Cupra Born review: ID.3 in a tracksuit?

Published:03 May 2022

2022 Cupra Born front 3/4
  • At a glance
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5
  • 5 out of 5
  • 4 out of 5

► The ID.3’s sportier Spanish sibling
► Gets a range of tweaks to differentiate it
► But is it different enough? 

There’s no doubt that the Cupra Born is big news for Seat’s sportier sibling. Not only is it the brand’s second standalone car, it’s also the first to be powered exclusively by electricity. If that’s not enough to pique your interest, it’s also the first rear-wheel drive model in the stable.

We’d recommend an urgent trip to Specsavers if you haven’t clocked that this is effectively a VW ID.3 wearing a tracksuit and trainers. Given the base they were given, has Cupra been able to inject the right amount of excitement, and could this be the first all-electric hot hatch? 

To find out, we’ve been driven both power outputs available in the UK, the regular 201bhp car and 228bhp eBoost model.

Less fridge, more funk

It’s fair to say the new Cupra Born is a looker. Although it shares a platform with the VW ID.3, it’s dressed in the same folds and creases we’ve seen on the Formentor and Leon – and the results are striking to say the least. The Born looks less-appliance-like than its MEB twin; Cupra’s bronze highlights and full LED lighting work well and unlike the ID.3, there’s no unsightly black band beneath the windscreen. 

What’s different?

The Cupra features some changes under the surface too; the Born has a quicker ‘progressive’ steering rack than the ID.3 and lowered suspension as standard (15mm at front and 10mm at the rear). The way the Cupra applies its power to the road is different, too; it’s available with wider 235 section performance tyres, less restrictive stability control and a different tune for the optional adaptive dampers. 

The Born is available with just two battery sizes in the UK, 58kWh and 77kWh. You won’t find the ID.3’s smallest 45kWh battery nor its least powerful motor here, so range is at the very least 261 miles for the 58kWh eBoost model, rising to 340 miles for the 77kWh version.

Just like similar modes we’ve seen on VW Group cars, eBoost offers a small power increase but only does so if parameters such as temperature and available charge align.

2022 Cupra Born rear cornering

How does it drive?

As you’d expect from a compact EV, the Cupra works rather well in town. Step off acceleration in all models is punchy if not neck-snapping and traction is good. It still feels brisk as speeds increase, although we suspect a Hyundai Kona electric or Kia e-Niro would still embarrass it in a straight-up drag race let alone a ‘proper’ hot hatch.

On winding roads, Cupra’s engineering tweaks are more noticeable: The Born’s quicker rack means it feels marginally keener to dive into flowing bends and hairpins than the ID.3. Revised DCC and ESP add to the engagement, although the harder you drive it the scrappier it feels.

The quick steering highlights the sheer weight of the thing in rapid-fire S bends so it never feels truly agile. Similarly, even with the ESC in its least intrusive setting you’ll only get a whiff of oversteer before the electronics cut power and apply the brakes.

As with many electric cars the brakes take some getting used to with responses that vary depending on the amount of regen the car wants. We also found their power lacking somewhat on a spirited mountain drive.

And while the firm, tightly damped ride certainly puts you in a sporty mood, it’s rather fidgety on the imperfections so typical on UK roads. We suspect the 20in wheels and lack of adaptive dampers on our UK test car did the Born no favours, but then the ID.3 isn’t the comfiest of things, either.

2022 Cupra Born dash

What’s it like inside?

The Cupra’s interior will be familiar to anyone who has driven an ID.3, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like the VW, key information is shown on a pod that moves with the steering wheel, and functions are controlled via the wheel with capacitive buttons – or a floating touchscreen. Like the ID.3, the gears are also controlled via a shifting mechanism attached to the cockpit dials. 

The Cupra’s larger 12-inch touchscreen is marginally less infuriating than the ID.3’s, although it can’t match the response of Tesla’s systems or the user-friendliness of Kia and Hyundai’s. You’ll find plenty of hard plastics around, but our test car’s liberal use of man-made suede, copper accents and contrast stitching help lift things significantly over the ID.3.

Even after getting used to it, the touch-sensitive controls on the steering wheel are too easy to set off accidentally and far less intuitive than a traditional button or dial. We also found the MPV-like split A pillars could obstruct your view when pulling out of junctions. Space is good by hatchback standards although the boot is nothing to write home about.

The verdict?

In isolation, the Cupra Born is an impressive bit of kit. Stylish, with more than enough power for urban environments, it also feels a touch sporty when you get past the city limits. The interior is solid too, and it’s competitive on paper too.  However, the biggest problem for the Cupra comes in the form of its MEB-powered VW counterpart. 

The Cupra may look significantly better, but in lesser 58kWh trims it’s hard to justify buying it over the VW. Some of the tweaks Cupra engineers have made are very subtle – and certainly don’t put daylight between the two MEB cars.

In higher-spec trims with all boxes ticked there should be more of a difference, but it’s still not as pronounced as we’d hope. 

Specs are for 170kW eBoost model. 

Specs

Price when new: £0
On sale in the UK: Now
Engine: Single electric motor, mounted at the rear
Transmission: Single-speed automatic, rear-wheel drive
Performance: 228bhp, 229lb ft, 6.6sec 0-62mph, 99mph top speed, 260-mile WLTP range from 58kWh battery pack
Weight / material: 1749kg / steel
Dimensions (length/width/height in mm): 4322/1809/1540mm

Photo Gallery

  • 2022 Cupra Born rear 3/4
  • 2022 Cupra Born front cornering
  • 2022 Cupra Born rear cornering
  • 2022 Cupra Born front cornering 2
  • 2022 Cupra Born urban profile
  • 2022 Cupra Born urban cornering
  • 2022 Cupra Born profile
  • 2022 Cupra Born dash
  • 2022 Cupra Born infotainment
  • 2022 Cupra Born drivers display
  • 2022 Cupra Born steering wheel controls
  • 2022 Cupra Born rear seats
  • 2022 Cupra Born boot
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