Is Cupra’s version of the VW ID 3 dynamic enough to support its punchier looks and drive?
With the help of PRs and motoring journalists, it’s easy to become clumsy in this business. There seems to be a common theme in the conversations that are taking place at the moment. This is evident as more people discuss how electric cars can be exciting and different. While everyone is aware of the fact that there is change, no one knows how it will manifest for those who love cars.
All of this being said, let’s now look at the Cupra Born as a new strategy to convince people that everything will be fine.
This car was initially designed as the concept Seat El-Born. However, as time went by, the VW Group suits decided to launch it under the Cupra name. It’s logical: Cupras are more expensive than Seats. The basic model starts at PS31,500 (exact prices will be announced in December 2021).
Everything looks good on paper. It’s the Cupra version the Volkswagen ID 3. This means it’s by definition (hopefully), the sportier and more emotional one. It is Cupra’s first all-electric vehicle and a “new era”.
It is heavily influenced by the MEB platform and receives a mid-mounted, skateboard battery. This battery is housed in an aluminum structure, but weighs a chunky 350 kilos. It comes in three sizes: 45kWh (58kWh), 77kWh and 77kWh. These ranges correspond to ranges of 211- 336 miles and three power levels. We tested both the top-spec 201bhp, and the mid-spec 228bhp. The latter was due to a temporary, 30-sec e-boost, which can be accessed by pressing down on the accelerator. However, a lower-powered version of 148bhp will also be offered.
The charging times are comparable to those of rivals, adding 62 mile (100km) in seven mins with a DC charger of 125kW. Or 5% to 80% in just 35 minutes. If you are looking for marketing symmetry, there is a range Cupra-branded home chargers.
The Born, like its ID 3 sibling is rear-wheel driven, has the motor above the rear axle and is connected via a single speed auto transmission. The multi-link suspension setup is expensive, and the front has a MacPherson-strut arrangement. Dynamic Chassis control (DCC), is an option for the 228bhp models. It could be worth considering, depending on your budget. This adds an extra edge in the Born’s dynamics.
So far ID 3 has been successful: The German sibling is the elephant in the room. Although the Cupra is fundamentally identical, the Spanish company is trying to convince people it is different. We tried the 215/45 R20 combination. However, the Cupra will offer a 235 width. The Volkswagen is 15mm lower at its rear and 10mm lower at its front. The Cupra range includes progressive steering. With the wider tyres, you can disable the ESC completely. Are these game-changers for the VW? Hmmmm, I’m not convinced.
Its looks are very similar. Because of the ID 3’s silhouette, the side profile makes it easy to identify the ID 3 base. To be fair, the rear spoiler appears to be functional.
It does look different than the nose. Cupra lettering in copper makes it a beautiful design feature. There are also other copper highlights scattered throughout. It’s a decent looking hatch overall.
Inside, the same copper details are found. The 12.0in touchscreen setup dominates the interior. It also appears in the ID 3.
There are very few shiny black plastics (praise the Lord) and plenty soft-touch fabric made from man-made materials, including optional Dinamica. Cupra wants to stress that most of the material is made upcycled sea plastic and is also local because it was harvested from the Mediterranean.
The car’s design is not only environmentally friendly. Cupra claims that the car is carbon neutral thanks to its carbon offset program and the use renewable energy for production. Polestar and other manufacturers aren’t convinced by the authenticity of carbon offset. But it’s at least a start.
The 2767mm wheelbase makes it easy to have impressive rear leg space. This is a fraction (3mm) less than the ID3’s, but it’s still noticeable from the inside. A six-footer can easily sit in the back. Although the boot holds 385 litres of storage space, there is no place to store charge cables.
The Cupra doesn’t have a button. Your weight on the seat will suffice. Although the interior screens don’t load instantly, it is easy to use the gearstick located to the right of each instrument binnacle.
It doesn’t take much to tell me the electric vehicle’s ability to accelerate from a standstill is amazing. Although the 228bhp version can go from 0 to 62 mph in just 6.6 seconds, even the less powerful one we tested will do it in 7.3 seconds. The 228bhp version will go 0-62mph in 6.6sec, while the less-powered one we tested can do it in 7.3sec.
It is worth noting the ride quality. The car we drove was 20in in diameter and had low-profile tyres. But you wouldn’t know it by the way it moves along the Tarmac. It’s expensively dampened, well controlled, and, most importantly, it glides along the Tarmac without making any suspension noise. This is a crucial feature in electric driving.
The Born is able to hold onto tight corners with good body roll and decent front-end grip. The inside rear wheel spins ever so slightly when you really push on, as weight and power transfer to outer tyres. DCC’s sportier settings add an edge to the ride but it doesn’t feel stiff or out-of-control. It feels like a mature hatch.
Cupra, the sporty member of the VW Group, might have brought some excitement to its rear-wheel drive electric hatch. But I fear you will be disappointed. The chassis and steering are both safe and reliable, but they don’t add any playfulness. The higher-powered car has a Cupra driver setting. It can be accessed via the touchscreen or a copper button on the steering wheels. Although it adds weight, it doesn’t change the vehicle’s performance. The throttle and steering wheel don’t feel adjustable, which is a key indicator of how enthusiast-leaning hatches are.
The worst part of the experience is the brakes. The Born’s pedal is quite soft and doesn’t get any more meatier no matter what you do. The pedal needs to have more bite at its top. Even in maximum regen mode, they don’t inspire confidence.
This is basically the same as the ID 3. There might be some slight differences in steering but it would require a back to back test to find them. Cupra is a mess. Cupra claims to be the most emotional VW Group vehicle, but its driving experience doesn’t match the more jazzy looks. It also doesn’t feel any different from the ID 3 sibling.
Is it a bad vehicle? It is not. However, does this make it any more worthwhile to choose a Cupra instead of an ID 3? This is where things get more complicated for the Spanish brand. The platform will undoubtedly save VW’s bacon. But at what cost does it affect individual character?