Sporty Spanish brand Cupra is first out of the blocks with an electric hot hatch: the Cupra Born, revealed today but, frustratingly, not on sale until early next year. Will it be worth the wait, given that it’s more warm than hot?
You might not have much option but to wait because there ain’t nothing else; in the motor industry’s rush to battery SUVs and supercars, electric hot hatches seem to have been forgotten. It’s surprising because an electric platform is surely ideal for delivering plenty of point-and-squirt fun.
Cupra aims to deliver just that with its debut all-electric model, the final design and specification of which has now been confirmed. We pretty much knew what to expect anyway since we saw it last year as the el-Born concept. Not much has changed since then except they have dropped the “el”. Probably a good move, but then “Born” as a car name is still a bit weird.
The Born is the first sporting non-SUV in the MEB family, the VW Group’s multi-billion euro kit of electric car parts that has already given us cars like the VW ID.3. The Born is the Spanish brand’s version of the ID.3 but sportier looking and quicker than the more bread-and-butter VeeDub – for now at least.
If you are expecting class-leading sprinting ability you may be disappointed; lots of electric SUVs are quicker than this. The highest performing Born gets from 0-62mph in 6.6 seconds, despite a hefty 231PS motor driving the rear wheels (yes, a rear-drive hot hatch). While 6.6 seconds won’t keep up with a petrol Golf GTI (6.3), it is good enough to beat the current crop of electric hatches like the Mini, Leaf, BMW i3, Peugeot 2008 and MG EV whose times all start with a seven.
Cupra has chosen all the best bits from the MEB parts bin including the most powerful motor (biggest the ID.3 offers is 204PS) and the largest, 77kWh battery for a range of 335 miles in the official WLTP test. It’s also gone for a 125kW fast-charging system that can add 62 miles range in seven minutes.
Cupra is also making full use of the modular nature of MEB by having a range of Borns, although with the entry version getting 150PS and an 8.9 second 0-62mph time it’s more Seat than Cupra, a brand remember that started off by standing for CUP RAcing.
The Born is being made in one of the VW Group sausage factories in Germany but it has been designed in Spain and shows it. There’s nothing radical about the proportions or profile, and certainly no wild aero addenda, but it has a strong stance on its 20-inch wheels and the details impress for looking both sporting and expensive. There’s character in the LED lights, copper-framed accents, 3D-textured C-pillar and contrasting side sills. The wheels (six styles available) help make it stand out too.
There’s plenty of digital hi-tech inside, accessed via a big central touch screen, but there are also some nicely judged sporting details and premium trims, not all of them copper coloured (copper is Cupra’s corporate colour). Recycled plastics and sustainable microfibres give the cabin a technical look. Options will include microsuede upholstery, augmented reality head-up display and adaptive dampers.
With the battery low down in the chassis between the axles, weight distribution is almost 50:50 and the centre of gravity low, so it will be interesting to see how much hot hatch agility the engineers have been able to inject into the Born’s handling. For its part Cupra says the Born will be a “game-changer”. Cupra fans will hope so and be looking as well for Spanish character to differentiate it from other MEB machines – something more than just being able to summon the voice assistant by calling out, “Hola, hola”.
Production starts September and the Born arrives here early next year when you will be able to either buy one (no prices yet) or get one on a monthly subscription deal. Its arrival will be a welcome antidote to the current dearth of battery-powered sporting hatchbacks, but will the first electric hot hatch be hot enough in 2022? After all, VW boss Ralf Brandstatter has already confirmed the existence of, and raved about, an ID.3 hot hatch – and it has twin motors, all-wheel drive, 335PS and 0-62mph in five-point something…