Cupra uses some old-school tricks to create a new-age hot hatch 

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Press presentations for new cars are normally given by someone from marketing with lots of graphs and charts about trim levels and why it’s better than rival X at Y.  But the presentation for the new Cupra Born VZ was one to really sit up and pay attention.

It was given by ex-World Touring Car Championship driver turned performance car development engineer Jordi Gene. It was delivered by a proper enthusiast with serious credentials and was all about brake pedal feel, suspension changes, drivetrain improvements; our kind of language, and a car to be taken seriously. 

The Born VZ is the hot hatch version of the standard Born hatchback, which is already the electric car we rate the highest for handling appeal. It recently won our best sub-£40,000 electric car test and last year beat a more specialist EV field where handling ability was placed at a premium.

The positioning of the Born VZ is quite different to other electric hot hatches: at one end the Abarth 500e is stiff and raucous while at the other the Hyundai Ioniq 5 N is hi-tech and terrifically adjustable. 

The Born VZ splits the difference quite nicely: it doesn’t make a play on electric technology, or even too much of the fact of being electric; its makers simply wanted to make a hot hatch that happens to be electric, so there’s no fake sounds or too much electrical interference.



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The Born VZ certainly looks the part as a serious hot hatch, although the changes aren’t extensive over what is already a sporty-looking donor car.

There are two 20in alloy wheel options, including a forged option. The wheels are also wider front and rear.

There’s also a special paint for it called ‘Dark Forest’ offered alongside Midnight Black. All very dark and moody, yet set off nicely with Cupra’s now familiar copper trim. 


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The key addition to the interior is the new bucket seats - or Cup Bucket seats, to give them their official name - which are fabulously supportive yet likely to be snug in the ribs of larger drivers.

The seats are designed to make you feel lower to the ground even if they are not mounted lower than the standard Born’s seats.

They are also trimmed in natural fibres, the back trim using natural flax fibre that feels fantastic. Materials like this make leather feel increasingly old hat. 

The steering wheel and column is tweaked, gaining paddle shifts to adjust regenerative braking levels and also a new position for the drive selector.

A larger 12.9in touchscreen is another addition, sitting right below which are the heater controls that are at last illuminated.

It’s an interior that blends sportiness and technology well although we wish there were more physical controls to go with the touchscreen. The system has improved since early applications with a better layout and shortcuts falling more easily to hand yet you still find yourself stabbing around the menus when you need something more than a simple command. 


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The dynamic changes to the Born VZ - VZ is shorthand for veloz, which translates as fast - are extensive over the standard model on which it is based.

On the powertrain side, the rear-mounted motor has had power increased from 228bhp to 322bhp while torque has increased from 229lb ft to 402lb ft. 

This cuts the 0-62mph time by over a second to 5.7sec while the top speed is also given a big increase by 25mph to 124mph. 

The Born VZ can take its power and torque hike well, and the extra acceleration is useful and usable when attacking a series of corners. Very little unsettles the car and the tuning is commendable. 

Perhaps the most focus of all was given to the brake pedal and its feel, something that’s always been off in performance electric cars as the tuning has to factor in not only the traditional brakes but the regenerative braking from the motor, too, which is why so many EVs have a spongy pedal feel.

The brakes take some getting used to and they’re still as you’d expect from a petrol hot hatch; the first part of the travel is quite dead before they really start to bite. From there they’re progressive but the lack of initial stopping power feels a bit strange. You can also control the level of regeneration using paddles on the steering wheel. 

The brakes aren’t as strange as the absence of noise. Having bemoaned some of the artificial racket coming from EVs, the sound of silence was equally disconcerting in the Born VZ. We await someone to solve this conundrum.


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The chassis changes are also significant: there are new springs and dampers for the rear suspension and tuning changes at the front.

Adaptive DCC dampers are standard and tuned to “transmit more from the road to the car” according to Gene, who summarised the overall changes as making the car feel “strong and sporty”.

The steering has been given a new map to “translate faster to the driver what the front wheels are doing” as “another big focus of development”, our presenter said. 

The chassis is good. There’s a lot of grip at the front and the car’s front-end inspires a lot of confidence to really attack corners, while the rear remains stable.

It reminded me of a Volkswagen Golf GTI: rewarding and composed without being razor-sharp. That comparison extends to the steering, too, which is communicative enough while remaining light. 


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The Born VZ gets a slightly larger usable battery size than the standard car, up 2kWh to 79kWh. The official range maxes out at 372 miles depending on what options you select and even with hard driving we were seeing an indicated range of 250 miles. A more sedate driving style could push 300 miles in the real-world.

The charging speed is 185kW, meaning a fast charge from 10% battery capacity to 80% will take just under half an hour.

There’s no official word on pricing yet ahead of the Born VZ’s launch in the UK later this year (Q3 is the official target) yet it’s expected to cost in the mid-£40,000s. 


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There’s huge visual appeal inside and out and there is also real driver appeal to the Born VZ.

It can’t match even a middling petrol-powered hot hatch for interaction as we’d traditionally recognise it, yet it’s another welcome development and step towards making electric cars more involving and with enthusiast appeal. 

Mark Tisshaw

Title: Editor

Mark is a journalist with more than a decade of top-level experience in the automotive industry. He first joined Autocar in 2009, having previously worked in local newspapers. He has held several roles at Autocar, including news editor, deputy editor, digital editor and his current position of editor, one he has held since 2017.

From this position he oversees all of Autocar’s content across the print magazine, autocar.co.uk website, social media, video, and podcast channels, as well as our recent launch, Autocar Business. Mark regularly interviews the very top global executives in the automotive industry, telling their stories and holding them to account, meeting them at shows and events around the world.

Mark is a Car of the Year juror, a prestigious annual award that Autocar is one of the main sponsors of. He has made media appearances on the likes of the BBC, and contributed to titles including What Car?Move Electric and Pistonheads, and has written a column for The Sun.