The electric CUPRA Born is basically a Volkswagen ID.3 with a few engineering and cosmetic tweaks; there’s no real difference compared to the ID.3 in terms of performance, but the small changes have resulted in an excellent all-round car.
CUPRA is the sporty brand of SEAT. So far it has launched the Formentor ‘SUV coupe’, available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain, which looks good and is fun to drive. Now we have the electric CUPRA Born, based on the Volkswagen ID.3. The expectation is that the Born is the ‘performance’ version of the ID.3. However the statistics don’t support this theory. So is it worth opting for the CUPRA Born over the Volkswagen ID.3?
The design and engineering of the CUPRA Born are essentially the same as the Volkswagen ID.3. However the external styling has been spiced up to make the Born look more sporty, and it’s a similar story with the modern interior, which has some interesting design touches and materials. Both the inside and outside feature copper trim details.
Although the Born doesn’t have a large footprint on the road, and it looks like the shape has been determined in a wind tunnel rather than for practicality, there’s more space inside than you would imagine, thanks to the bespoke electric vehicle platform. The boot is also bigger than you might expect, at 385 litres. There’s even a small space under the floor at the back of the boot where you can stow the charging cable out of the way.
The CUPRA Born has the same 58 kWh lithium-ion battery as the ID.3, a 204 PS electric motor, and, in a departure from traditional Volkswagen Group conventions, rear-wheel drive.
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All of the following figures are exactly the same for the Volkswagen ID.3 and the CUPRA Born: 204 PS of power; 310 Nm of torque; 99 mph maximum speed; 0-62 mph in 7.3 seconds. And the CUPRA Born is slightly heavier, with a kerb weight of 1811-1934 kg compared to the 1,794 kg of the Volkswagen ID.3.
So why is the CUPRA Born touted as the sporty model? The main differences are that the CUPRA Born has Dynamic Chassis Control as standard; a platform which sits 15mm lower at the front axle and 10mm lower at the rear axle; Electronic Stability Control (ESC) with its own unique application which allows more cross-axle slip than other Group models.
The above features don’t sound as though they should be responsible for transforming a car’s driving experience, but whereas the ID.3 is very comfortable and refined to drive, the CUPRA Born has somehow become more of a driver’s car.
The danger with most cars that have some form of ‘performance’ image is that they have huge alloy wheels, low profile tyres, and stiffer suspension, resulting in the ride quality being destroyed. Although the Born in V3 spec has 20-inch alloy wheels, compared to 18-inch wheels for the V1 and 19-inch wheels for the V2, the ride quality is excellent, with only the most severe potholes and bumps transferring the impacts through the car.
Handling is also good, helped by a low centre of gravity and rear-wheel drive, which delivers much better grip and a rewarding driving experience than would be possible with a front-wheel drive chassis. The car feels agile, despite it weighing almost two tonnes. But the Born also feels stable (and refined) at motorway speeds.
Even though the CUPRA Born has no more power than the ID.3, the instantly-available torque helps to create a responsive, enjoyable driving experience.
There are three drive modes: Range, Comfort and Performance (as well as Individual). And as above, you can also select Sport ESC mode. Although this is said to be one of the three key differentiators between the ID.3 and the Born, this setting doesn’t allow a huge amount of wheel slip.
The other button to press is the one that switches off the lane departure warning system. The CUPRA Born is billed as a driver’s car, but no vehicle with a lane departure warning system can be a driver’s car, as the system corrupts the steering so badly. So you need to switch off the LDW, and you’re then left with an enjoyable car.
The gear selector isn’t in the traditional position in the centre of the car, but is instead located on the right-hand side of the driver’s instrument display. Apart from this being in a different position to most cars other than a BMW i3, the issue is that you can’t see the selector or the position of the gears because all this is hidden behind the steering wheel rim. As well as ‘D’, there’s a ‘B’ setting for increased levels of brake regeneration, but there are no steering wheel-mounted paddles to adjust these levels.
So the driving experience is all good; our only main issue is with the touchscreen. Our views on touchscreens are well documented: virtually all buttons have been removed from the dashboard, with all controls being put on the touchscreen, in the latest Volkswagen Group EVs, but many other manufacturers are also doing this. The result is that rather than the driver pressing one button on the dashboard to control something, they have to press numerous buttons on the touchscreen instead.
The solution is to have well thought-out shortcut buttons. The ID.3 doesn’t have this – instead it has one main ‘home’ button that you have to press before pressing anything else. The CUPRA Born improves on this, having a number of permanent shortcut buttons at the bottom of the screen, including for navigation, media, phone, Apple CarPlay, and vehicle settings, which is good. However if you want to change the drive mode on a car, it’s really helpful to be able to do this by just pressing one button. In the Born, you have to press the Car button, then the Driver Profile button, then the button to select the drive mode that you want. Then another button-press is required to get rid of that screen. That’s four button-presses rather than one. And when you switch the car off and then re-start it, you have to do all that again, every time.
It’s a similar story to select Sport ESC mode and to switch off the lane departure warning system. The touchscreen is also slow to start up, which doesn’t help.
Under the touchscreen is a strip of plastic, which you have to touch to adjust the volume and cabin temperature, and it’s very hard to touch it in the right way to get the controls to work. And strangely, these controls aren’t lit up at night.
A final bizarre feature, again shared with the ID.3, is having just two buttons for the four electric windows, with a third button to switch the controls between the front and rear windows.
The Born has a head-up display which projects arrows on to the road (via the windscreen) to assist with satnav directions.
The CUPRA Born has an official WLTP combined driving range of 263 miles. After a week of driving well over 500 miles, much of this on motorways at 70mph, the real-world range was averaging 211 miles – well down on the official figure.
The Born can rapid charge at up to 135 kW. This translates to a 10-80% charge at a rapid charger taking around 30 minutes for the 58kWh battery. Charging from 0-100% takes 6 hours 15 minutes using an 11kW AC wall charger (ie. using a three-phase supply most likely to be found at commercial premises).
Electric cars do not charge at their maximum charge rate for an entire charging session – their charge rate typically starts off high with a battery with a low state of charge, then the charge rate decreases as the battery charge increases. See the charge curve for the CUPRA Born from Fastned:
The CUPRA Born 58kWh V3 204PS costs £38,390. Trim levels are V1, V2 and V3.
The 58kWh 204PS model is the first to be available. The plan is that in due course the Born will be available with three sizes of battery: 45kWh, 58kWh and 77kWh, and there will also be three power outputs: 150PS, 204PS and 231PS e-Boost.
The CUPRA Born is based on the Volkswagen ID.3, which is a refined and comfortable car. With a few relatively minor tweaks, but at this stage without any more performance, the CUPRA Born has become more of a rewarding driver’s car. The price is also at the more affordable end of the scale compared to some EVs. We look forward to testing the forthcoming Born models with more power and more range. In the meantime the CUPRA Born gains a Green Car Guide rating of 10 out of 10.