Spanish automotive brand Cupra has released its all-new and all-electric hatch, ‘Born’ and it’s finally arrived in NZ. The attractive, hardcore sports hatch has a sizable battery that offers plenty of endurance, while its handling and performance makes it certain to be one of the stars in the current Cupra line up.
The NZ launch was an intimate affair where we got a big taste of both the Born and where the brand is heading, including a couple of other new additions to the range and some mouth-watering models that are on the horizon.
Initially SEAT Sport, Cupra (CupRa-cing) became a standalone performance brand in 2018 and has grown in both range and desirability exponentially since then. Distinctive with its copper accents and sharp Cupra clan badge, it’s an easy brand to spot on the road.
Financially Cupra has recently changed its fortunes around to post an operating profit of 144 million Euros, has sold over 300,000 vehicles to date and as with most (maybe even all) automotive brands, Cupra has an all-electric mission. Oh and if models such as the Tavascan, Tarramar and Raval are anything to go by, the future of Cupra is brighter than the Mediterranean sun.
Back to the matter at hand, the Born. Arguably a little late to the EV party, the Born is Cupra’s first 100% electric model but it would appear to be worth the wait. With a name derived from an old historic quarter in downtown Barcelona (El Born), it’s expressive and charismatic, and yet looks ready to pick a fight – and probably win.
The Born is meant to be a very emotive car, not just transport from A-B, and as such is a hot hatch that’s out to offer a different driving experience than some of the other electric cars on the market. Essentially it’s for those looking for something sophisticated and yet at the same time something ultimately performance orientated.
In terms of design highlights, the Born’s identity comes with somewhat angry looking eyes (signature LED DRLs), a Cupra logo sitting loud and proud on the bonnet (with Cupra below written in copper too), and a copper lower wing that runs along the valance. The wheels are 19-inch copper typhoons (standard for the first time), an aerodynamic side sill and a city friendly 4.32m long by 1.54m tall silhouette.
The ‘c-pillars’ have a textured surface that catches the eye and is great to touch and that leads to the rear with its coast to coast tail lights, larger rear diffuser and a Cupra badge and name (both in copper) attached to a lightweight plastic tailgate.
There are six colour options that range from glacial white to Quasar Grey, however, the Aurora Blue is an $850 option.
The interior is a sea of modernity with a clever use of copper accents thrown in for great effect. And talking of sea, the Born’s bucket seats come covered in SEQUAL black upholstery with copper stitching. SEQUAL contains upcycled marine plastic that has been fished from the sea by sea men, so it is very environmentally friendly.
The cabin itself has a driver-oriented design with a floating 12-inch infotainment screen, dual zone climate and heated sport steering wheel and a wireless phone charger. The Cupra drive profile is controlled by the buttons on the steering wheel and the regenerative braking is controlled with the gear selector on the top right of the instrument cluster (Drive and B – regen braking).
Sadly there’s no ‘one-pedal driving’ option, nor wireless Apple/Android or navigation, however, it does come with intelligent Park Assist which basically means that the Born controls the speed of the car and braking while parking and it boasts a 385l luggage space to load up when you get there – wherever ‘there’ is.
The instrument cluster is a smaller 5.3-inch screen that displays the likes of speed, cruise and power consumption information and this can be adjusted to suit via the buttons on the steering wheel.
Speaking of batteries (well we are now) the Born comes with a 77kWh usable (82kWh gross) lithium ion one that fits skateboard style into the floor. Not only can it be DC fast-charged upto 170kW (5-80% in 30 mins) but offers a WLTP range of around 511km.
This in turn sends power to the rear wheels via a Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor that produces 170 kW of power (150kW plus an extra 20kW boost when available) and 310Nm of torque from the get go. 0-100km/h is said to be a mere 7 seconds and upto a max speed of 160km/h.
And for those that have safety on their mind, the Cupra Born comes with a supreme 5-Star ANCAP rating.
Our drive route for the day had us heading West along SH16 to Kumeu, East to Dairy flat, North to Warkworth, West to Helensville and then finally South East back to Grey Lynn, with numerous driver and vehicle changes along the way.
For the first stint we grabbed the Born, after all, that was the biggest story of the day. Despite its futuristic appearance, particularly on the inside, once I’d found the drive select (up to the right of the instrument cluster) it was pretty much plain sailing – and when I say plain, I mean EV quick and very refined.
As many of you would know, the roads are in a pretty dour state right now, but the Born seemed to ride above the shambles and deliver a smooth and quiet drive. There were five drive modes to choose from (all at the turn of a dial on the steering wheel) and once free of the city I moved from Comfort to Performance, and then on to CUPRA to really set the Born free. ‘Individual’ and ‘Range (an extreme Eco)’ are the other two in case you were wondering.
The Born sits well on the road and enjoys the corners as a hot hatch with a low centre of gravity should. Steering is about right albeit just a little removed from what’s going on below and the brakes are very EV, so a little funky until you get used to them. The windscreen is noticeably large and tilted at an angle that takes in the extended dash below, while the front quarter lights (those small triangular windows) ensure that nothing gets missed up front.
As outlined earlier, the Born does come with a suite of driving aids, but as far as I could tell they didn’t interfere too much, just a gentle nudge from time to time to let me know I was not conforming to the rules – rules, schmules.
Warkworth had us move into the Leon V hatch, which was a little bitter/sweet as I would have liked to take the Born star along Woodcocks road, (may have to do that on the follow up drive).
The Leon V is an entry level model to the Cupra range and as such has a little less oomph (1.5L MHEV 110kW/250Nm) and is only 2WD. However, I’m happy to say that it performed well over the twists and turns that make up Woodcocks. It didn’t keep up with the Born’s acceleration of course, but stuck well in the corners and (once the paddles were called upon) was by no way embarrassed. Fit and finish was Cupra good with ample copperness and as far as value for money goes, well worth considering – seriously plenty of power for most.
Following a late lunch at The Butcher Baker in Helensville we were given the option of the Born or the Leon V Sportstourer, we opted for the Leon as the faster Born came with the ultimatum of potentially paying speeding fines.
As expected, the Leon V Sportstourer (with the same powertrain as the hatch) handled more or less the same, however, with its large luggage capacity (579l – 1,559l) it did make me wonder why estate models are struggling against SUVs, I guess it’s the ride height. Anyway, the trip back to Cupra HQ was relatively tame as there were a fair amount of coppers (the blue and white kind) on the road at that time.
The Cupra Born V+ is a handsome beast with an environmentally-kind heart. Right now there are only two in the country so if you spot one, I may well be behind the wheel. It’s on sale now at $77,900 Driveaway and the first big shipment arrives in September. Our advice is to book a test drive quickly as there’s been a fair amount of interest, after all, only NZ, Aus and (oddly) Israel are the only countries currently being allowed to have it.