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New Cupra Formentor 2024 facelift review: a compelling sporty SUV

Cupra freshens the Formentor with a new look, improved in-car tech, and more power

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Verdict

With a 2024 facelift bringing ‘shark nose’ styling to tie it in more closely with the brand’s electric vehicles, the Cupra Formentor continues to offer one of the more compelling crossover-SUV ownership propositions in the wider Volkswagen Group. It’s good to drive, provides strong performance across the board, and a quality, high-tech interior only adds gloss to the overall package.

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The Formentor was Cupra’s first standalone model, in that it wasn’t also sold as a less sporty version with SEAT badges on it – and you get the sense that this relatively young Spanish manufacturer is all the more proud of its coupe-SUV as a result. So much so, as part of this facelift, it has given the Formentor a new, punchier Audi S3-rivalling 329bhp flagship.

But it’s a wide-ranging update for the Formentor family as a whole, centred on a redesign of the front end which clearly ties the car in with the Born and Tavascan electric vehicles. There’s a smoothed-off nose, framed by LED headlights that are made up of three triangles within a larger triangle motif – Pythagoras would most heartily approve.

Around the back, those triple lamp clusters are repeated. But the bigger talking point will be the fully illuminated light strip across the boot, which now includes the Cupra logo itself. This is something seen on plenty of Volkswagen Group products, since it debuted on the VW Touareg SUV, and it’s as divisive as it is desirable. 

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Inside, there’s been an attempt to tidy up and improve the oft-maligned touchscreen infotainment system, so it’s now presented on a 12.9-inch display and runs the fourth-generation MIB operating system. Many will still lament the fact that many functions are incorporated onto the screen itself, including the climate controls, but it works in a more intuitive and acceptable fashion in the main now, and it looks sharp, too. To go with this, the digital instrument cluster has also been spruced up with snazzy new graphics.

At a higher level, the Formentor’s interior is easy on the eye and seems thoroughly well bolted together, while the major touchpoints are shot through with quality. But you don’t have to go searching high and low for a few sub-standard materials on various surfaces, so the crossover’s fascia is by no means faultless.

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Space onboard is good, and two taller adults ought to be comfortable in the rear seats. Although it’s worth noting that the Formentor is obviously not as practical in this regard as Cupra’s Ateca, because it’s closer in height to a Leon hatch than it is to the older SUV. Boot space is as generous as 450 litres in front-driven models, and as stingy as 345 litres in the plug-in hybrids due to the placement of the battery pack. But this all-wheel-drive range-topper makes do with a decent 420 litres of cargo capacity.

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Drivetrains are largely carry-overs from the pre-facelift Formentor, although the plug-in hybrids enjoy larger batteries now – up to 25.8kWh overall – which increases their driving range from 38 to 72 miles, while they use the 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine as their basis as well, rather than the older 1.4 unit. There’s a 201bhp variant as there was before, but the previous 242bhp PHEV has been ramped up to 268bhp, which gives it a potency that’ll make you wonder whether you need the car we’re testing here.

However, it’s the flagship variant which catches the eye, because its 2.0-litre TSI four-cylinder engine has been enhanced from 306bhp and 400Nm, to 329bhp and 420Nm for 2024. If you plump for the VZ3 top-dog specification, it also gains Akebono brakes and a new torque-splitting rear differential that can split grunt across the rear axle to whichever wheel needs it most. These technologies and outputs have all been adopted recently by both the Volkswagen Golf R and the Audi S3.

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Thus equipped, the Formentor remains one of the most invigorating SUVs you can drive of any size. Excellent steering couples with a tautly controlled ride quality, which translates into suspension that maintains a firm grip on the Cupra’s body when you’re cornering at or near the limits of grip.

If we’re honest, we’d like a little more theatre from the 2.0-litre engine, which only ever blares rather than snarls, and which needs the optional Akrapovic exhaust to make the drivetrain sound its best. There were occasions where we experienced significant driveline shunt when requsting full-bore upshifts in Cupra mode, while the seven-speed DSG gearbox also infrequently refuses downshifts when you know fine well the engine could take dropping a cog.

But, in general, the Formentor is fun to drive when you want it to be, and perfectly civilised and docile when you don’t. Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) adaptive dampers help, giving the suspension more squidge for when you’re just powering along a motorway. Here, you’ll admire the way the 2.0-litre engine dies away to a background murmur, while suppression of wind and tyre noise is of a suitably high standard.

ModelCupra Formentor VZ3
Price:£49,900 (est)
Engine:2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque:329bhp/420Nm
Transmission:Seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive
0-62mph:4.8 seconds
Top speed:155mph
Economy:TBC
CO2:193g/km
Size (L/W/H):4,450/1,839/1,520mm
On sale:Now
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