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In-depth reviews

Cupra Born 2023 review – ride and handling

The Born is sharper and more entertaining than the ID.3, but doesn’t quite cut it as a hot hatch

Cupra Born UK – rear
Evo rating
Price
from £36,475
  • More engaging than an ID.3
  • The MG4 is better value

The gear selector is a rotary controller off to one side of the drivers display, and a twist into D (or B if you want the strongest regen braking effect) is all that’s required to get the car moving. Driving the Born is easy and intuitive, and you’ll quickly grow accustomed to mooching around on one pedal and using the well-calibrated regen to slow down. The simple driver’s display directly ahead relays the information you need – such as speed and range – and little else, which is refreshing. 

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It’s quiet, fuss free, and there’s that wedge of torque on tap, instantly, whenever you need it. In fact, you soon learn that drilling every gap with a burst of it is unnecessary (and does no favours for the range), so utilising some restraint soon feels natural. The steering is light, feedback-free, yet precise, and can be made a little heavier and slightly more connected just off-centre by switching up to the Sport drive mode.

In cars without DCC adaptive damping, the ride is direct but composed, insulating the occupants from most poor surfaces while giving a hint of underlying tautness and more vertical control than an ID.3. However, start to lean on the Bridgestone Turanza eco tyres and there’s a fuzzy, remote feel as the dampers try to keep what is a very heavy car in touch with the road. The DCC option does deliver a better sense of connection, though, and you can hustle along at surprising pace. 

The Cupra’s dynamic character is quite unlike any combustion-engined counterpart; once loaded up and powering out of a corner there’s a definite sensation of being pushed from the rear, which feels odd but mildly entertaining from behind the wheel of a hatchback. Selecting ESP Sport brings a wider scope of adjustability, and you can occasionally spring out of corners on a twist of opposite lock. The trouble is that the Born isn’t a great communicator, and you can find yourself relying on visual cues – rather than feel – to gauge the car’s attitude and positioning on the road. There’s barely any squeal from those Bridgestones as they relinquish grip, which adds to the eerie, disconnected feel. 

The Born is tangibly more playful and direct than its Volkswagen counterpart, but compared to a conventional hot hatch, the glimmers of engagement it does offer are harder to access and less rewarding – it’s much more convincing when you dial things back by a notch or two.

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