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In-depth reviews

Cupra Formentor review: a sporty SUV with premium flavour

The Cupra Formentor is a sporty coupe-SUV that has enough talent to mix it with more established, premium rivals

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Price
£34,095 to £48,700
  • Stylish design
  • Plenty of standard equipment
  • High-tech interior
  • Touch-sensitive controls
  • Infotainment is not the easiest to use
  • Average warranty compared with rivals
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Quick verdict

The Cupra Formentor is where the brand and its tribal tattoo logo come into their own. It’s sleek, stylish, sporty and very well-equipped, not to mention practical enough for a family. A wide range of engines complements the excellent driving experience, while the plug-in hybrid models make a compelling case for business users.

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It’s not perfect – the entry-level models feel a little at odds with the brand’s sporty ethos, and some of the interior trim perhaps isn’t up to par, but the Formentor coupe-SUV manages to be a desirable and premium product, and it’s worth a place on your shortlist if you’re also looking at cars like the Mercedes GLA, BMW X2 or Peugeot 408

About the Cupra Formentor

​​The Cupra Formentor is the first model that’s exclusive to the Spanish spin-off brand, rather than being a hotted-up version of an existing SEAT. It’s Cupra’s first stepping stone to having its own identity, but the Formentor is still heavily influenced by other SEAT models – and the bigger Volkswagen Group empire.

That’s not a bad thing for the most part, as we like the latest SEAT Leon and Volkswagen Golf. Our criticisms of the Leon are that it’s not particularly exciting to look at and doesn’t have a massive boot, but the Formentor addresses both of those with cool copper styling touches and a bigger SUV-ish body.

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The Formentor slots between the Cupra Leon and the Cupra Ateca, and we’d argue its sleek looks suit the more athletic image of the Cupra brand better than the square Ateca. With a much lower roofline than the Ateca, the Formentor can’t match that car for headroom or boot space. But the Formentor is still quite long, so it’s a practical car with a decent amount of space in the back, and up to 450 litres of cargo space – provided you pick the right version.

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As mentioned above, key rivals come from upmarket manufacturers such as the Mercedes GLA, Audi Q2 and BMW X2, as well as some other coupe-SUVs launched recently like the Peugeot 408 and Renault Arakana. All trade heavily on their individual kerb appeal, so the Formentor will have its work cut out luring customers away from these established marques.

There’s a wide range of engines, starting with the more affordable 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol, or a much hotter 306bhp 2.0-litre petrol for those after a little more pace from their coupe-SUV. Both these engines come exclusively with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The 1.5-litre is front-wheel drive, while the 2.0-litre is the only Formentor to get four-wheel drive.

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Company car drivers are spoilt for choice with two plug-in hybrids. There are the 201bhp or 242bhp e-Hybrid versions, both of which use a six-speed automatic and an electric motor. The former plug-in hybrid provides up to 37 miles of range, while the latter will have to revert back to engine power after 34 miles. Each e-Hybrid model has 12.8kWh of useable battery capacity.

There are six different trim levels, although V1 and V2 trims are reserved for the more sensible engines, while VZ versions (short for ‘veloz’, meaning fast in Spanish) are reserved for the most potent petrol and plug-in hybrid options. For the best value for money, we think the 1.5 150 TSI starting at a little over £34,000 makes the most sense. V1 trim provides plenty of useful features, such as the configurable digital instrument cluster, a large 12-inch infotainment system with sat-nav and wireless Apple CarPlay, rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, and wireless phone charging. However, V2 trim, starting at a little over £36,500, is our preferred version because the addition of Nappa leather and some smarter interior trim materials gives the Formentor a premium feel, plus front parking sensors and a reversing camera are always handy features. The plug-in hybrid range starts at nearly £40,500, while the hottest 2.0 TSI 310 4Drive model costs over £45,500.

Engines, performance and drive

The Cupra Formentor is great to drive, but it’s the 306bhp version that lives up to its sporty billing

The Cupra Formentor is very competent in its entry-level form, offering up plenty of grip, tidy handling, and a ride that can be a little firm at low speeds, but is well-controlled once you’ve built up some speed. It’s just that while the 1.5-litre petrol is very good, you get the sense that needs a more powerful engine to live up the Cupra brand’s sportier image.

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The 204 and 245 e-Hybrid plug-in hybrid models are a bit underwhelming, too. Neither can’t shrug off the weight penalty of a heavy batter pack, making these versions feel slightly less agile in the corners, plus the suspension has had to be stiffened to compensate for the extra weight, so these versions don’t ride as well. Nor do they sound particularly inspiring when pushed, even when you engage Cupra mode where the augmented sound of a five-cylinder engine comes through the car’s speaker system.

Fortunately, the 2.0-litre TSI 310 version helps to redeem the Formentor range. We initially tested it on a racetrack, where the Cupra mode pushed the 306bhp version to its firmest and fastest settings. But we soon found that the Cupra mode is best left at the track, because it’s far too firm for British roads. The steering also gets heavier but doesn’t have any more feel, so it actually becomes slightly less enjoyable to drive.

It’s best to keep it in the less hardcore driving modes, where the more comfort-orientated settings of the adaptive suspension fitted to VZ1 trims and above allow the Formentor to ride very well on the road. The Cupra mode feels like it’s trying a little too hard, but the Normal mode is just right. There’s very little body roll and lots of grip, so you’ll feel confident is carrying some speed down a twisty country road. The quickest Formentor gets 4DRIVE all-wheel drive as standard. It doesn’t turn the Formentor into an off-road champion, but adds a feeling of security with its additional traction in wintry driving conditions.

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All petrol versions use a seven-speed DSG automatic, while the hybrids get a slightly older six-speed automatic. While a six-speed manual would likely improve engagement on the faster models, the DSG gearbox is pretty good. The changes are slick at higher speeds, and you don’t get much jerkiness at low speeds.

0-62mph acceleration and top speed

The Formentor has some of the more powerful engines from the SEAT line-up, so there’s not a slow version in the range. A 1.5-litre petrol with 148bhp kicks off proceedings, and it should have plenty of performance for most buyers. However, we think its 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds doesn’t sit quite right with the Cupra brand’s athletic ethos. Luckily, there are punchier options – if you can afford them.

Performance fans will be pleased to find that the range-topping 306bhp engine that’s familiar to several hot VW Group products, such as the Volkswagen T-Roc R, is used here. Thanks to standard-fit four-wheel drive and 400Nm of torque, the 0-62mph dash is dispatched in just 4.9 seconds, with a top speed of 155mph.

There are also two plug-in hybrid versions if you want to enjoy performance combined with lower running costs. These offer 201bhp or 242bhp, and complete the 0-62mph benchmark in 7.8 seconds and seven seconds flat, respectively.

MPG, CO2 and running costs

A wide range of engines means the Cupra Formentor doesn’t have to be expensive to run

​Cupras used to be the souped-up versions of SEAT’s models, and, as a result, were offered with one powerful petrol engine. Now that Cupra is a standalone brand, the engine range is much wider, and electrified options have been added as Cupra kicks off its transition to an electric-only brand. As such, the Cupra lettering on the boot lid no longer has to mean that the car is costly to run.

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Picking the 306bhp petrol engine will bring fairly chunky running costs, however. This is a classic high-performance petrol, with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, and up to 33.2mpg is the predictable outcome – although be prepared for your consumption readout to drop into the teens with fast driving. It occupies the highest 37 per cent Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) bracket because it puts out at least 192g/km of CO2, although that’s pretty similar to its main rivals, so par for the course if you’re looking at a petrol SUV with this much power.

The entry-level TSI 150 engine offers very acceptable efficiency. It returns 44.8mpg and 143g/km of CO2, which means it’ll be affordable to run for private buyers and out of the top Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax band for company-car drivers.

Business users will be far better off with either of the plug-in hybrids. CO2 emissions of 27-33g/km mean that BiK liability will be around a third as much as the petrol versions.

Tax

While the e-Hybrid models will avoid the first year road tax, it does cost over £40,000 when new, meaning you’ll need to pay an additional £410 on top of the second-year road tax rate (presently £180 for alternatively fuelled vehicles like plug-in hybrids, and £190 for all petrol and diesel models.). The additional charge applies for five years, starting from the second time the car is taxed (from years two to six), and also applies to the 2.0-litre TSI 310 4Drive models. The only versions to escape this surcharge are the V1 and V2 trims using the entry-level 1.5-litre petrol.

Electric range, battery life and charging

Both the 201bhp and 242bhp plug-in hybrid Formentors use a 12.8kWh battery that’s a similar size to a Peugeot 408 PHEV’s, but the Cupra’s pure-electric driving range of 34 miles is shorter, and its CO2 emissions of 29g/km are higher. As a result, The Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid sits in the more costly 12 per cent BiK bracket, while the 408 attracts an 8 per cent rate.

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With a maximum charging speed of 3.6kW, fully recharging the 12.8kWh in the Formentor e-Hybrid will take just over three and a half hours using a home wallbox capable of that said or faster, while a three-pin socket will do the same job in about five hours. 

The battery pack is covered by a separate five-year or 100,000-mile warranty (whichever comes first), which guarantees that it’ll retain more than 70 per cent capacity over this time period.

Insurance groups

Insurance shouldn’t be too expensive for the Cupra Formentor, with the 148bhp engine slotting into group 19 out of 50. The e-Hybrid 204 starts in group 24, while the more powerful 245 e-Hybrid is in group 26. Unsurprisingly, the highest group belongs to the 306bhp petrol (group 33), but that’s a lot lower than the BMW X2 M35i (group 42).

You can get personalised car insurance quotes fast with our comparison tool powered by Quotezone…

Depreciation

Our latest data suggests that the Formentor will retain between 40 to 50 per cent of its value after three years/36,000 miles, with the worst performing being the VZ1 e-Hybrid 245, and the best being the V2 1.5-litre.

To get an accurate valuation on a specific model check out our valuation tool...

Interior, design and technology

The Cupra Formentor has a very nice interior, even if a little too much is shared with the cheaper SEAT Leon

The Cupra Formentor is a sharp-looking crossover that’s bound to turn heads – especially with the copper-coloured wheels on top-spec VZ3 models. The body creases are defined, and there are sharp LED lights at each end. But despite Cupra being a standalone brand these days, there are still crystal-clear links to SEAT. The headlights and grille both come from the SEAT Leon, and even the two cars’ side profiles are strikingly similar. 

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We’d like a little more differentiation between the ‘V’ and more powerful ‘VZ’ trim levels – the VZ versions feature a subtle diffuser between the exhausts, but besides that, they’re identical.

In terms of pricing, the top-of-the-range Formentor steps on the toes of the Cupra Ateca, but the Formentor looks a lot sleeker in comparison. Inside, the difference is even clearer, because the Formentor has a much more modern and stylish interior than the Ateca. A huge 12-inch touchscreen is perched on top of the dashboard, and most of the climate controls have been migrated onto the screen to give a cleaner look, much to the detriment of usability on the move.

There’s also a digital instrument cluster that comes as standard, plus a steering wheel with copper detailing and a carbon fibre-effect centre. The interior has enough classy touches to lift it above a standard SEAT – especially in V2, VZ2, and VZ3 forms which get a leather-covered dashboard. Look down, and you’ll see a lot of familiar switchgear and the stubby gearlever out of the latest Volkswagen Golf, but overall the interior still feels quite special. You’ll still find some cheaper plastics lower down that don’t quite cut the mustard in a £40,000 car, but there aren’t half as many scratchy surfaces as you’d find in the Volkswagen T-Roc R.

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Besides the screens, a lot of other equipment is included as standard too – such as keyless entry and start, rain-sensing wipers and 18-inch alloy wheels; DSG-equipped cars also get a heated steering wheel. V2 adds bigger wheels, leather upholstery (heated Nappa bucket seats in the front) and a reversing camera.

Alongside more powerful engines, VZ versions feature dynamic chassis control (adaptive suspension), drive mode selection, sports suspension, and a powered tailgate. VZ2 adds more safety kit, while the VZ3 version brings Brembo brakes.

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

Impressively, the 12-inch infotainment display comes on every Formentor. The system is simple to use, and the way the buttons pop up when you move your hand close to the screen is neat and leaves the screen uncluttered when not in use. Compared to the set-up in the Peugeot 408, it’s set closer to the front seats, so it’s easier to reach. However, the screen resolution isn’t quite as sharp as the 408’s.

There are plenty of other frustrations, which isn’t surprising for a modern Volkswagen Group infotainment system. The home screen is split into three – for navigation, audio and phone – but you can’t simply touch one of these for access; you need to use one of the small shortcut buttons beneath. 

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The climate controls are infuriating, too. They aren’t illuminated and are, therefore, hard to see at night. You can access the climate controls via a strip across the top of the touchscreen, but that still isn’t particularly easy to use while on the move. There are some useful shortcuts on the climate control page, such as a setting to warm your feet, and another to cool the cabin, but we still prefer physical buttons to make things easier to find while you’re driving.

Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto smartphone connectivity are both standard thankfully, so you can bypass Cupra’s software for the most part. You get four USB-C ports (two front and two rear) to keep your devices topped up, plus standard wireless phone charging.

As standard is a six speaker audio system with Bluetooth, and DAB radio. A nine-speaker, 340-watt Beats audio system is available as an option from V2 trim and above (standard on VZN), although you also have to order a space saver spare wheel at the same time.

Practicality, comfort and boot space

The Cupra Formentor is decently spacious, but not class-leading

You certainly get much more space in the Cupra Ateca than the Cupra Formentor, which trades some of the Ateca’s practicality for a sleeker, sportier look. Legroom is good and headroom is perfectly fine, and the standard petrol models have a decent-sized boot – but the plug-in hybrids lose a bit of luggage space because the batteries for the hybrid system are located under the boot floor.

Size

The Formentor is 4,450mm long, 1,839mm wide (excluding mirrors) and 1,511mm tall, which means it’s not as long or as wide as a Peugeot 408, but it is slightly taller. The Formentor is a tad longer than the Cupra Ateca, though.

Leg room, head room and passenger space

The Formentor measures a little longer than the Ateca, so there’s a bit more legroom in the rear seats of the Formentor, and headroom is good, too. So, despite the coupe-style roofline, the Formentor isn’t completely impractical. It’ll be spacious enough for most people, with only the tallest brushing up against the headliner. Even with the chunky front seats, it doesn’t feel too claustrophobic in the back. Should you want the interior to feel even more airy, a panoramic sunroof costs around £1,500 – although that will have an impact on head room. Those buying the Formentor as a family car will no doubt be utilising the two ISOFIX child seat anchor points on the outer positions of the rear seats. The securing rings are located behind some easily removable plastic tabs.

Boot

Boot capacity is a mixed bag with the Formentor. Two-wheel-drive petrol models feature a generous 450-litre capacity, which is already 86 litres less than you get in a Peugeot 408, but adding four-wheel drive reduces the Cupra’s boot capacity by a further 30 litres. Four-wheel-drive models still have a slightly bigger boot than the Cupra Leon or Volkswagen Golf GTI, though.

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The plug-in hybrid Formentors, meanwhile, have just 345 litres of boot space, which isn’t particularly impressive for a car of this size, and again, it’s less than you get in a Peugeot 408 PHEV.

Towing

Up a 12 per cent gradient, the Formentor can tow a braked trailer weighing up to 1,800kg for the 1.5 150 TSI and 2.0 TSI 310 4Drive versions. Both plug-in hybrid models are limited to a still reasonable 1,500kg. Having a towbar installed costs a little over £800.

Reliability and Safety

A five-star safety rating and long warranty should reassure Cupra Formentor owners

While we don’t have any data from our Driver Power ownership satisfaction survey on what the Formentor is like to live with, ​but the disappointing 23rd place out of 32 finish in the manufacturer for parent company SEAT (with which the Cupra Formentor shares many parts with) is concerning.

Safety shouldn’t be a concern, though, because the Formentor received the full five-star crash safety rating from Euro NCAP. Its 93 per cent score for adult occupant protection and 88 per cent for child passenger protection are particularly impressive, while the Formentor’s 68 per cent score for vulnerable road users isn’t the best, but that may be due to a lot of safety features being optional.

Standard equipment includes auto high-beam assist, collision warning and autonomous emergency braking, a driver alert system and lane-keeping assistance. VZ1 models also get blind-spot monitoring and lane-change assist, while VZ2 and above come with the Safety and Driving Pack XL. This adds a lane change assistance feature to change lanes for you if the coast is clear, plus the car can bring itself to a safe stop in an emergency situation if the driver is unresponsive behind the wheel. The pack, including all the available safety features, can be added to V1 and V2 models for just over £650, or a touch over £200 for the VZ1 model. A space-saver spare wheel is a £135 option on petrol V1 and V2 models.

Warranty

Unlike most VW Group products, the Cupra Formentor features a five-year/90,000-mile warranty, beating its Volkswagen T-Roc R rival with its stingy three-year/60,000 mile warranty.

Servicing

Cupra’s two-year servicing plan seems reasonable a little under £500, and you can pay that upfront or in monthly instalments. Spread over two years, you’ll pay around £20 a month.

Cupra Formentor VZN long-term test

Our deputy editor Richard Ingram has been driving the range-topping 306bhp Cupra Formentor VZN as part of our long-term fleet. Although Richard is usually a strong advocate for electric cars, he has enjoyed the engaging driving experience and sporty exhaust sound that this family-friendly SUV provides.

This hasn’t been enough to lure him back towards combustion power, though, as the Cupra has quite a big appetite for fuel. Richard has only managed to achieve an average economy of 31mpg, and this has dipped as low as 18mpg on short journeys. You can read the full long term test here...

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News reporter

As our news reporter, Ellis is responsible for covering everything new and exciting in the motoring world, from quirky quadricycles to luxury MPVs. He was previously the content editor for DrivingElectric and won the Newspress Automotive Journalist Rising Star award in 2022.

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