Long-term report: Racking up the miles in our Cupra Born
With a lot of longer trips recently, we’ve been further exploring the Born and the slightly iffy charging network too.
When electric cars first started to arrive in the early 2010s, they really were only suitable for those doing shorter trips with many offering compromised ranges, not to mention an infrequency of public EV chargers.
But fast forward to 2022 and lots has changed. There are plenty of EVs on the market pushing 300 miles from a charge, while there are now more than 20,000 locations in the UK where you can charge.
Range anxiety is therefore becoming less of a concern, and even though ‘my’ Cupra Born might not have the longest range on the market, I’ve been determined to use it just like you would a regular petrol or diesel car. That means not driving at 50mph to maximise range, having the unpleasant experience of having the air-con or heater off so that it doesn’t eat (marginally) into the number of miles.
And for the vast majority of the time, it’s been a pleasant experience. I live in North Yorkshire, which – while an idyllic part of the world – is a bit of a pain when much of my job revolves in and around London.
Cupra claims 233-260 miles, which would be enough to get to London. However, the range is never quite as generous as predicted, which means – on motorways at least – it’s more like 180 to 200 miles.
You quite quickly get into the habit of charging. While the Born has an in-built search to find nearby chargers, I find it’s easier to try my luck at finding a free charger at a motorway service station thanks to many offering rapid chargers. Famous last words, but it’s a method that’s proven successful so far.
Recently I’ve had to travel to Heathrow quite a few times, and depending on which car park you choose, there are electric car chargers. The ‘short stay’ car park is the best as there are loads of chargers to pick from, and they’re free to use too. Coming back to a fully-topped EV and not paying a penny is the best feeling – like filling up your petrol car, getting to the counter and being told ‘it’s on the house’.
If you have the misfortune of the ‘Long Stay’ parking, however, there are no chargers. Not only is it a bit of a kick in the teeth considering the price you pay for a space, but it also means you don’t come back to a fully-charged EV, which – when you have 230 miles ahead of you – isn’t ideal.
That was what confronted me recently when I arrived back at Heathrow to a half-empty Cupra Born (no fault of the Born, I should add). Though knowing I’d have to top up on the way home, having to sit charging for 30 to 40 minutes at a motorway services at midnight is one of the bleakest things I’ve had to do in my life. If you’ve never had the misfortune of going to a services when all the McDonald’s and M&S Food Halls have closed, I would not recommend it.
It was the first time in three months and 3,000 miles of driving the Born that I’d wished I was in a petrol or diesel car, which isn’t bad considering, and is a credit to this Cupra’s many talents.
Doing that many miles, especially in one go (I managed 800 miles in the space of five days), you’d expect it to throw up some annoyances, but there really aren’t any. Though the Born’s ride is a bit firm around town, it’s very comfortable on the motorway, and the electric bucket-like seats are supremely good on longer trips. There’s even a massaging function, and though usually I’m not a massive fan of this, the Born’s are excellent – not feeling like someone’s doing boxing practise into your back, like some do.
Perhaps the only thing I don’t like is the small digital dial display. Considering even a Seat Ibiza gets a proper screen these days, it’s disappointing that the Born (like its Volkswagen ID.3 sibling) gets a small display that you can’t configure or do anything with. It feels like a weird omission when you look at the level of tech found elsewhere on the Born.
But, aside from a midnight charging session and the dinky screen, I’m still loving every minute of the Born. I’m in a fortunate position where there are usually various cars to choose from at my house thanks to my job, and it’s nearly always the Cupra’s keys that I pick up. Let’s see if that changes in the next few months…