For all the attention given to Tesla and others importing China-made EVs to Europe, another rising but overlooked brand is doing brisk business with its one electric model: Cupra. And to such an extent that last month the tables were turned on parent Seat S.A., regional sales being 17,613 versus 15,989.
Acea data also show however that SEAT remains well ahead for the year-to-date, respective numbers being 207,747 and 163,803. Yet the upstart subsidiary is closing the gap, with an almost 45 per cent surge in volume so far in 2023, whilst SEAT’s gain is limited to 20 per cent.
From sports trim level to brand
What of the model which is supporting the (best selling) Formentor, these two leading the gains? The Born, a tall hatchback, has taken some time to gather its present sales pace, build having commenced two years ago. That wasn’t unexpected, as while Cupra was a known name as a SEAT model grade, getting the word out that it had become a brand obviously doesn’t happen overnight.
Both the Born and associated Volkswagen ID.3 are electric-native, electric-only and were developed on the Group’s Modularer E-Antriebs Baukasten platform. Drive is just to the one axle, the motor also being positioned between the back wheels. SEAT gives you the choice of two batteries for the Cupra Born.
Two batteries and two motors
How well do you really know your competitors?
Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.
Your download email will arrive shortly
Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample
We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below formBy GlobalData
In theory, 58 kWh net may not seem overly generous when you know there is also a 77 kWh one available at a (much) higher price – it’s bundled in with the top trim level – yet in practice it’s fine.
When it comes to power, there are also two options: 150 kW (204 PS) or 170 kW (231 PS). Torque is 310 Nm for both. Cars with the longer range battery have the more powerful motor as standard.
My mid-range ‘V2’ trim level test car was equipped with the 58 kWh cells pack and the 150 kW motor. Set off with an indicated full charge and 254 miles is claimed but activate the A/C and immediately the digits drop to 243.
How many miles in the real world?
On the one long journey I undertook, the air con was hardly used and after 220 miles a stated 40 exactly remained. You see an illuminated warning at 20 per cent capacity remaining. That also said I could cover 47 miles before all the juice would be gone. Perhaps as winter temperatures arrive, the reality would be more like 180 miles? In any case, that number might be OK for many buyers, with the 77 kWh pack available for those who think they need it.
The way SEAT has styled the Born is exceptionally pleasing to my eyes, and indeed, a neighbour who was only vaguely aware of the car ordered one after he saw ‘mine’. It fascinates me the cars which people cross-shop: he was also considering a Jeep Avenger.
While my friend had read all about the issues with the ID.3’s volume and temperature sliders, in practice, these didn’t annoy either of us that badly. They do need to be illuminated though. And really, what’s wrong with a volume knob? Moreover, as Hyundai has just demonstrated with a change for the Tucson SUV, most of us prefer an HVAC system to have dials.
Whilst the general outline is similar, the VW and Cupra bodies are completely different, as are the interiors. SEAT has also engineered the Born to be somewhat sportier than the Volkswagen. To that end, it sits lower and the steering feels more direct, with springs and dampers also tuned for firmness not float.
Anyone buying a Born will also surely be asked what make and model it is, as the Cupra name isn’t known by that many people. And strangely, the word Born is nowhere to be seen. Well that’s what I thought initially, until spying it on the side of each tail light.
Lots of light, lots of space
It’s easy to forget that this 4,322 mm long car is about the same size as a Golf yet it has the most fantastic amount of room. Everywhere. Yes, those in the back are made to sit upright but that’s fine and one advantage of the platform is a flat floor so a middle-seat occupant has ample space no matter their shoe size. The boot is great too, capacity being 385 litres.
Up front, there is lovely copper-coloured detailing on the steering wheel, door trims and centre console, these matching similar mock-metal touches on the exterior.
The seats look as good as they grip driver and front passenger alike, the glass area is generous, as are the various places to store phones/gloves/water bottles etcetera. The twisty control behind the steering wheel – it puts the car into drive, reverse and park – also frees up space for a huge bin between those front seats.
If SEAT would just replace the slippery black plastic haptic switches on the steering wheel, shrink the dashtop screen and give us some lovely-feeling buttons and rotating heating/cooling controls, the Born would be near-perfect. Even as it is though, this sized-just-right and terrific-to-drive EV is doing great things for the Cupra brand.
What comes next?
After Volkswagen gave the ID.3 a bit of an interior lift and some minor exterior changes earlier in 2023, it will probably be the Born’s turn to have certain updates of its own next. Perhaps we’ll hear more about that during the first half of 2024.
Next year sees the debut of the Tavascan too. And while it isn’t due until Q4 in Britain, LHD European markets get it in the late summer/early autumn. Then in 2025 – well, right at the end of that year, we should see the first deliveries of the Raval, the brand’s self-declared ‘urban electric car’.
The Cupra Born is priced from GBP36,475. Trim levels are V1, V2 and V3 with the 77 kWh battery and 230 PS motor standard for the V3.