A funny thing happened on the way to check out the BYD Dolphin — we almost tripped over the Cupra Born, a European hot hatch. Cupra is part of SEAT, which is owned by Volkswagen. It was the first display as we walked through the entrance to the Indooroopilly, Brisbane, shopping centre Auto Mall. This European style display of luxury vehicles is a car lover’s wet dream.
So, of course we had to have a look. We used our usual plan of attack — Majella checked out the car’s exotic looks and interior design while I grilled the salesman for interesting tidbits. The Cupra Born sat in the front of the display in front of its petrol-powered cousins, the Formentor and the Leon. The Leon sells for AU$17,000 less than its electric partner. “But it’s not comparing apples with apples.”
I had come to look at an entry level BYD which I thought could challenge the Toyota Corolla on price parity, so my first question was “emmachisit?” The Cupra Born costs about AU$64,000 and is eligible for the Queensland state government’s $6000 rebate, bringing the base price down to about $58,000. At current exchange rates, that would make it about $37,000 USD. The salesman told me that he had customers comparing the Cupra Born to the Tesla Model 3 — they particularly liked the softer drive in the Cupra and described it as a better driving experience. Plus, they preferred the European styling. The Cupra and the Tesla sell for about the same price. Customers are referred to the government website to apply for the rebate.
“Price is not a big concern for the customers we get here,” he told me. Shades of, “If you have to ask the price, you can’t afford it.” Indooroopilly is a wealthy suburb with lots of professionals and retirees. I can attest to that, as I used to teach at the local school back in the ’90s. There has been a great deal of interest from the public, with some doing a great deal of research and others just walking by. He is expecting the brand to do even better in 2025 when the Tavascan is launched in Australia. It is described as an SUV coupe.
SEAT has provided online training for its representatives in Australia. I was impressed that the sales manager had been encouraged to take the car home on weekends and test it out. He told me that he had driven from Amrita on the Sunshine Coast to Brisbane on adaptive cruise control and didn’t have to use the brakes. That’s a trip of 100 km. He was duly impressed. The car has a reported 511 km of range.
Customers are still concerned about range and ask questions about how to charge the car. The car comes with a type 2 to type 2 cable, but no granny charger. The manager shows prospective customers how to use PlugShare to plan their trips. This can also be used through the car’s driving screen and Siri. “Hey, Siri, where is the nearest charger?” SEAT has packed the batteries in blocks, so in case of a cell failure, only a section of the battery has to be replaced.
Hesitancy on the part of future owners is mainly based on range anxiety, not price. “These are people who can buy what they want.” The customer base seems to be made up of retirees and people who are concerned about the environment. The manager admitted that the slick ads on TV which we see every night are aimed at the young, but it is older people buying the car. Warning: this ad contains traces of woke. Obviously, they are not too old for an EV.
Sitting in the car, Majella noticed that the middle screen was set on a tilt, which made it easier to see than the Model 3 screen that we are used to. The design DNA — referred to as the 3D-inverted diamond — is on the dash and also the exterior of the car. It’s reminiscent of the dragon scales on the BYD. The Cupra Born symbol on its shark nose evokes a sci-fi vibe. The Cupra Born bucket seats are made from environmentally recycled materials — “SEAQUAL yarn, a recycled polymer fibre fabric made from plastic waste extracted from the Mediterranean Sea.” Plenty of headroom front and back. The solid roof will deflect some of Queensland’s heat in summer.
Ease of entry and exit is enabled by the fact that the car is a little higher off the ground than our Tesla. The steering wheel feels a little crowded, with buttons that replicate functions available in other areas — for example, “drive.” However, the wheel is shaped so the driver’s hands grasp it intuitively, knowing that they belong there.
Comments from new drivers highlight the glitches that most of us have faced when coming to terms with new technology. Fortunately, the community of Cupra Born owners in Australia are able to help each other with good advice. There is a call for better connectivity and an app to check the charge on the car. BYD had similar issues at first and has fixed them. Hopefully Cupra will come to the party with this. Generally, satisfaction and pride were the overall impression. Drivers reported good public reactions.
Since the car was launched in May, 500 Cupra Born have been sold in Australia. New owners are starting to see other Cupra on the road — always a good sign. About 25,000 were sold in Europe in 2022. Cupra is a spinoff from the Spanish SEAT brand, which is owned by Volkswagen. Those who wish to know more background can check out here.
Car Expert begins its review with this telling comment: “Barcelona has entered the EV chat. The Cupra Born debuts the VW MEB platform Down Under, and proves attainable electric cars can be a hoot.” They also share the core stats: “The Born measures 1540mm (60.6 inches) in height, 4324mm (170.2 inches) in length, 1809mm (71.2 inches) in width with a 2766mm (108.9 inches) wheelbase that brings about a total of 1927kg (4248.3 lbs) of unladen weight. The Born (5 SEAT) comes standard with 215/50 R19 front tyres and 215/50 R19 rear tyres. It requires a service every 12 months or 15,000 km, whichever comes first. It has a 60-month, unlimited kilometre warranty.”
The front brakes are ventilated discs, with drum brakes in the rear. Although the Born does not have a frunk, there is a 385-litre space in the boot, slightly bigger than what the MG4 EV sports. The Cupra Born can go from 0–100 km/hour in 7 seconds and has a top speed of 159 km/ hour.
The Cupra Born is an exciting addition to Australia’s EV lineup — a hoot, a luxury hot hatch, and a damn good drive.
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