Cupra Formentor review
The Cupra Formentor is the first model from Seat’s off-shoot performance brand. It looks great inside and out and is fun on the right road, but there are SUVs with bigger boots and higher driving positions available.
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The Cupra Formentor is the first properly distinct model from a new performance brand. Sure, you’ve seen the Cupra name at the end of hot SEAT models in the past, but now you’ll start seeing it at the beginning, on models that aren’t just tarted-up SEATs.
This begins with the Formentor; a family SUV, doing a similar job to the VW T-Roc R and BMW X2 M35i.
Even if the Cupra badge looks like a tribal tattoo you wake up with alongside a hangover in Magaluf, the rest of the exterior is like a shot of Berocca. Its sloping roofline and sharp creases give it an much sportier edge than the brand’s other SUV, the Cupra Ateca, despite having the same number of doors and seats.
Inside, the good news continues, because the Formentor is much more interesting to behold than the Ateca, but also a T-Roc R or X2 M35i. It has a high centre console, an interestingly styled dash and doors, plus a massive widescreen infotainment system in the middle. Quality is very good too. We do wish there were a few more personalisation options inside, though, and that goes for the outside with wheel choices, too.
There are a few annoying things with the infotainment system and buttons too. For instance, the screen is bright, sharp and quick to react, but the system’s menus are sometimes confusing. The touch-sensitive climate controls are difficult to use while driving, too, a criticism we’ve also levelled at the VW Golf, which gets a similar set.
Still, you can plug in your Apple or Android phone and it’ll display on the screen of every model, meaning you don’t need to worry too much about the in-built system, or satellite navigation for that matter. Phew.
We'd go for the 310hp petrol, because it's great fun to drive. V2 trim makes the most sense from a value perspective.
You sit lower to the ground in the Cupra Formentor than you do in a Cupra Ateca, making it feel much closer to a Leon in terms of its driving position. The driving position itself is great, but if you like being higher up the Ateca is the better option. Otherwise, there’s decent space for four adults inside the Formentor, and its boot isn’t far behind the Ateca’s for size or practicality. Nor an X2’s for that matter.
You can have your Formentor with either a 2.0-litre turbo petrol in 150, 190 or 310hp forms, or go the plug-in hybrid route and have a 1.4-litre petrol paired with a small battery and electric motor which together offers 204 or 245hp. These PHEVs will travel around 37 miles on electricity, meaning low CO2 and the cheapest company car tax.
The pick of the range – if you really want your sporty-looking SUV to also feel sporty – is the 310hp 2.0-litre turbo. It gets all-wheel-drive and a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox, a combination that ensures seriously strong acceleration in all conditions, plus lots of grip in wintery conditions. Cupra has also done a great job with the Formentor’s steering, which is fairly light, but confidence-inspiring on a country road. All-told, it’s more fun than a VW T-Roc, and a good match for a BMW X2.
All Formentors come with suspension you can stiffen and slacken via a drive mode selector. That keeps its body in better check through quick, tight bends, but in its comfiest setting means lumps and bumps in town are no problem, either. And, despite the Formentor’s pinched rear styling, parking isn’t difficult because all cars come with a reversing camera.
The Formentor is even a comfy, quiet companion on the motorway, making it something of a great all-rounder. There are sporty SUVs with bigger boots and higher driving positions, but if neither matters to you, the Formentor should certainly be on your shortlist.
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There’s loads of space for people and their stuff, but the large front seats make the back-seat area a bit gloomy.
The large front bucket sports seats hold you in all the right places, and on higher-spec models they’re electrically adjustable. Talking of adjustment, there’s a vast amount of seat movement available, so you can have either the up-in-the-clouds SUV feel or the teenager-in-a-hot-hatchback low-slung look. There’s also more steering column adjustment than most people are likely to need.
In the back, there’s loads of space for two adults, with plenty of legroom and headroom, despite the sloping roof. There’s also loads of space under the front seats for their feet.
Even a middle passenger won’t feel too hard done by, because they still get decent headroom and while there’s a central tunnel to straddle, it isn’t too big.
There are a few storage areas dotted around the Formentor’s cabin, which makes it quite easy to live with on a day-to-day basis.
For example, there are two cupholders in the centre console. “What’s so great about that?” we hear you cry. Well, they’re different sizes, so one can carry a large bottle and the other caters for a smaller can. See? Easy. There’s also a small storage area beneath the central armrest.
Ahead of the gear selector is a storage area for your mobile phone, and it also doubles up as a wireless charging pad.
The door bins are big enough to carry a large bottle of water, and should you feel extra-thirsty the glovebox can swallow another bottle.
Those in the back-seat area shouldn’t feel short-changed because there are decent-sized pockets on the backs of the front seats as well as pretty big door bins.
There’s also a couple of cupholders in the centre armrest but most of the time these simply serve to make the armrest uncomfortable to rest your arm on, which sort of defeats the object.
Further the front seats are quite big and difficult to see around, which can make the back seat area feel a little claustrophobic compared with less style-focused SUVs.
The Cupra Formentor may well be the cool uncle that turns up at Seat Ateca family gatherings, but it’s still pretty practical.
For example, the boot space is a decent 450 litres, which compares pretty well with the 485 litres of the much more staid Ateca.
It’s a decent, rectangular shape, and is big enough to hold five carry-on cases below the parcel shelf. Better still, there are numerous tie-down points and hooks to keep your shopping where you left it.
It’s a shame that there’s a slight load lip to lift things over, but in reality it isn’t really big enough to be an issue.
The back seats fold down automatically when you pull a lever on either side of the boot, and lie flat enough to make no difference. There’s also no step in the boot floor, so it’s easy to slide stuff all the way in.
Talking of floor, there’s some small extra storage areas under the floor, beside the spacesaver spare tyre.
Bear in mind though, that if you go for a four-wheel-drive Formentor, the boot capacity is reduced by 30 litres because of the presence of the rear differential. It’s even worse news if you go for the plug-in hybrid though, as that loses a full 120 litres of boot space.
The Formentor has an engine option to suit every need, from super frugal to properly brisk. It also handles really well for its size.
There are a few engines available in the Formentor, kicking off with the 150hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbocharged unit. This develops 250Nm of torque and can cover the 0-62mph dash in 8.9 seconds before going on to a top speed of 127mph.
If you’re buying the Formentor as a stylish family carrier rather than a road rocket then its performance is perfectly acceptable, and it never feels underpowered. Refinement is good, too, while you’ll be such strong fuel economy on longer runs that you won’t miss that there isn’t a diesel option.
Next up is a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder unit that produces either 190hp or 245hp. In the lower-powered tune it produces 320Nm or torque, and in the higher state it makes 370Nm.
The 190hp car covers the 0-62mph dash in 7.1 seconds and the 245hp car does it in 6.8 seconds. They have top speeds of 137mph and 148mph respectively. Both of these units feel gutsier than the 1.5 and are therefore better suited to spirited drivers or those who carry lots of people and stuff. However they’re a bit more thirsty, so that’s the trade-off to make.
Then there’s a 310hp 2.0-litre turbo, which has an automatic gearbox and four-wheel drive, whereas the lesser cars offer manual gearboxes and two-wheel drive as well.
This hottest Formentor sprints (officially) to 62mph in 4.9 seconds and will hit 155mph. However, Cupra has been telling porkies, because we managed the same dash in just 4.3 seconds. Impressive! It’s a seriously rapid car in this form, but still manages to mooch about nicely about town, while you’ll be getting well over 30mpg on a gentler run.
If efficiency is your thing though, there are two plug-in hybrid models, which combine a 1.4-litre petrol engine with an electric motor; one generates 204hp and the other 245hp. These both do more than 130mph and will cover the 0-62mph dash in comfortably less than eight seconds. We’ve only tried the latter, and it’s certainly pretty potent for a hybrid.
However, fuel economy is the big draw. The lower-powered car has a claimed average economy figure of up to 235mpg, while the higher-powered car does a claimed 188mpg. However, bear in mind that – as with all plug-in hybrids – you will have to plug your Formentor in pretty much every time you stop if you’re to get anywhere near these figures.
Cupra has also engineered in some synthesised engine notes for the hybrids to make them sound more appealing for keen drivers. In the sportiest Cupra drive mode this becomes a rather amusing fake V8-style note. It’s not for everyone, but it is fun.
Light and easy pretty much sums it up, in town at least. Just stick the (15-way!) adjustable dampers in their softest setting, engage drive and the Formentor will get you to where you need to go with the minimum of fuss. The ride is surprisingly comfortable over scarred surfaces for a sporting SUV.
The steering is accurate and requires little effort, so parking is easy, although the thick windscreen pillars and smallish rear window hamper your view out a little.
However, when you want to have a bit of fun, press the Cupra button on the steering wheel to engage a firmer setting and the Formentor immediately jumps to attention. It’s ready to go, and when you put your foot down, well boy oh boy does it go. It’s rabidly quick in a straight line, and corners with far more enthusiasm than any SUV has a right to. Better still, the ride is still on the comfortable side of sporty. As an all-round driving package, it’s a bit of a cracker.
The hybrid versions aren’t quite as agile on account of their extra weight. But compared with other hybrid alternatives, the Cupra is still one of the best driving SUVs out there.
This is a seriously stylish, practical and well built interior. It’s a shame that some of the touch-sensitive tech doesn’t work as well as buttons, though.
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