Fleet preview: Cupra Born
25 May 2021
Author: Simon Harris
Seat's performance off-shoot Cupra launched its first separate model a few months ago in the Formentor. Now it's ready to launch its own electric car, the Born. Simon Harris takes a closer look.
The Cupra Born uses Volkswagen Group's MEB electric vehicle platform, but the brand has managed to include many of its own design elements. It means that while following a similar template to the Skoda Enyaq iV, the Cupra has its own distinctive style, with familiar light signatures and copper accents. The tall silhouette gives the Born a crossover stance which promises a spacious interior.
All Born derivatives have a 12in infotainment touchscreen as standard, angled towards the driver. The high centre console combines connectivity points with a large storage capacity. This space is designed and finished in the same neoprene material as the bucket seats.
The central section of the seats is manufactured from Seaqual yarn, made from upcycled marine plastics. Marine litter from beaches, the ocean floor and surface, or entering oceans from rivers and estuaries, is collected by a clean-up programme and sorted into different material types. The plastic is cleaned, treated and recycled into yarn that has almost identical in physical properties to virgin polyester.
A second recycled material is Dinamica microfibre, that is applied on both the door panels and upholstery (optional, and not available on all grades). The recycled polyester contained in Dinamica derives from polyester fibres found in t-shirts and clothing fibres, and PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) from single-use plastic bottles and other plastics. It is available in either dark blue or grey colour finishes.
Boot capacity is a minimum of 385 litres, which is more generous than a typical family hatchback.
Engine and transmission
There are four battery variants customers can choose from, ranging from a 150hp model with up to 211 miles of range (according to WLTP) through to an option with up to 231hp and 335 miles of range. The fastest-accelerating model hits 31mph (50km/h) from standstill in 2.6 seconds and on to 62mph (100km/h) in 6.6 seconds, claims Cupra.
The powertrain utilises a 16,000rpm permanent magnet synchronous motor, integrated above the rear axle. Torque is transferred across the rear axle using a single-speed transmission with differential, helping smooth power delivery and should also inspire greater confidence when cornering.
The Cupra Born uses a water-cooled, multi-pouch lithium-ion battery system housed low and centrally in the car optimising its centre of gravity. The aluminium structure, in which the battery is housed, is bolted to the MEB body, increasing overall rigidity.
The system's efficiency is monitored by the onboard thermal management system that maintains the battery's temperature, ensuring it stays within the optimal temperature range. The battery includes a base plate with integrated water channels connected to the coolant circuit.
Customers can add 62 miles (100km) of range in seven minutes using a 125kW charging point on the highest capacity battery offered (77kWh), offering reassurance for longer journeys. The battery can be recharged from 5% to 80% in 35 minutes on a 125kW charger. The Born is compatible with both AC and DC charging networks.
Highlights include an augmented reality display system available on most derivatives and projecting information directly on to the windscreen. The head-up display includes driver assistance indicators, vehicle speed and navigation commands. The smaller digital cockpit also houses the gearshift buttons and parking brake
The infotainment system can display a range of data and information including 3D navigation, music, contacts, vehicle settings and driving data, as well as a host of additional functions, keeping the occupants connected, if that's what they wish.
It also integrates a wide number of functions, including finding navigation information or controlling the cabin temperature. The system can be accessed by pressing the button located on the steering wheel or saying the wake-up words (don't cringe): "Hola, Hola!"
Assistance systems offered include Predictive Adaptive Cruise Control, Travel Assist, Side and Exit Assist, traffic sign recognition, Emergency Assist and Pre-Crash Assist. All visual warnings are displayed in the driver's line of sight via the augmented reality head-up display system.
The Predictive Adaptive Cruise Control system positions the Cupra Born based on route and GPS data delivered from the navigation system. This allows the vehicle to change its speed depending on the road layout ahead, including bends, roundabouts, junctions, speed limits and built-up areas. The intelligent system can also adjust vehicle speed when the speed limit changes using inputs from the front-mounted camera and Traffic Sign Recognition technology.
Travel Assist uses information from ACC and Lane Assist to actively keep the vehicle in the centre of the lane and adjust speed to the flow of traffic.
Side and Exit Assist technology helps to 'fill the gap' of the driver's blind spots, giving a visual and audible warning if a manoeuvre is started but the vehicle detects an object out of view. Exit Warning gives an acoustic warning if someone or something is approaching when parked and an occupant goes to leave the vehicle.
Emergency Assist ensures the driver remains focused and in control of the vehicle when behind the wheel. If no driver input is detected, audio and visual warnings will be given. If there is no input from the driver, the system initiates braking jolts. If there are still no inputs, the vehicle will come to a complete stop and activate the hazard warning lights. Once stationary, the vehicle will contact the emergency services using the eCall system.
Cruise control, traffic sign recognition and Pre-crash Assist are fitted as standard, as well as the 12in dashboard touchscreen, electric windows, climate control and digital instrument display.
With Cupra's market positioning, it might be that a number of derivatives will fall below the current £35,000 threshold to qualify for the government's plug in car grant. SMR costs should be modest compared with non-electric cars, with overall running costs now likely to be close to similar sized petrol cars, if not lower. The tax position for EVs over the next few years should make them appealing to company car drivers too.