Cupra Born e-Boost - long term review - Report No:5 2023 | Top Gear
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Long-term review

Cupra Born e-Boost - long term review

£43,735 (£45,100 as tested)
Published: 20 Apr 2023

Ten things we don't like about the Cupra Born e-Boost

Before anyone thinks that this is a smear campaign against the Born, I’d like to point out that I actually think this is a very solid little electric hatch with tonnes to recommend it - which have been covered in other reports. But once you’ve lived with a thing for a bit, there are niggles that start to grate, and they can’t be smoothed away with the forgiveness of unfamiliarity.

So here’s a few things that have bothered us about the Born, in a handy list - although not ranked in order of annoyance, because that would be far too difficult to figure out. We’ll cover off the good stuff in the next update…

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1. It chimes when you get out

A safety tinkle-slash-chime, probably, to let you know that the car has deactivated. You don’t have to actually use the Born’s on/off button on the steering column, because the sensor in the seat will activate the on-board systems when you plonk your bottom into it, and similarly deactivate when you get out. But you can quietly arrive home late when everyone’s asleep, creep up the driveway silently, stealthily arrive … and then when you leave the car, it’ll chime. Loudly. With the door open. And then I tend to roll my eyes hard enough for people to also hear the tendons in my skull creaking. STOP IT WITH THE EXTRA NOISES. Although the Cupra is by some way not the worst offender in the pantheon of annoying chiming noises and bothersome bongs.

2. Dirty business

Again, not something exclusively annoying about the Born, but the uncovered rear camera is basically useless for most of the year. A hatchback’s aerodynamic profile - short, vertical rear - mean that they get muck all across the back. I live in Lincolnshire, down what is essentially a farm track with pretensions, and that means that within 50 yards of driving in winter, the rear camera is rendered pointless. And dark winter nights are when you need it most. The cameras that live under flip-out badges make so much more sense…

3. The windscreen wipers are left-handed

Seems like a small thing, but the windscreen wipers on the Born are set up for left-hand drive operation - so they sweep the left-hand side of the screen first. Which annoys - surely there was an easy fix for that one?

4. Wacky window switches

Ok, so I’ve mentioned this before, but the VW driver’s door electric window switches are a disaster. Basically, there are two rockers - left and right - and a touchpad just fore of those marked ‘rear’. The theory is that you tap the pad to switch from front windows to rear to open the back windows. OK, so that makes sense if you’re desperately trying to save 0.1p per car. But the touchpad isn’t reliable. So you go to open, say, the driver’s window without looking and brush the swap pad, leading you to open the rear offside window. This happens a lot - and it’s annoying when getting a ticket from a car park machine, for example. You then stab at the touchpad, which has a sloppy delay, causing you to flick back and forth, open and shut the rear window, half open the front etc. It’s fine if you are entirely and slowly deliberate, but feels like a poor solution to a problem absolutely no one had. And worse? It looks like the same stuff has appeared in Ford’s new MEB-based Explorer. Stop this please, it’s becoming a plague. 

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5. The infotainment. Again

A bugbear for any VW-based current infotainment - and telling that the just-revealed ID.2all apparently has a lot more physical buttons - but the infotainment package in the Born (and any VW ID product) is woeful. The touch sensitive pads are inconsistent in their reactions, which surely must be Job One for any unbuttoned set-up, and everything seems to be set up for maximum confusion. The steering wheels pads can be altered with a brush of sleeve or accidental heel of hand swipe, the bar underneath the main screen isn’t illuminated - making it useless at night. The hierarchy of information seems Byzantine and overly complex, and you have to visit several screens to alter what seem to be similar functions - see seat heating and heated wheel functions. Then there’s the fact that the system regularly freezes - re-set is a 10 second hold of the power pad - unless it’s having one of those days when the power off button is also inoperable, which means you have to get out of the car and lock it. You also need to ‘update the settings’ every two or three starts, as well as switch off the lane keep assist function every journey unless you live in a place where the carriageways are as crisp and clear as some sort of bizarre toytown. 

Yes, you do get a little more used to it after a while, but frankly this whole system could do with being binned and starting again. 

6. Why four?

The 77kWh Born only features four seats - just like the ID.3 which shares the same underpinnings. There was a rumour going around that this was because of the need for space for the extra battery capacity, but more likely is the fact that five seats and a full car would likely exceed the maximum weight limits for the vehicle itself. So there’s a ‘just in case’ element for those who may decide to drive around with five 100kg rugby players crowbarred into the space. Not a huge problem, but you do get the feeling that they could have managed a five-seater with a tiny bit more effort. After all, the e-Boost version we have here has upgraded front discs. 

7. No peaking

It’s still slightly frustrating to have charged the Born in many different situations, at some really big chargers and from very low states of charge, and never to have achieved the 135kW max charge rate. The absolute maximum we’ve managed is 111/112kW from about 5 per cent SoC (state of charge). In the big scheme of things, that’s not too far off at all, but not even once? We may have to move to California. 

8. Is it haunted?

Weird gripe alerts. The Born will do two slightly odd things now and again. One, it will push the front wheels on mild lock and under acceleration (like out of a junction). Not much and probably down to low-rolling resistance tyres, but you can feel it. Two, if you’re three-point turning quickly - very possible thanks to the ability to flip between forwards and reverse at the click of a switch - the power steering pump can groan like the unoiled drawbridge of a castle. And it’s not just ‘our’ Born that does it - three other owners have confirmed similar noisy pumping. 

9. Un-stereo stereo

The stereo system doesn’t have rear speakers unless you upgrade to the optional Beats system. The front stuff is perfectly acceptable, but once you’ve noticed that the sound is very front-of-cabin-focussed, you can’t unhear it. 

10. Information station

It could do with more relevant information displayed permanently on the small driver information screen in front of the driver. Just a simple set - battery percentage, miles per kWh, range and temps would be good. Messing with the screens to get hold of EV info seems like an afterthought.

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