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CAR OF THE WEEK: No-nonsense driving in stylish Cupra Born

September 1st, 2023 10:00 PM

By Southern Star Team

CAR OF THE WEEK: No-nonsense driving in stylish Cupra Born Image

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BY BRIAN BYRNE

JUST over 120 years ago, an advertisement by the Locomobile Company of Great Britain offered its three ‘Best Cars’ on a map published for the 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup motor race held in Ireland — one each powered by steam, electricity and petrol. The Locomobile Steam was advertised as ‘cheap, silent and effective’, the Waverly Electric as the ‘handiest run-about’, and the Oldsmobile Petrol as ‘light and reliable’.

I got to thinking about that electric car after I’d had another chance to run the Cupra Born through its paces last week. The Waverley was an American import, tiller-steered and open, advertised with rare women drivers as having ‘no complication, turn on the power and steer’.

The range was 40 miles, or up to 94 miles with a substantially more expensive new-technology Edison battery. Electric cars were outselling steam and petrol in America at the time and continued to do well for another decade. But the much cheaper Ford Model T, that could go 200 miles on a tank of gasoline, finally closed the Waverley factory in 1916. Ironically, Ford and Thomas Edison had collaborated on developing an electric Model T, but it didn’t continue to mass production.

On that Locomobile ad, the electric was priced at 190 guineas, while the steam and petrol offerings were much cheaper – at £150 each. So there’s nothing new about today’s electric cars costing a premium.

I wonder, though, if Ford and Edison had persevered together and the oil industry barons hadn’t won the day, would our climate emergency be different now? And where would electric car technology be?

Back to the Cupra Born. Now a brand in its own right within the Volkswagen Group, Cupra evolved from once being a performance grade within Seat. The Born is built on the same assembly line as the VW ID.3 and shares its platform and underpinnings.

Visually, it’s a stand-out from its cousins, with a much punchier styling and the bronze highlighting in the logo and design details. The car is longer and lower than the ID.3 which adds to the head-turning the Born attracts.

Similarly inside, while the main instruments cluster are pure ID in style — and indeed among my favourites for clarity and ease of use in that — there’s a sportier cut to the dashboard and the trim.

Many small things together lift the ambience substantially. All else being equal, this is what you’d be prepared to pay more for.

The wide centre screen is familiar to Seat owners, and also to VW owners of current models, using touch-sensitive sliding to manage basic temperature and sound volume, with screen segments for navigation, audio and phone operation. In general, screen navigation is reasonably easy.

 

The seats are smart looking, with a stitched pattern and integrated head restraints that are actually well-placed ... there can often be issues for me with no adjustment, but this time it was fine. Good room in the back for two adults or three younger people.

The powertrain is essentially ID.3, with a few electronic tweaks to add a sense of performance befitting the ethos of Cupra. The review car had the 55kWh battery, offering a rated range of between 375-422km, which seemed to work out a good median during my time with the car.

Charging time can be as quick as 35 minutes. There’s a power output up to 231hp, a pumping torque thanks to the electric motor characteristics, and an acceleration capability of 7sec to 100km/h. In the ‘eBoost’ version of the review car, an extra Cupra-logoed button on the steering wheel temporarily jacks up acceleration, for instance if you want to overtake.

My Monday morning commute over motorway, busy dualway and a suburban finish showed an energy consumption of 13.1kWh/100km which fared well with the maker’s rated 15.5-17.4kWh. At current public charge rates, that’s an €8.38 cost for your 100km, and a lot less if charging from home.

There is a definite upshift in sporty feel when driving the Born, though it’s not by any means a ‘hot hatch’ in the traditional sense. But it looks good and feels good, and does what it’s supposed to. Most of us don’t want any more than that. It’s about ‘no complication, turn on the power and steer’.

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