Cupra Formentor review - Engines, performance and drive

The Cupra Formentor is great to drive and most versions are quick off the line

Cupra has a long back catalogue of fast, great-driving Leon versions, and the Formentor continues that theme. We initially tested it on a racetrack, where the Cupra mode pushed the 306bhp version to its firmest and fastest. 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.

Best to keep it in the less hardcore driving modes, where the Formentor rides very well on the road. The Cupra mode feels like it’s trying a little too hard, but the Normal mode is just right. The lighter steering helps the car’s agile feel. You barely notice that the car rides higher than the Cupra Leon.

All models benefit from this sweet steering setup, so you can enjoy the driving experience regardless of whether you want to prioritise performance or fuel economy. There’s very little body roll and lots of grip, and the grip is improved further in the four-wheel-drive models. Adding the 4DRIVE system doesn’t turn the Formentor into an off-road champion, but it adds a feeling of security in wintry driving conditions. It’s standard on the 187bhp and 306bhp petrol engines, but not available optionally on other engines.

The cheapest version is the only one that comes with a manual gearbox, although a seven-speed DSG automatic can be added. That auto ‘box is the sole option on all the other petrol engines, 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.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

The faster engines fitted to SEAT models are the least powerful options in the Formentor, so there’s not a slow version in the range. A 1.5-litre petrol with 148bhp kicks off the range, which should be plenty for most buyers, but its 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds doesn’t sit quite right with the Cupra badge. Luckily, there are punchier options if you can afford them.

A 2.0-litre petrol engine is next. It can be ordered with 187 or 242bhp, with four-wheel drive being fitted on the former. Having the all-drive system means the 187bhp version can keep pace with the 242bhp engine; 0-62mph acceleration takes 7.1 and 6.8 seconds respectively. Even the 242bhp engine - shared with the Volkswagen Golf GTI and Skoda Octavia vRS - is down on power compared to the last-generation Leon Cupra, but isn’t too far off in terms of straight-line speed.

Performance fans need to look at the range-topping 306bhp engine, which is familiar from a range of hot VW Group products such as the Volkswagen T-Roc R and Audi S3. Thanks to standard-fit four-wheel drive, the 0-62mph dash is dispatched in just 4.9 seconds, and the top speed is 155mph.

There are also two plug-in hybrid versions if you want to enjoy performance and lower running costs. These offer 202 and 242bhp, and complete the 0-62mph benchmark in 7.8 seconds and seven seconds flat respectively. They don’t sound particularly inspiring when you’re accelerating hard, although choosing Cupra mode will pipe in a five-cylinder engine noise.

It’s worth noting that the Formentor range is split in two. The V1 and V2 trim levels come with a choice of the 148 and 187bhp petrols, plus the lower-powered hybrid. VZ versions - short for ‘veloz’, meaning fast in Spanish - can be ordered with the 242bhp petrol and hybrid engines and the full-fat 306bhp engine.

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