1,350kg mark. That’s actually a little bit annoying - but not something you’d struggle with as long as you knew what you were getting into - and there’s plenty of space for four. In fact, rear legroom is generous, and even though the standard rear tints look dark from the outside, the back seats are a reasonably comfortable place to be. It’s also got 385-litres of bootspace and that’s pretty good - if litres are hard to imagine, that VW Golf we were talking about, or any medium-sized ICE hatch generally has 380-litres-ish.
The V3 version that we have at Top Gear comes with sports seats wrapped in Granite Grey Dinamica cloth, and they’ve been absolutely fantastic. Supportive, warm to the touch in winter and likely won’t get overly hot in summer. No pleather-burned thighs from summer shorts - though short-wearing weather has been in short (aha) supply since we’ve had the Born. The centre-console wireless charging pad is utterly hit and miss though; if you’ve got a phone case - and very few live dangerously without - then the wireless charger constantly tells you to remove the foreign object from the charging tray. It’s slightly better if you put the phone in upside down, weirdly (camera to the bottom), but still not as reliable as cable attachment. And yes, being picky, the left-hand drive optimised windscreen wipers - they sweep the left hand side of the car first - IS slightly irritating. But generally the Born feels better put together than the equivalent VW ID3, with better materials. Cupra showing up the bigger brother there.
We’ve also been using all of the internet connectivity and other bits, and let’s face it, the VW Group infotainment is still the aspect of the Born that lets it down. Yes, you do get used to it even though the user-experience is confusing and overly complicated, but frozen and laggy screens, regular re-boots (hold the power button for 10 seconds) and general fussiness really impact on the experience. With electric cars delivering less in terms of character from their drivetrains, the cabin-side multimedia becomes even more important, and this stuff needs a total re-think, rather than an update.
Yes, the haptics are something you can finesse, but should you have to? Heel-of-thumb accidental swipes on the steering wheel are a real thing and don’t get me started on the electric windows. You reach down to drop the driver’s window, accidentally brush the ‘rear’ button (there is a swap button for front/rear rather than separate switches) and then open the rear. Then you prod and poke and the button doesn’t react. Small, but utterly frustrating. As are things like the Lane Keep assist and general need for button pressing. I live down lanes. The lane-keep assist can’t cope with one and a half car Lincolnshire byways, so will jerk the wheel at inopportune moments, so you want to switch it off, but that requires hunting it down through the menus with a couple of presses. Every third start seems to prompt a ‘new settings available’ update, and the heated steering wheel option is in a different menu to the heated seats. Plus, you have to accept your settings initially if you have the internet enabled stuff working. Honestly, you’re into eight different presses before starting off. And if you leave the car to check you’ve locked the front door? You start again, because the sensor in the seat switches the car off...
There’s been a little wobble with the Born of late. Having recently moved house and unexpectedly ended up having to rent a barn to live in, my ‘driveway’ has sprouted a couple of cattlegrids and 1.5 miles of bumpy approach road. Not a problem, except for the fact that the Born immediately burst a rear tyre going over one of the said cattlegrids - and not at 120mph, before anyone asks. A quick wheel check revealed an interesting rear suspension set-up with plastic anti-roll bars and rear drums (EVs don’t really use a huge amount of rear retardation thanks to regenerative braking, so sealed-unit drums work well), as well as a decent split in the sidewall.
Hmm. Could it have been an existing issue and the ‘grid finished the job? Possibly, but it felt very much as if the slight step onto tarmac from the cattlegrid simply burst the tyre. A few calls and a new tyre was sourced, although not for a day or so, because the specific GoodYear Efficient Grips in the correct size were ‘unusual’ according to the three tyre places I spoke to. Then a little ring around: it seems that Borns and ID3s are quite prone to punctures if my massively unscientific survey was anything to go by. Then there was the fact that once the tyre was off, I had a poke around it, and it had the softest sidewall I’ve ever seen on a non-specialist tyre.
This got me thinking - the 77kWh Born is a heavy small car - it weighs in at 1,946kg - and therefore to maintain its ‘sporty’ tag, probably needs fairly controlled damping to manage the weight. Do these EV tyres have soft sidewalls to add some ride fluency back into the equation? And do those softer sidewalls mean that pothole (or in my case, cattlegrid) pinch punctures are more likely than on other, more traditionally shod cars? Low-profile stuff is often more prone to pothole punctures, but could EVs with big wheels be just as bad? More research is needed. The upshot is that £196 (fitted) lighter, the Born is back doing what it does best, and heading out over the cattlegrids at less than 1mph.