2022 Cupra Born e-Boost review
Spaniards deliver an electric GTi with Cupra's first EV, the Born
Cupra’s new Born shows electric entertainment doesn’t have to be shockingly expensive. This speedy and sporty EV from the young Barcelona-based brand costs less than some ICE-powered hot hatches, while delivering a similarly decent dose of driver delight.
In Europe the Born is already on sale in some markets, priced below the VW Golf GTI, a car that in Australia is $53,100 before on-road costs. The Cupra’s price advantage in Italy, for example, is the equivalent of $5000. And this is before EV incentives are taken into account.
While the Born is confirmed for Australia, it won’t appear at the same time as the three-model launch line-up in mid-2022. The EV is instead expected to arrive sometime late next year or early in 2023.
There’s no way of knowing exactly how much the Born will cost. Details of specification and equipment level are still a long way from being settled. Cupra people in Australia are cagey, but hint that around the $55,000 mark isn’t a foolish guess. European price relativities indicate they may be able to do better than this, at least at the affordable end of the Born range.
UPDATE, December 2022: Australian Born pricing announced
Cupra has confirmed Australian pricing and features for its Born electric hatch. Get all the details at the link below.
While it’s distant, the Cupra may well be the car to provide Australians with their first opportunity to buy something built on VW Group’s purpose-designed EV architecture, MEB. The Cupra is made in Germany, at VW’s big EV-only Zwickau plant, and is based on the ID3.
The ID3, remember, was the first car built on MEB. Since the Golf-size hatchback went into production in 2020, it’s been joined by seven other models built on the versatile platform.
There are compact crossover SUVs (VW ID4, Skoda Enyaq and Audi Q4 e-tron), fastback variations on the same theme (VW ID5 and Audi Q4 e-tron Sportback), plus a larger, three-row, China-only crossover SUV (VW ID6) on a longer wheelbase than all the rest.
All of these, despite being closely related, have their own style. The Cupra, on the other hand, has steel body panels stamped in the same presses as VW’s EV hatchback.
Seen side on, the Born’s basis is obvious. Cupra’s designers could only alter plastic parts, but the new bumpers, lights and add-ons give it more visual attitude than the mild-mannered ID3.
The differences are more marked inside the roomy cabin. The Born’s front seats have more pronounced bolstering, plus a helping of eco-cred. The standard seat covering is partly made from Seaqual, a textile made in Spain from recycled plastic.
A recycled microfibre called Dinamica is also used for the door trims and armrests, and is the optional seat covering. There’s also a new steering wheel design, and the Cupra’s dark-toned interior gives the impression of being furnished with higher quality materials than the VW.
But the most important changes are to the Born’s powertrain and chassis. Cupra plans to position itself purely as a performance brand in Australia, something it doesn’t do elsewhere in the world.
We can safely ignore the coming low-powered small-battery Born and focus on the two variants of interest.
The main difference between these is battery packs; 58kWh or 77kWh. Only the 58kWh is currently on sale in Europe. Like the ID3, its rear axle is driven by a 150kW/310Nm motor.
But Cupra-specific e-Boost software will soon increase power to 170kW, for both the existing 58kWh and coming 77kWh Borns. Extra steering wheel buttons, for instant access to their additional Cupra driving mode, larger front brake discs and 19-inch wheels are also part of the e-Boost package.
Because its smaller battery pack weighs less, the 58kWh Born with e-Boost is the line-up’s performance champ. Cupra claims a 0-100km/h time of 6.6 seconds, just a few tenths more than, say, a Golf GTI. It’s the one we recently drove on a good mixture of roads in and around Barcelona.
Other key Born alterations are slightly lower ride height, recalibrated suspension and steering, and Cupra-defined driving modes. As well as the Cupra mode mentioned earlier, these are Range, Comfort, Performance and Individual.
While e-Boost mode lifts performance a notch, it’s the class and cohesion of Cupra’s chassis alterations that give the Born a more charismatic personality than the ID3. It’s keener to corner, steers more sweetly and, surprisingly, rides better.
Exploiting the extra urge and handling fluency, it’s soon obvious that tyres are the Born’s weakest link. Frequent interventions by ABS and ESC signal the limits of the standard 215-section rubber have been reached long before the chassis runs out of talent. The wider 235-section tyres optional in Europe should be standard.
Even so, the Born stands out as the small and affordable EV with the most driver appeal. At the same time, it delivers on EV essentials like driving range and charging rates.
The e-Boost equipped versions of the Born are yet to be homologated, but the 58kWh pack is expected to deliver a WLTP-rated driving range of around 420km and the 77kWh pack about 540km.
Both are equipped with an 11kW on-board AC charger, while DC fast-charging maximums are 120kW for the 58kWh and 170kW for the 77kWh.
These are good specs compared to other small EV hatchbacks already on the Australian market. Like the Leaf, for example. But the Cupra doesn’t only have a longer driving range and faster charging than Nissan’s well-known EV.
The rear-drive Born has better weight distribution than the nose-heavy, front-drive Leaf, and a tighter turning circle. The refinement of the Cupra’s drivetrain is outstanding, and it’s better looking inside and out.
There’s plenty about the spirited Born to draw EV-curious Australians who aren’t looking for too much high-voltage excitement.
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