An ID.3 that could be anything the ID.3 is not. Will Cupra take that chance?
When you start a new brand, it is not inconvenient to keep things a little clear. Let’s illustrate it this way: if Volvo starts a new brand with the idea that it should become the new electric brand, it is not useful if the first car also turns out to have a petrol engine. Another example: when you start a new brand, it is not necessarily smart to use the name of an iconic model from your past, which you have already misused to name a small hatchback after. To decide after a few years that you are going to make it a very special, very special brand that will do everything differently. And then just stick a different logo on that same hatchback. Yes, we’re looking at you, Citroën and DS.
That is, well, confusing. And so we still don’t really know what to do with Cupra. We will not kill you again with the same story, but just as quickly for the uninitiated: if there used to be ‘Cupra’ on the back of a Seat, you knew: goes fast. Type ‘GTI’. Then Seat decided to make a separate brand of that designation and everyone wondered: why? Well, said Seat, that will be the hip brand, so that Seat can go more into the mainstream. Okay. So what do you come up with first? The Ateca, just that Seat SUV, but a slightly smoother version. Then you do more or less the same with the Leon. As if Volkswagen decides to make a brand out of GTI and just a smooth Tiguan and ditto Golf with three letters on their nose and a heartfelt ‘Success, huh?’ to aim at the wide world. What do you do with it?
And then came the Formentor
Look, the Formentor looks more like it! A completely unique model, looks excellent, drives great and is available in a number of European countries (not in our country, of course, but you can’t blame Cupra) even with that glorious Audi five-cylinder. Entirely right. And now there’s the Cupra Born, and we don’t quite understand it again. You probably know: the Born was born as a concept of Seat, el-Born, named after the hip neighborhood in Barcelona. No idea why, but in the end it was decided to give the model to Cupra and to drop the ‘el’. Strange – you would say that a relatively large brand like Seat would be more eager for an electric car in the range than a small newcomer, but hey, it doesn’t matter.
The Cupra Born as part of identical twins
The Born is in many, if not almost everything, a Volkswagen ID.3. The motors and battery packs have been taken over one-on-one, and things like the stems on the steering wheel and the hard plastics in places that you don’t touch too often are also familiar. In addition, the Cupra Born looks more like an ID.3 than any Seat has ever looked like a Volkswagen. (Yes, we know the Alhambra, but we like to exaggerate.) The baselines, the extra A-pillar window, the C-pillar with trim, the rear spoiler – it’s different in a way identical twins differ from each other. .
Is that really bad?
Well, we think it’s a bit of a shame. Cupra was just so busy finding their own way with the Formentor and with the design of the Cupra Born they are back to square one. It’s not that crazy in itself; everything you change costs money, and the money trees at the parent company (certainly with all the costs of the diesel scandal and the transition to electric) no longer grow into the sky. However, we would have wholeheartedly given Cupra a little more budget to create something really special. They can do that – just look at that Formentor.
So what has changed about the Cupra Born?
Well, the nose is really quite different, with the much sharper headlamps with Cupra ‘light signature’, and the unnecessary (electric motors don’t need that much cooling) but tasty-looking hefty grille. We continue to think that the Cupra logo looks a lot like a tribal tattoo, but if you looked around at the beach last summer, you will have noticed that most people nowadays probably only consider that a plus. To be on the safe side, the brand name is still written in broad letters.
Various spoilers have been fitted to the nose (be careful with parking) and flanks. The rear also differs considerably, with a continuous light band and the equally useless but indispensable diffuser for a ‘performance brand’. Where you can also order an ID.3 with hubcaps, a Born always has fierce-looking light metal from a minimum of 18 to a maximum of 20 inches. In addition, you will not see it immediately, but the Born is also an inch closer to the ground.
Inside the electric Cupra
On the inside, especially the well-fitting sports seats, which the Cupra is equipped with as standard. An advantage with a disadvantage: they are larger, so that the rear passengers have less legroom. It is doable there for an average Dutch person, but not much more than that. In our opinion, the seats can be adjusted a bit lower than in the ID.3, so that you can sit a little deeper in the car; that is always nice for the driving experience.
The dashboard is decorated with copper accents that Cupra has appropriated. There is a small and (as with the ID.3) very brief counter screen behind the steering wheel and a large touch screen centrally on the dashboard. The design has of course been adapted to Cupra, but the system is basically the same that VW is also aiming for in the Golf and ID.3. And so we say the same thing we’ve been saying since the first meeting: it sucks. Not only the software (quite slow, not everything is easy to find), the hardware is also a drama. Those swipe buttons to turn the radio up or down; it just doesn’t work, neither on the steering wheel nor on the screen. Why the huge dislike of that normal volume knob, which was really nothing wrong with it? The same goes for the climate control.
Our message to Volkswagen
We’d say to VW, if you’re coming up with something that drastic, wait a minute and see if people really like it before spreading it all over your products. That makes reversing goofs like this a lot easier. We would also like to say something similar to the design department of BMW, but that is another story, albeit at least as often told. But while we’re on the subject of that brand: BMW’s first iDrive system (that was back in 2001 – we’re getting old) was pretty much hell on earth in terms of operation. It took at least ten years to get to grips with it a bit and ten years later it has evolved into a fine system. We can still hope that VW and the likes succeed more quickly in making something decent out of it.
While Cupra may not have had the opportunity to prevent this misery, they certainly didn’t have the chance to make it worse. But no: the excessive dislike of physical buttons goes so far with the Spaniards that you no longer even have separate buttons from the driver’s seat to open and close the rear windows. No, you now have two buttons, for left and right, and a button with ‘Rear’ on it. If you press that first, you can open the rear windows. Sorry, but what gladiolus would come up with something like that?
It drives the same as the Volkswagen
We can be relatively brief about driving the Cupra Born: it does not differ significantly from the ID.3. So he is comfortable and somewhat distant. The Born would have stiffer suspension, but in our opinion that should be at most a few promilles; it is hardly noticeable. He is quickly fed up, especially in sprints from a standstill and short overtaking actions. The choices in terms of motors and batteries are also identical: 45, 58 or 77 kWh and 150 or 204 hp, although for now the Dutch importer will focus on only the middle battery with the highest capacity – the rest will come in the course of 2022.
Nice is the option of an e-Boost button, which temporarily increases the power to 230 hp. That already sounds a bit more like Cupra, although that opportunity will not come until next year. In addition, the ESP also seems to be able to completely disable it, which should provide opportunities for transverse behavior with a rear-wheel drive such as the Cupra. We couldn’t detect much of it, but maybe that option wasn’t on our test car at all – we’ll try again later.
Mixed feelings about the Cupra Born
The Born is in itself an excellent car. It does exactly what it’s supposed to do, drives well, there are wide choices in terms of batteries and options, so that there is always something fun to configure. And that appearance could also be exactly what many people want: something distinctive without immediately losing yourself in all kinds of exaggerated hassle. And yet the Born leaves us with mixed feelings. Wouldn’t it have been a much nicer car if Volkswagen had really given Cupra a free hand? Probably, but we’ll never know. If you want a more fully equipped, slightly more special and flashier-looking car than the ID.3 for about the same money, Cupra is the right place for you.
The Netherlands does not play any significant role on the global, and even the European market, of course. There is therefore no manufacturer that can afford to take us into account. Except when it comes to EVs. Thanks to the excellent charging infrastructure, which is still growing strongly, and above all the lease market driven purely by the addition strategy, the Netherlands only has to tolerate Norway in this area.
And that creates opportunities. Because there is still a difference between putting cars on the market somewhere and knowing for sure that they will be sold. For example, the Netherlands has already more than once managed to seize the total production of a car, purely because everyone knew for sure that they would be sold – or even had been.
In January, the addition percentages will go up again, so whoever can deliver an EV this year is lucky. The Dutch importer is doing its utmost to get as many Borns as possible to the Netherlands before 1 January and to get them registered. And that seems to work well. Only drawback: little choice (only 58 kWh and 204 hp), but then you drive nicely for a few more years at the ‘favorable’ rate.
Specifications Cupra Born 58 kWh Performance One (2021)
204 hp, 310 Nm
58 kWh (battery)
0-100 km/h in 7.3 sec
top 160 km/h
15.4 kWh/100 km
414 km (range)
Charging time (80%)
26 min @ 100 kW
€ 43,990 (NL)
€42,080 (B) – basic