Arriving as a single rear-wheel drive variant with 170kW and 310Nm, an 82kWh battery and up to 511km of range, the Cupra Born is not just in the more affordable end of the market but also packs in a compelling list of features that make it stand out.
2023 Cupra Born review: First Australian track drive
Sub-$60k pricing, long range and European build quality puts Cupra Born at the pointy end of the EV revolution
Price parity, it is said, will mark the true start of the EV age.
The thinking goes that when a battery-powered model costs about the same as its combustion-engined equivalent, all other incentives and selling points will become secondary in the eyes of mainstream consumers.
So while models such as the Porsche Taycan continue to demonstrate the upper echelon of EV ability along with their correspondingly prickly prices, all eyes are on the more humble offerings as the true barometer of electric transition.
That’s why challenger brands are taking a fair chunk of the action in new EV sales. In fact, there are only four models that that compete in the sub-$60k electric market – until now.
Like the current cheapest Chinese EV brands – MG and the BYD, Cupra is also a challenger brand, entering Australia’s tough market about six months ago but it has a couple of highly compelling attributes to its name. Firstly, it’s a European marque with Volkswagen Group parents and secondly, as of early next year it’ll offer only the fifth electric vehicle to cost less than $60,000 – the Born is born.
Arriving as a single rear-wheel drive variant with 170kW and 310Nm, an 82kWh battery and up to 511km of range, the Born is not just in the more affordable end of the market but also packs in a compelling list of features that make it stand out.
A first meeting with the model in Sardinia in 2021 confirmed that the often tricky small hatchback styling challenges have not presented much of a problem for the Cupra design team. And the aesthetics are still looking sharp for a reunion on Australian soil.
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How much is the 2023 Cupra Born EV?
Two pre-production examples have been covering many thousands of kilometers over the past few months as part of Cupra’s evaluation process, while the company secured a third example to bring along in full production trim.
While none can currently be driven on local roads by media, we were offered a few laps of a private test track to get a taste of what the Born will offer when it arrives in March 2023.
Weather conditions were far from ideal for a first blast in unchartered territory and a rear-drive torque-heavy hatch, but it doesn’t take many laps to realise the Born’s engineering team wasn’t born yesterday.
With grippy Michies wrapped around 20-inch alloys, the Born has a serious amount of grip but it’s not all thanks to expensive rubber. There’s plenty of body stability and roll-resistance with a bit of cornering speed and the steering is sharp and pleasantly weighted.
The production version we drove was specced up with the optional $2600 Performance pack which adds a sport ESC setting but even with the slightly more relaxed stability mode, the electronics intervene a little earlier than we would like and, as this is this is the first production example in the country, we had been forbidden from going all out and all off.
A real surprise however were a couple of pre-production Borns that have already spent thousands of kilometres and over a few months in Australia for testing and evaluation. Unlike the Performance option, the pair of more standard vehicles have 19-inch wheels and less sporty rubber.
The result is a far more lively nature in changing conditions. While the polished Performance Pack Born is a focused and competent machine, the ‘lesser’ version offers more charisma and charm – at least under the very controlled conditions for our first steer.
Aside from the various engineering add-ons, extra switches and a lump of data-logging hardware in the boot, we were advised that the development cars were not representative of the cars that’ll be rolling into showrooms next year, even so, they have taken their use and abuse in Australia’s harsh environment admirably.
If this is an indication of the production model quality and durability, then the Born is going to be a tough little nut.
Stepping into the production car with full interior pack – another option at $2900 – opens up a new standard for affordable EVs. From the beautiful Dinamica seat upholstery, sporty and comfortable sports seats and digital displays, to the spacious cabin with plenty of tech including a pair of USB-C sockets in each row of seating, the Born feels like Cupra deserves a place in the premium market.
The only downside to the pair of optional packs is they reduce the number of seats from five to four – a shame as the second row is surprisingly generous and serves as a respectable place for three people, if not necessarily for longer journeys.
Comfort and convenience features include keyless locking/unlocking and start, heated leather steering wheel, dual-zone climate control, tinted rear windows, and a 385-litre boot.
2023 Cupra Born features
There’s also a decent amount of safety and driver assistance features offered in the deal with a 360-degree maneuvering camera, tyre pressure monitoring, seven airbags, automatic headlights and wipers, lane-departure and parking assistance, adaptive cruise control, driver fatigue monitoring and autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist recognition – all included in the price.
But about that pricing – while circa $60,000 seems a bit steep for a small hatchback from a mainstream brand, it’s very close to the money in a premium market context. BMW’s driver-focused 128ti has a comparable 180kW and a $59,000 price tag, the venerable VW Golf GTI is also 180kW and $55,000, and it’s almost the same story for the Mercedes A250 which has 165kW and a $63,400 price tag.
Chuck a few options at the Born and it certainly feels posh enough to compete in the premium arena and, like Audi, its Volkswagen overlords are more than capable of injecting enough quality and brand equity into Cupra models.
Warranty and servicing
As per the wider Cupra range, the Born will be covered by the brand’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Cupra Australia has yet to announce details for battery coverage and servicing information for its electric vehicles. The high-voltage components in its plug-in hybrid range are covered for eight years or 160,000 kilometres, whichever occurs first.
With a long range, unique styling, generous standard equipment and European appeal, the new Cupra Born is quite possibly the easiest electric vehicle to recommend in the current zero-emissions market.
But with a sharp price that hovers tantalisingly close to equivalent petrol-powered premium small hatchbacks, perhaps even more exciting is its indication that EV price parity is on the horizon.
2022 Cupra Born specifications
Things we like
- Sharp price
- Excellent standard equipment
- Affordable options packs
Not so much
- Performance is warm not hot
- ESC a little too strict
- No road drive review for now
Cupra Born Prices and Specifications
|E-boost||$59,990||Electric||170 kW||1 SP Automatic|
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