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Cupra Formentor Review 2022

By Matt Robinson

The Cupra Formentor is the Spanish performance brand’s first bespoke product. What do we mean by that? Well, Cupra – a blend of the words ‘Cup’ and ‘Race’ – was once SEAT’s tag for any of its hot models. So you had a SEAT Leon Cupra, or a SEAT Ibiza Cupra and they were the only 2 cars SEAT ever gave the name to. But, basically, if you used to think of Cupra as the Iberian equivalent of ‘GTI’ in the world of Volkswagen, then you were on the right course.

However, in 2018, Cupra became a standalone brand all of its own. It only still makes hot versions of SEAT models. So both the Leon hatchback and the Ateca SUV are sold as both SEATs (regular stuff) and as Cupras (the faster ones).

This Formentor, however, is only sold as a Cupra. It comes purely with punchy petrol or petrol-electric drivetrains, with 6 main models available overall. Depending on which engine you go for, you get either front- or 4-wheel drive, and almost all Formentors are sold with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox (7-speed on TSI models, 6-speed on the eHybrid plug-in hybrids, or PHEVs) – the exception being the base powertrain, which is available in manual or automatic forms.

So, running through the range, you can choose from a 150hp/250Nm 1.5-litre TSI petrol, with either a 6-speed manual or 7-speed DSG transmission and front-wheel drive, or move up to the next rung, which is a 2.0-litre TSI with 190hp/320Nm, a DSG ‘box and 4Drive AWD.

After that, the first of the PHEVs comes into play, which is the eHybrid 204 – as its name suggests, it has 204hp, allied to 350Nm of torque. The more potent Formentor PHEV has the same 1.4-litre TSI engine as its basis but more electric power to go with it, resulting in drivetrain peaks of 245hp and 400Nm; hence its name of eHybrid 245. If you fancy that sort of grunt without any electrical assistance, the TSI 245 is also available, which has a slightly lesser 370Nm but it is also almost 150kg lighter than the eHybrid, so it’s a bit quicker to 62mph.

Finally, topping off the whole range is the brilliant TSI 310 DSG 4Drive. Aside from the 190 TSI, this is the only model with all-wheel drive, and it also has outputs of 310hp with 400Nm of torque – making it comfortably the fastest Formentor of them all. For reference, it’ll do 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds and top out at a limited 155mph, while the ‘slowest model’ is the TSI 150, which records 8.9 seconds and 126mph for the same data.

We’ll talk about exact specs later in the piece, but with talented – and widely varied – rivals including the likes of the Peugeot 3008, Ford Kuga, BMW X2, Volkswagen T-Roc, Toyota RAV4 and, of course, the SEAT/Cupra Ateca, what is the Formentor like to drive… and live with?

What’s Good About It?

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Plenty, but from a visual standpoint, both outside and in, the Cupra Formentor is a winner. It’s sometimes described as a ‘coupe-SUV’, as it’s a sporty vehicle, but it avoids the bubble-like curved roof of similar machines – think Audi Q3 Sportback or BMW X4 – and looks all the better for it. Even the questionable Cupra logo, which some say is like an odd tribal tattoo, is acceptable these days, and as the SUV is closer in height and size to a SEAT Leon than it is a SEAT Ateca, the Formentor manages to convey the impression that it is taut and athletic, not needlessly tall and overweight.

Where it really scores highly is inside. Despite its lower roofline, it’s still a fairly accommodating SUVin the rear seats, but up front is an incredibly stylish dashboard that is made of some truly top-quality materials. There’s a reliance on touchscreen infotainment systems in all models, sure, but the Cupra’s interfaces work intuitively, and the overall ambience of the cabin is therefore prestigious and attractive; moreso than some of the similar VW Group SUVs that share much of the Formentor’s componentry. 

What Could Be Better?

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On lower-specification models and all versions of the eHybrid PHEVs, you get ‘fake’ exhausts. Cupra attempts to deflect the issue and calls these ‘simulated’ exhausts, but we prefer to say fake because this is a recent automotive trend that we’re really not big fans of. Naturally, it’s hardly a dealbreaker that the Formentor doesn’t have real exit pipes at the back on many models, but it might irk enthusiasts nonetheless – and Cupra is a marque aimed at enthusiasts, remember.

Also, like so many PHEVs, the eHybrid models are heavy. For the models with just internal combustion engines (ICE) onboard, the lightest is the manual TSI 150 at 1437kg, while the heaviest is the TSI 310 4Drive at 1644kg. However, the 204hp eHybrid is 1681kg, while the most powerful 245hp hybrid variant is 1704kg. That means it’s a huge 267kg heavier than the Formentor at the other end of the weight scale, and that’s a significant amount of extra ballast which can affect how the Cupra drives in all situations. 

What’s It Like To Drive?

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Considering that the Formentor uses the same parts as multiple other VW Group crossovers and SUVs – like the Volkswagens Tiguan and T-Roc, and the SEAT/Cupra Ateca, and the Skodas Karoq and Kodiaq, and various Audi Q models – it is quite amazing how different the Cupra feels from behind the wheel. It is a truly brilliant sports SUV to drive, arguably better than any other high-riding vehicle this side of a (much more expensive) Porsche Macan.

Whether you pick the 150hp base model or the all-singing, all-dancing 310hp range-topper, the Cupra has lovely steering, with real feel and bite to it. There’s an abundance of grip, as there is from most cars these days on the most modern tyres, but the Cupra best exploits that trait by backing it up with magnificent body control, supple yet capable damping (whether on standard steel springs and conventional shocks, or if equipped with Dynamic Chassis Control adjustable suspension) and a chassis that has wonderful balance. Honestly, the Formentor moves around and feels far more limber than many of those related SUVs we’ve listed in the paragraph above. In fact, it feels better to drive than a good few hot hatchbacks we can think of.

Yet it will function perfectly civilly as a family SUV, which is what – underneath all the sports-car-like toppings – the basic premise of the Formentor is. The ride comfort is excellent on motorways and A-roads, and even the models on larger 19-inch alloys conduct themselves with grace around towns. Perhaps the least impressive versions from a driving point of view are the eHybrids, which feel heavier in the corners and can sometimes have a firmer edge to their low-speed ride manners, but even then they’re not out-and-out uncomfortable and they compensate by being able to drive in a hushed fashion for up to 37 miles at a time on their zero-emission electric power. 

How Practical Is It?

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On pure boot space terms, there’s a difference to how much stuff you can put in the back of the Formentor according to which drivetrain you have. Any of the models with just an ICE under the bonnet and front-wheel drive have the biggest boots, standing at 450 litres with all seats in use and rising to 1505 litres with the second row folded away. Choose either of the TSIs that come with 4Drive AWD and those figures reduce to 420 and 1475 litres respectively. But it’s the eHybrids which lose the most, as the siting of electric gear is underneath the boot floor – leaving the seats-up cargo space at 345 litres and the seats-down number at 1191 litres.

However, passenger space in both rows of the cabin is generous and the visibility is fine in most directions, although it’s a little compromised to the rear due to the Formentor’s sloping tailgate. The driving position is excellent, though, with enough ‘semi-command’ height to give you a better view out over the road and other cars, yet low enough relative to the Cupra’s body that it still feels sporty and ensconcing. Further, storage cubbies and solutions throughout the cabin are in plentiful supply, while the Formentor’s relatively compact exterior dimensions for an SUV – it’s 4450mm long, 1839mm wide and just 1511mm tall excluding its roof rails) – make it easier to park in towns than some of its contemporaries. 

How Much Will It Cost Me?

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Cupra offers the Formentor in 5 specifications: V1, V2, VZ1, VZ2 and then VZ3. In order of the amount of equipment fitted to each of them, and the grandiosity of said kit, it’s kind of arranged V1, VZ1, V2, VZ2 and then VZ3, but that’s a bit misleading in some respects because there’s also a 2-tier arrangement of the drivetrains that’s aligned to the specifications/power outputs.

So you can only get the TSI 150 (manual and DSG auto), TSI 190 4Drive and eHybrid 204 models in V1 and V2 trim grades, while the TSI 245, eHybrid 245 and TSI 310 4Drive are reserved for VZ1, VZ2 and VZ3 levels. Prices for all Formentors are competitive with their equivalent rivals, while monthly leasing rates through Vanarama are notably affordable as well.

V1

V1 trim brings with it 18-inch black and silver alloy wheels, privacy glass, LED head- and taillights with dynamic indicators, rain-sensing wipers, a digital instrument cluster plus a 10-inch infotainment and satnav screen, wireless Apple CarPlay connectivity and wireless smartphone charging, black Sports seats in fabric trim with copper stitching, a leather multifunction steering wheel (which is heated and comes with shift paddles on the DSG cars), rear parking sensors, 3-zone climate control, an electronic locking differential with dynamic traction control, adaptive cruise control with a speed limiter, Kessy keyless entry and go, Forward Collision Warning with automatic braking, Driver Alert System, Lane Assist, and the Safety & Driving Pack M – which includes Dynamic Road Sign Display and High Beam Assist. This is among much more for a very generous standard specification.

V2

The V2 models upgrade the alloys to 19-inch matte black and silver items, while buyers also get black Nappa leather bucket seats with heating functionality in the front 2 chairs, electric adjustment and memory functions for the driver’s seat, a leather dashboard, smart wraparound interior lighting, Park Assist (including front parking sensors and a rear-view camera), and electrically adjustable, folding and heated door mirrors with memory function.

VZ1

Moving to VZ1, it takes the entire V1 spec and builds on it with some of the stuff found in the V2 specification – such as the same 19-inch alloys and the Park Assist package – but there are key differences to other items, while there’s also equipment fitted here which is not found on the V2. So while a VZ1 gets bucket-shaped front seats like a V2, they’re not trimmed in leather and they don’t come with any heating/electric adjustment features. A VZ1 also doesn’t benefit from the smart wraparound lighting, but extra items it is fitted with (compared to a V2) include a larger 12-inch touchscreen for the infotainment, a rear diffuser with single-exit exhausts on either side (simulated exits on the eHybrid PHEV model), the Virtual Pedal hands-free opening powered tailgate, Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) adjustable damping with a Sports suspension set-up, 4-mode driving profile selection (Comfort, Sport, Cupra, Individual), speed-sensitive power steering, and an enhanced Safety & Driving Pack L, which takes the M bundle seen on V1 models and further adds Side Assist (blind-spot monitoring) and Exit Assist (audible and visual warnings of approaching traffic when opening the vehicle’s doors).

VZ2

VZ2 is properly upmarket and takes everything from VZ1, as well as adding in the missing items from the V2 grade such as the leather upholstery and dashboard, and the heated front seats and electrically adjustable driver’s seat as well. But it further includes a heated leather multifunction ‘Supersports’ steering wheel, which incorporates the start/stop button for the engine, a Cupra mode switch and also shift paddles, as well as a rear diffuser with twin-exit exhausts on both sides (for the TSI 310, anyway; the eHybrid still has ‘fake’ exits) and the Safety & Driving Pack XL – this has all 4 features of the L bundle, plus Lane Change Assist and Emergency Assist (semi-autonomous vehicle control in the event of an emergency).

V23

Finally, VZ3 is just a VZ2, but with 19-inch copper-and-black alloy wheels (instead of silver and black) plus a set of high-performance Brembo brakes too.

Formentor Running Costs

In terms of running costs, the TSI 150 is the most frugal and tax-friendly ICE-powered Formentor, offering 41.5-44.8mpg as a manual and 39.2-42.2mpg as a DSG auto. CO2 emissions stand at 143-147g/km and 151-155g/km for the respective gearboxes on the base 1.5-litre model.

All the other TSI petrols (2.0-litre engines) give between 31.4- (310 4Drive) and 37.7mpg (190 4Drive), with CO outputs of between 193- and 171g/km accordingly. So if you want the Formentors with the greatest eco-stats, you’ve got to look at the eHybrid PHEVs. The 204 delivers between 201.8- and 235.4mpg, with 27-29g/km of CO2 emissions and an all-electric (EV) driving range of up to 37 miles. The more powerful 245 is a little less efficient but is still deeply impressive, with 176.6-188.3mpg and 33g/km of CO2, plus a 34-mile EV driving range. The usual PHEV caveat applies, though, which is that if you want to see such extraordinary economy numbers in regular usage, you’ll need to be charging these Formentors at least once daily and driving them for the vast majority of the time in electric-only mode. 

Anything Else I Should Know?

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All SEAT and Cupra models take their names from locations in their homeland of Spain. Some of these are obvious, like Ibiza and Leon, but others are more obscure. In this instance, Formentor is an isthmus of land to the very north and east of the Balearic island of Mallorca, complete with a picturesque lighthouse and some wonderful driving roads on the approach to it. Hence, it’s quite inspirational scenery for naming a sporty SUV.

Oh, and the V/VZ in the Formentor’s trim names is down to the fact that the Spanish word for ‘fast’ is ‘veloz’. So now you know.

What Are The Alternatives To The Formentor?

Peugeot 3008

Doesn’t really have the performance credentials to match the Formentor, despite the presence of a 300hp Hybrid4 PHEV at the top of the range. Looks great outside and in, though, and generally drives well.

Porsche Macan

A controversial choice? Maybe. But at the top of the Formentor’s range and the bottom of the Macan’s, there’s definitely plenty of overlap in terms of these 2 SUVs’ character, quality and sheer driving ability. 

Volkswagen Tiguan

There’s a hot one, the 300hp R, and a plug-in hybrid one, and also plenty of other ICE choices – as you’d expect from a car distantly related to the Cupra. Yet we’d have the racier Formentor over the Tiguan, every time.

The Vanarama Verdict: 9/10

"Brilliant to drive, with a really superb interior."

3 Things To Remember About The Renault Clio Mk5:

  • It’s not sold as a SEAT-badged model in any form
  • The Formentor is wonderful to drive
  • Practicality doesn’t suffer too much for the styling

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