Cupra Born vs Mercedes EQA vs Volvo C40 Recharge: 2021 group test review

The clamour for car makers to be seen as premium is only matched by the rush to get increasingly sought-after electric cars into showrooms. EVs are in demand and EVs with posh badges mean bigger profits for those who make and market them.

That’s partly the thinking behind Spanish upstart Cupra. Once just a tag for hot SEATs, it’s now a brand in its own right, attracting younger buyers with its upmarket positioning and sporty styling.

As with everyone else, it’s going fully electric, and the Cupra Born is its first EV. It shares its tech with other members of the Volkswagen Group, starting with the MEB architecture, so there’s no surprise that there’s more of a passing resemblance to Volkswagen’s popular ID.3 electric hatch.

In keeping with Cupra’s brand values, the Born gets sportier details and sits slightly lower and on bigger wheels than the VW, plus it has a more upmarket interior.

If Cupra wants to know how to muscle in on the upmarket elite, it need look no further than Volvo. The Swedish brand has done a remarkable job in recent years of establishing itself as a real premium player, combining tech and electrification with strong quality and cool, Swedish design.

The new C40 is the first Volvo model to only be available as an EV, which is why it also officially wears a Recharge badge. To all intents and purposes, it’s a sleeker, sportier, crossover version of the XC40 SUV (available as an EV and an ICE car) and is aimed directly at those with sustainability in mind by being 100 per cent leather-free.

However, the granddaddy of the premium brands is Mercedes, which itself is on a journey of reinvention with its electrified EQ sub-brand. The new EQA is its smallest all-electric crossover and, like the Volvo, it uses a platform that also underpins models with combustion engines and a combination of electric and combustion – in this case the hugely popular Mercedes GLA.

Auto Express was given an exclusive opportunity to put these three newcomers head-to-head as part of the judging panel for our German sister title Auto Bild’s Golden Steering Wheel awards. And while our verdict won’t necessarily be the same as that of the rest of the Golden Steering Wheel committee, it offers a great chance to see whether it’s the new kids on the block or the more established players who are going to come out on top in what is likely to be one of the most popular sectors of the rapidly growing EV market.


Model: Cupra Born Volvo C40 Recharge Mercedes EQA 250

Price: £39,995 (est) £57,400 £47,340 (est)

Battery: 58kWh 78kWh 67kWh 

Range: 263 miles 261 miles 263 miles

Power: 201bhp 402bhp 201bhp

0-62mph: 7.3 seconds 4.7 seconds 8.9 seconds 

Top speed: 99mph 112mph 99mph

Weight: 1,736kg 2,207kg 2,040kg

Boot space: 385-1,267 litres 413-1,205 litres +31 (frunk) 340-1,320 litres

First in the pit lane for us to try at Germany’s Lausitzring circuit, not far from the Polish and Czech Republic borders, is the Born, looking great in its deep black paintwork, with copper-coloured Cupra badges and lower grille.

While the Born is clearly related to the ID.3, especially in profile, it looks a whole lot sexier than the VW, thanks to the more sculpted bonnet, textured C-pillar, full-width angular rear lights and slim front LEDs.

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