What are they?
Largely gone are the days when buyers would choose a car from an established player (think Ford and Vauxhall) and remain with that brand for the rest of eternity. Oh no, today’s consumers are willing to try, dabble in different products and buy from a firm they might have never previously considered or heard of.
That’s very much the case in the electric car world, where brand allegiance is seemingly not as important – as evidenced by the fact buyers are swapping out their diesel Audis and BMWs, and for electric Hyundais and Kias. That leads us to these two EV hatchbacks – the MG4 and the Cupra Born. Both from reinvigorated and upcoming brands that are really gaining momentum. But which of these electric hatchbacks is the best? Let’s dive in.
Modern-day MG is a long way removed from the classic sports car brand you might have in your head. No, now produced in China, MG got off to a shaky start when it was revived in the early 2010s, but in the space of a decade has become the fastest-growing car firm– now selling more cars in the UK than brands like Skoda and Mini. Its focus on value, seven-year warranty and a growing dealer network has all helped, but so has its dedication to EVs.
There’s the MG ZS crossover that’s sold well and the MG5 estate car (the first EV of its type), and the MG4 is a brand-new model and arrives as a new electric hatchback. The headlines are its funky design and £25,995 starting price that makes it one of the cheapest new EVs.
Next up is Cupra. It’s another brand that needs a bit of explaining, as while you might think of Cupra as Seat’s performance arm, the two firms split in 2018 for Cupra to become a standalone brand, though still closely related to Seat; sharing resource staff and dealers, among other aspects.
Though Cupra already has a couple of hybrids on the market, the Born is its first EV, and is essentially a sibling model to the Volkswagen ID.3 hatchback. Built around a bespoke electric car platform, like the MG, the Born has a sportier focus than its VW EV relative and has already impressed us.
What’s under the bonnet?
Both of these two EVs are offered with a choice of powertrains – the MG4 is available with a 51kWh battery and a 168bhp motor in Standard Range form, and a 62kWh battery and 200bhp motor in Long Range form which we’re trying here.
As for the Born, the ‘entry-level’ setup is the one we’re testing – using a 58kWh battery and 201bhp motor, though with optional e-Boost, the power goes up to 227bhp. A 77kWh battery model is also offered for those wanting the most range.
They’re very close on power and battery size, and that equates to similar performance – the MG4 able to accelerate from 0-60mph in 7.7 seconds, while the Born can do it in 7.1 seconds. The MG4 has a slight edge when it comes to range, though, as while Cupra claims up to 263 miles for the Born, the MG4 can achieve a claimed 281 miles – reduced to 270 miles in the top-spec ‘Trophy’ car seen here, because of its less aerodynamic styling.
Charging times are comparable as well, with both taking around 35 minutes to charge from 10 to 80 per cent on a 150kW rapid charger and nine hours if using a 7kW wallbox or public charger.
What are they like to drive?
The main revelation here is just how competent the MG4 is behind the wheel. Despite being slower on paper, the way its power is delivered feels more immediate than the Cupra’s smoother and seamless pickup. It handles well too, feeling flat through the corners and is good fun to hustle down a twisty back road. The MG4 also offers three levels of regenerative braking, rather than the Born’s one, helping to improve matters further.
Despite this, the Born feels like the better all-round package, managing to feel more engaging if really pressed, while the lower seating position gives it more of a hot hatch feel behind the wheel. Though the ride is quite firm, not helped by the 20-inch alloy wheels on our test car, it feels like a more polished product. The driver assistance technology is better integrated, while the Born is much quieter and more refined at higher speeds and on the motorway.
How do they look?
Lighting is everything on these two EVs, particularly at the rear. The Cupra Born gets a full-width LED light bar that looks fantastic at night, though the large LED rear lights of the MG4 aren’t far behind, with top-spec cars getting an intricate bar that contains various additional lines to add to the look/
There are some lovely other details on the MG4, including its twin aero spoiler that looks like it’s been taken off a sports car, rather than an electrical family car. There’s no question that this is MG’s boldest and best design we’ve seen yet, though you might want to choose the brighter Holborn Blue or Volcano Orange if you want something more vibrant.
Similarly, the Geyser Silver paint on our test Cupra Born does it no favours, but this is another smart bit of design, and certainly more interesting than the VW ID.3 it’s based on. The copper detailing that runs throughout the design grabs your attention, while the textured grille and sporty details – such as the side skirts and rear diffuser – helped to offer a design that underlies the sporty credentials of the Born.
What are they like inside?
Both of these EVs take full advantage of the bespoke EV platforms they’re based on. With no transmission tunnel to contend with, each offers a very roomy feel upfront – the Cupra Born gets a deep centre console while the MG4 gets a modern ‘floating’ console that houses the gear selector, and this gives it a particularly modern feel. There’s a virtually flat floor in the rear, too, offering a good deal of rear seat space, though the boot of the Cupra is noticeably deeper, even if it suffers from quite a steep lip while the MG instead has a flat boot floor.
Modern interior design is present here, too, with both models going with the trend of modern, minimalist dashboards with few physical buttons but a big screen instead. Each takes a bit of time to adjust to, and there are certain things you wish existed as physical buttons (the climate control, for example), but it’s the Cupra that offers the slicker and more intuitive display.
Though the MG4 feels like the brand’s best interior yet, some of the switchgear feels noticeably cheaper than that of the Born’s as well – particularly the door cards and buttons below the touchscreen. Admittedly, the Cupra doesn’t feel especially premium, but with its superb bucket seats (trimmed in suede-like Dinamica on top-spec cars) and cabin made from various recycled materials, it has the edge.
What’s the spec like?
Even if you opt for the entry-level SE version of the MG4, the equipment is impressive – including LED headlights, 17-inch alloy wheels, various driver assistance tech and a 10.25-inch touchscreen. The top-spec Trophy trim adds a whole host of extra kit, though, including heated front seats, a 360-degree camera and blind spot monitoring – the latter being two things you don’t even get on a top-spec Born.
Yet you won’t feel short-changed with the Cupra, as 18-inch alloys, a 12-inch touchscreen and adaptive cruise control all come with the V1 version, while the V2 trim adds 19-inch alloys, heated seats and a fantastic augmented-reality head-up display. At the top of the line-up, the V3 model (tested here) gains 20-inch alloy, the Dinamica upholstery and electric and massaging front seats.
But the real difference between these cars emerges when you look at the price. An entry-level MG4 starts from a remarkable £25,995, while £28,495 gets you a Long Range model. Even at £31,495, the top-spec Trophy is a lot of car for the money, particularly when you consider the cheapest Born will set you back £36,475, while the top-spec Cupra tested here comes in at more than £40,000.
If the Born and MG4 had the same price, we’d be saying the Born came out on top. It’s better to drive, ever so slightly roomier and has a more pleasant interior.
But that price difference is just too great to ignore, with a £5,000 gap between a top-spec MG and an entry-level Cupra. The Born is objectively the better car, and if you’ve got the means, it perhaps is worth the extra, but when times are tough, it’s the MG4 that feels like the right car for the times and should be a real wake-up call to other well-established manufacturers producing more expensive models.