The Volkswagen Group finally has a rival for the Tesla Model 3 in Australia, and it won’t be coming from Volkswagen, Skoda, or even Audi.
Cupra, the newest member of the Volkswagen Group family Down Under, will be leading the charge with the arrival of the new Born EV hatchback.
We won’t see the Volkswagen ID range or the Skoda Enyaq SUV for at least 12 months, giving Cupra a significant head start on its corporate cousins in Australia’s electric space.
When it lands in earnest during March 2023, the Born will take on a growing pool of rivals including the Nissan Leaf, Hyundai Kona Electric, Kia Niro EV, and top-selling Tesla Model 3.
With a price just shy of $60,000 before on-road costs and a range of more than 500km, it certainly has the tools to make a splash… on paper.
We’ll have to wait a bit longer for a proper in-depth drive on Australian roads, but we had a very brief taste at Haunted Hills in Victoria to whet our appetite in the meantime. Here’s what we learned.
The 2023 Cupra Born will kick off at $59,990 before on-road costs, equivalent to a drive-away price (before incentives) of around $63,000 depending on state.
That pricing puts it into direct competition with the Tesla Model 3 ($65,500), plus the Nissan Leaf e+ ($61,490), Hyundai Kona Electric Extended Range ($60,500), and Kia Niro EV S ($65,300). All prices exclude on-road costs.
Orders aren’t open yet, but pre-orders ($1000 upfront, $750 of which is a refundable deposit and $250 of which is a non-refundable reservation fee) will open on December 20 barring any technical hold-ups.
2023 Cupra Born pricing:
- Cupra Born 77kWh eBoost: $59,990
- ACT: $61,990 drive-away
- NSW: $62,490 drive-away
- QLD: $63,490 drive-away
- VIC: $64,990 drive-away
- SA: $64,490 drive-away
- WA: $66,490 drive-away
Drive-away prices exclude any state-based rebates, but include variances in registration and CTP costs.
The Born is every bit as pared-back inside as you’d expect of a modern Volkswagen Group product. It’s also surprisingly spacious given its diminutive exterior.
Both driver and front passenger sit in sporty seats with one-piece backrests. They look and feel a bit special, and offer plenty of adjustment for taller drivers, while the flat-bottom wheel feels like a quality item.
The Alcantara-style trim on cars with the Interior Package (complete with an angular perforation pattern) lifts the ambience, although the base car we sat in didn’t exactly feel like a fleet special either.
Facing the driver is a small, simple digital instrument cluster, while the dashboard is dominated by a freestanding touchscreen.
It’s running a version of the software we’ve seen elsewhere in the Cupra range, which suffers some of the foibles that afflict the latest Volkswagens (touch sliders, for example) but offers quick responses, a full feature list, and a simple enough interface.
Rear seat space is surprisingly good, given the Born is a city hatchback. Headroom is plentiful back there, and legroom behind the chunky front seatbacks is generous enough to accomodate kids or smaller adults without stress.
The rear bench in a lot of EVs feels compromised, but the battery beneath the floor doesn’t force rear passengers to sit with their knees up around their ears. You even get USB points back there.
This isn’t a family hauler, but it is a shame opting for the options packages turns this five-seater into a four-seater.
Boot space is a claimed 385L with the rear seats in place.
Australians will only be offered the e-Boost model with a 77kWh (usable) lithium-ion battery pack, and a rear-mounted electric motor making 170kW of power and 310Nm of torque. That’s right, rear-wheel drive small cars are back.
Smaller battery packs are available overseas, but won’t be making the journey to Australia at launch.
The lithium-ion battery is good for a claimed 511km of range on the WLTP test, although that drops to 475km with the Performance Pack (and its larger, stickier tyres) fitted.
It’ll charge at up to 11kW on an AC charger, and 170kW hooked up to a DC fast charger. Meanwhile, the 0-100km/h sprint takes a claimed 7.0 seconds.
Cupra is pitching the Born as the ‘hot hatch’ of the electric vehicle world, with 310Nm of torque on tap and rear-wheel drive.
Our quick drive at Haunted Hills reveals it’s smooth, quiet, and reasonably quick, although it’s hard to ascertain much more.
The track is tight and twisty, with significant elevation changes, and was slippery from lashings of rain on what passes for a Melbourne summer day.
With direct, light steering and what feels like solid body control, the Born disguises its 1927kg (tare) mass well on quick direction changes. Blame the long-range 77kWh battery pack for that hefty weigh bridge ticket.
In its default ‘D for drive’ mode, there’s very little in the way of regenerative braking. Lift off the accelerator and the Born won’t throw you forward in your seat like some rivals, so it’s a good thing the dead pedal feels natural relative to the wooden setups in some electric cars.
Flicking the transmission selector into ‘B’ ups the regenerative braking, but even then it doesn’t feel overly aggressive (on track, at least).
Bury your right foot and the Born accelerates determinedly enough to feel quick, without ever really snapping your neck.
It’s dead quiet, which makes the way it accumulates speed on the short straight at Haunted Hills slightly disorienting relative to internal-combustion hatches.
The promise of instant torque, rear-wheel drive, and a wet track sounds tantalising – like the Born could be a quieter take on the previous-generation BMW M140i. The reality isn’t quite that wild.
You can make the Born break traction with a heavy right foot over the slippery kerbs at Haunted Hills, and with the ESP in Sport it’ll step out before killing the fun.
But, it’s unlikely the average owner will be deliberately agitating their electric hatchback over slick racetrack kerbs to explore its rear-drive bonafides.
That’s not really the point, anyway. The Born is meant to feel like a slightly tighter, sportier take on the competent but plain Volkswagen ID.3, and our brief first drive suggested it’s qualified to carry out that task.
- 19-inch black/copper Typhoon alloy wheels
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Heated, power-folding exterior mirrors
- LED headlights, tail lights, fog lights
- Automatic headlights with auto high-beam
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Tinted rear windows
- Rear roof spoiler
- 5.3-inch digital instrument binnacle
- 12-inch infotainment touchscreen
- Apple CarPlay, Android Auto (wired)
- Wireless phone charging
- DAB+ digital radio
- 4 x USB ports
- Surround-view cameras
- Leather, heated steering wheel
- Front bucket seats
- Floor mats
- Keyless entry and start
- Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
- Dual-zone climate control
- Aluminium pedals
Interior Package: ($2900)
- Aurora Blue, suede-trimmed, front bucket seats
- Heated front seats
- 12-way power adjustable front seats with massaging
- 2-seat rear bench (3-seat bench standard)
- Heated washing jets
- Beats premium sound system (9-speaker, 395W)
Performance Package: ($2600)
- 20-inch Firestorm alloy wheels in black/silver
- 235mm Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres (wide tyre package)
- 2-seat rear bench (3-seat bench standard)
- Adaptive damping
The Born has a five-star Euro NCAP rating based on testing carried out in 2022. It hasn’t yet been translated to an ANCAP rating yet, although the five-star rating should carry over.
It earned scores of 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 89 per cent for child occupant protection, 73 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 80 per cent for safety assist.
Standard equipment includes:
- 7 airbags
- AEB with Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
- Adaptive cruise control
- Lane-keep assist
- Park assist
- Blind-spot assist
- Rear cross-traffic assist
- Driver attention monitoring
- Rain-sensing wipers
The Born will be backed by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty when it touches down next year.
Cupra currently offers three years of free servicing on the Leon, Formentor and Ateca, but hasn’t confirmed service pricing for the Born.
It’s taken a while, but the Volkswagen Group is almost off the mark when it comes to mainstream electric cars in Australia.
Although it’s hard to form a full opinion of the Born after five laps around a tight, slippery circuit, there’s no doubt it shapes as an appealing addition to Australia’s growing pool of electric options.
The price seems to be right given the amount of range on offer, and the exterior hides a cabin with more usable space than you might expect of a small city hatchback.
If Cupra has managed to secure solid supply – and indications are it has, although some customers are going to have to wait – there’s no reason the Born can’t make an impact on the sales charts locally.
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