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Why has Cupra just brought us this right sized Born with wasted potential?

The first small sized mass-produced electric cars have mostly been a selling failure here in Switzerland. Speaking of the electric Smart Fortwo, Peugeot i-On, electric VW Golf. All of them had very small batteries to todays standards. Or wasn’t there enough interest from the buyer’s side? And due to the SUV trend, almost any car manufacturer launches an SUV to go with the flow. As I always preach that SUVs are too huge for Swiss cities, the Cupra Born could solve that misery.

Additionally, the Born's brother VW ID.3 was voted Swiss Car of the Year 2020. So there're quite some expectations to the VW's sibling.

What’s it all about?

Well, if the Born had been a Seat, normal VW group procedure would have dictated that it needed to be slightly cheaper than the Volkswagen ID.3 (as is the case with the Leon and the equivalent Golf). If you’ve sat in a lower-spec ID.3 and poked around at some of the cheap plastics, though, you’ll know that the Volkswagen has already been designed on a budget. It’s all to do with battery costs and profit margins being much tighter for the so-called legacy manufacturers switching to EVs.

In case this car isn’t a Seat, the VW Group can price the Cupra Born slightly higher than an ID.3 – charging a little bit more for some sharper design and a resulting touch of slightly more sportiness. In terms of the sportier looks and more power, apparently.

Just like the VW ID.3, the Born is also in the compact car class. It is basically the electric counterpart to the combustion car Seat Leon.

First impressions:

So, the VW ID.3’s sportier and prettier brother comes with some more contemporary genes in terms of aesthetics, looks, colors, interior options and fabrics as well as the brand’s signature copper-colored details.

The car shown is the regular 58kWh version with 204 PS without the e-Boost power and is painted in the stunning optional (CHF 850.00) and must-have paintjob called “Aurora Blue” which seems to look almost dark purple in low lights and shines incredibly in direct sunlight.

Driving experience

Cupra claims to reach 425km distance with a fully charged battery. I’ll tell it clearly: This is impossible. I can only image to reach this distance by only driving in perfect conditions – speaking of warm and sunny weather and avoiding motorways. 300km of reach is a feasible commitment. And during very cold weather, motorways and driving up to ski resorts, 250 kilometers are the number to have in mind. FACT!

For its vehicle weight of around 1,930 kg, the Cupra Born has sufficient power and accelerates quickly even without e-boost. The very high weight is only noticeable in sporty cornering. Since the Born tends to understeer. What is surprising, however, is that there is hardly any lateral inclination of the vehicle in fast corners. The chassis is tuned rather tightly for a high-roof station wagon, but it sounds overwhelmed and knocked out on bumpy roads.

Like the VW ID.3, the Cupra also has rear-wheel drive. All-wheel drive is not available with him. What may work well for city traffic is evident as a severe deficit in wintry areas. The Cupra behaves unpredictably on icy and snowy roads. Understeers very quickly and tends to oversteer slightly when grip is built up. A very strange feeling not knowing how the car will react in the coming corner. Because the stability control does not exactly do its job in this situation. For absolute laypeople and sporadic winter sports enthusiasts, this can end badly.

That's why I strongly advise against driving into wintry mountainous areas as the owner of a Cupra Born/ VW ID.3. This car is clearly intended for everyday use in urban environments and does its job there quite well. Thanks to its small turning circle, the Born is extremely maneuverable and can easily be twirled into any imaginable parking space. The lush C-pillar thanks the reversing camera because the view to the rear is modest. Additional message to the Volkswagen Group: the sporadic and severe emergency braking when reversing should also be fine-tuned. The same applies to the cruise control and traffic sign recognition colleagues, who like to slow down to 60 or 40 km/h on the motorway. Sophisticated technology is different, Volkswagen...

And it's actually crazy that the VW ID.3 was voted Swiss Car of the Year in 2020. Journalism at its finest.

To the interior

Beside options like the Cupra Advanced Light Pack and roof window, this interior is almost as you get it in its base spec. The Granite Grey interior spec does not cost any further bucks and quite a plushy and cozy choice. The roof window makes the car feel extremely roomy. All in all it seemed to me that the materials, quality and the entire processing in the interior felt more valuable than those of the Skoda Enyaq I had tested just right before the Cupra Born. This is quite a statement.

But the car also has its downsides. And these are clearly attributable to the parent company Volkswagen. Because the whole infotainment system and the condition of the functions on the steering wheel are misleading, not intuitive and simply nerve-wracking. The buttons work on touch. Sometimes it takes more pressure, sometimes less. And again, it happens that things accidentally happen that you don't want as a driver. As an example, when the volume control catapults to 100% and through the glass pane vibrating loud music not even the park distance control can be heard. Happens.

Keeping with the functions on the steering wheel: The fact that the cruise control cannot be precisely adjusted is tedious. 10km/h steps are not user friendly and very easy to adjust via software. Except, as a driver, you always set the speed manually if the tens are to be bypassed.

Apple Car Play only works with the installed Cupra App on your phone. So I used the regular functions way more than I usually do in press cars. Common settings can be found easely. If you don’t search for anything very specific. The navigation system worked very quick, is easy and intuitive to use. Quite an improvement to the predecessor system.

In short: processing top, operation mostly flops.

What to buy

As a city runabout, the Cupra Born is a good car itself. Unfortunately, from my point of view, it does not fit into the brand's lineup in a species-appropriate manner. Despite the visually striking differences to the VW ID.3, the Born is not bold enough. The rear-wheel drive has wasted potential here. But it may also be due to the targeted buyers, which is mainly due to the shape of the car. The Cupra Born is clearly designed for small and younger families, as well as for retirees. These people are known to be buyers of high-roof station wagons such as the BMW 2-Series Active Tourer or Mercedes B-Class. And it is precisely to these vehicles that Cupra offers a rather exciting priced and looking alternative, although the Born isn’t a cheap option at all.

But all-in-all the car works very well in cities, is easy to handle and might of course be a great everyday-companion for non-car-people. This is what its built for.

To end this review, I wanted to thank Cupra Switzerland and AMAG for the opportunity to properly test the Cupra Born to its limits for a whole week and I strongly hope, that Cupra finds its way back to their sporty roots where they originally belong. Where they want to be seen by the fans and enthusiasts. Please, bring back that feeling of carefree freedom! You got the right designers to create visually excitement! Only a great concept (which isn’t that easy, I know) is missing to bring back a fun hot hatch like the Leon or Ibiza from the early 2000s!

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