I was ambushed by the good looks of the Cupra Born when I went to Indooroopilly Auto Mall to check out the newly arrived Dolphin. I was impressed, to say the least. Although the Cupra is unlikely to sell in massive numbers in Australia, it is a welcome addition to the electric lineup. Over 500 had sold by the middle of the year.
The Facebook Cupra Born community is full of positives, so I reached out to ask members who had owned the Born for 6 months or more for their stories. These are the answers from two of them. Thank you, Rolf Niklaus and Mike McLaurie, for sharing your stories. My first question to them was, why a Born?
Rolf tells me: “Why a Born? This question comes up often when people talk to us about the car. We had a Prado and a VW Golf GTI ‘runabout’ and wanted to change the Golf for an EV. Absolutely love all aspects of the Golf, and an EV replacement needed to be similar size, style, and driving characteristics. Whilst I liked the technology in the Tesla and the whole Tesla ecosystem, we struggled to come to terms with the one big screen, the made in China factor, and as my wife said, ‘the bland look.'”
I queried the “bland look” comment — does he mean the minimalist interior? Rolf explains: “I get why Tesla have chosen that style, but it’s not quite our style. In my wife’s words, the Model 3 just looks boring, monochrome, and lacks any ‘excitement both inside and outside,’ whereas the Cupra looks more ‘sporty.’ Our opinion of course!”
“I was keen on anything from the VW stable and was hoping the ID.3 would be released here, but then the Born appeared — we both immediately liked the styling and put a deposit down as soon as we could, sight unseen.”
Mike adds: “The reason for a Born? I was waiting for the ID.3 to arrive in Australia and it just kept slipping back due to Covid and other reasons. Sitting in a hotel room in Seoul in the middle of winter (January), I started reading about the Born — basically it is an ID.3 dressed up. Delivery was scheduled for November this 2023, hence I paid a $AU1000 dollar deposit and down the path I went. As time passed, the deliveries sped up and I finally received the car in July.”
Mike thought that the Tesla was a bit too mainstream. “Nothing wrong with the car, I just had my mind set on a VW as I’d owned two Golfs over the last 10 years and loved them. The Born as you know is owned by VW and made in Germany. The car is essentially an all-purpose runaround.”
“Oh wow, it doesn’t look like an EV” is the most common comment that Rolf’s friends make. They frequently comment on the Aurora Blue colour long before they realise it is an EV. The Born has a grille which makes it look like a “normal hatchback.” The earlier EVs, like the i-MiEV, the Nissan Leaf, and the Teslas have looked very different because they don’t have a grille.
All of Mike’s friends think of the Cupra as a hot looking little car.
Rolf purchased his Born outright from Cupra Richmond, Victoria, in May. It was one of the first deliveries in that state. “It is mainly used for my daily 80 km round trip commute on a mix of semi-rural roads and outer Melbourne suburbs. We haven’t bothered to install a dedicated home charger nor use DC fast chargers, rather simply use a portable 15A unit and charge from our PV solar system whenever we can. This is proving to be more than adequate. During winter we mainly charged overnight from a 15 amp power point due to the shorter daylight hours.”
Mike bought his on a novated lease and gained the Fringe Benefits Tax reduction advantage. His Cupra is plugged in once a week to a 10-amp power socket. He lives in an apartment building and is assured that seven 11 kW chargers will be installed. The car battery recharges 30% overnight, so he has to plan ahead — “no problem,” he assures me.
“The Cupra is proving to be quite efficient, showing an average power consumption of 14.3 kWh/100 km over the 12,000 km we have driven it. Best I have seen on the 40 km to work is 10.8 and worst is about 38 kWh/100 km when ‘Cupra Mode’ is engaged and driven spiritedly up to Mt Dandenong on an alternative route home. The regen going down the other side means I see an average for the 45 km trip of around 15.5 kWh/100 km.” Rolf is very happy with its efficiency.
“The longest trip we have done is 350 km from Healesville to Ballarat and return on a mix of mainly 80 km/h roads and 110 km/h freeway. The freeway from Melbourne to Ballarat ascends about 400 meters over the 100 km or so. The Born returned about 15.8 kWh/100 km and used 68% of the battery capacity. It has very similar driving characteristics to the Golf, we love the size, and most importantly, how easy it is to live with on a day to day basis. The larger battery capacity/long range means I can commute most of the week without charging and then charge from our solar on weekends.”
Mike has done one long trip in his Born and will do more in time. “This was my biggest question mark around EVs — the long drive. But with plenty of research and the help of numerous apps, we set off for a Sydney-Mudgee-Melbourne excursion (about 1200 km). We were pleasantly surprised about how well it works with a bit of forethought. We mostly did stage lengths of 250 km or thereabouts. This gave us a break every 2.5 hours or so, and with partner and 2 puppies on board, that made for a pleasant journey. There are currently more than enough high-speed chargers on that route to do 20–25 minute charges to get back up to 80–100 percent battery. Tesla opening some of their charges just gave more options.”
Rolf explains: “On my commute, the car is consistently showing about 540 km if charged to 100%. However, we follow the recommended suggestion of 80% max charge for day to day use, which gives a real-world range of approximately 430 km. Our long-term average of 14.3 kWh/100 km equates to 538 km if one uses the full 100% capacity of its 77 kWh battery.”
“Most of the time, I use the Born’s comfort mode while commuting,” says Rolf, “but on occasions, I will select ‘Cupra Mode’ if I’m driving through the hills where it offers a more sporty drive. Sharper steering, improved throttle and brake response. I’m not sure I’d call it a hot hatch, though, as its weight is noticeable on windy roads — maybe a hatch that offers a sporty drive option is more accurate. I’ll admit I got a bigger smile driving the Golf GTI although it was a manual.”
Rolf continues: “Much has been said about the infotainment etc. inside the Born. We haven’t noticed any annoying issues with it ourselves. However, I would have preferred if VW stayed with proper switches on the steering wheel rather than the haptic ones. It’s only the volume up/down and cruise control speed up/down that are the problem ones. I’m not fussed about no connectivity or phone apps, etc. However, I would have liked if a timing schedule could be set in the car to make use of off-peak power, etc. The car supports this but only when connectivity is available, which it currently isn’t in Australia. A smarter charger would do the same thing though.”
Rolf has decided to keep his Prado for long trips to the Australian outback towing his caravan, and to use as a workhorse on his acreage block.
“I think VW/Cupra have done a fantastic job of designing an EV that the average ICE owner can get into and not realise the difference, it drives and behaves pretty much like an automatic Golf. A friend drove it recently and commented that it is a ‘nicer’ drive than the Model 3,” Rolf concludes.
Mike agrees, stating that he is: “Overall thrilled with the car it is so easy to drive and such a good ride I can’t make any negative comments. There have been no unpleasant surprises or issues.”
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