Cupra’s Formentor shows what the brand can really do

The Formentor is the first car that Cupra has been able to design from the ground up. What’s it like to drive though? JACK EVANS finds out.

Cupra is a company which is quickly finding its feet in the world of motoring. It split apart from Seat to become its own brand back in 2018, but since then has been largely tasked with creating go-faster versions of the Spanish firm’s existing cars. Vehicles like the Cupra Ateca have arrived, shown their faces, but left the firm lacking any real impact.

This car – the Formentor – looks to address that. It’s the first car that Cupra has had a proper hand in designing and creating, which means it’s been able to influence all aspects of its make-up. What does that mean when it comes to driving, though? We’ve been finding out.

Cupra has a fine pick of things, in truth. It’s able to access the wider Volkswagen Group’s technology and engines but is free to design the look and feel of its cars as it sees fit. It’s why the Formentor sits on the same MQB Evo platform that underpins the latest Volkswagen Golf and Skoda Octavia, while this car’s 2.0-litre engine is shared with cars such as the Tiguan R.

Yet the exterior and interior have been given some real flair – and we’ll look at that in more detail shortly – which really does allow Cupra to make a name for itself outside of the larger VW Group.

This particular Cupra uses a turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 306bhp and 400Nm of torque. While a range of more conventional petrol and plug-in hybrid powertrains are available, this is the most powerful Formentor you’re able to choose outside of the limited-edition 2.5-litre petrol version announced recently –though that’s only coming in left-hand-drive.

Performance-wise it delivers all its power through an all-wheel-drive system and a seven-speed dual-clutch DSG gearbox, which helps the Formentor to crack 0-60mph in 4.7 seconds before hitting 155mph flat-out. When it comes to economy, Cupra claims up to 33.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 193g/km.

With the Formentor’s powertrain being used in cars like the Volkswagen Golf R and Audi S3, there’s every chance that the Cupra’s powertrain could feel dull or boring – but thankfully that’s not the case.

This car doesn’t scream about its performance, despite its ability to out-pace many sports cars. No, instead it graces everyday drives with a pleasant level of get-up-and-go without being overly serious. The ride is comfortable enough, while the steering and brakes are effective without being too heavy. It’s even refined on the motorway and the silky-smooth engine makes overtaking or merging a breeze.

Push harder and the Formentor digs deeper, with the four-wheel-drive system hooking up to provide excellent traction out of the bends.

The Formentor comes somewhere in between a crossover and a regular hatch. It’s not hugely high-riding, but neither does it sit at a conventional height. It’s a cool-looking thing – to our eyes at least – with plenty of interesting styling touches incorporated into its design which helps to keep it looking fresh each time you take a glance at it.

The rear lights, for instance, are connected into one solid ‘bar’ and look excellent a night, while the front end’s wide grille and sharp headlights look equally attractive. We particularly liked the gloss black roof rails on ‘our’ test car, while the sculpted front bumpers and quad exhaust pipes hint at the car’s performance without shouting about it.

As we’ve already mentioned, Cupra is allowed to use Volkswagen Group’s latest tech, which is why you’re met with some very cutting-edge features when you first sit into the Formentor’s cabin. There’s the large central screen – which we’ll get to shortly – as well as a large digital cockpit ahead of you. One plus for us is the level of adjustability; you can get properly low in the car, something few others in this segment offer. We just wish the gearshift paddles were a little longer, as they’re too short to be comfortably used when on the move.

The seats in the front are comfortable, while those in the rear get a decent amount of legroom. Despite the car’s tapered roofline, there’s a surprising amount of headroom, too, with more than enough space for taller passengers. Those sitting in the middle of the rear bench will have to contend with a large transmission hump, mind you.

There are 420 litres of boot space on offer, while the rear seats can be lowered to extend this. A handy ski hatch is included too, which – as well as skis – can be used when transporting longer items.

The Formentor is a hugely tech-heavy car in the cabin. There’s that huge central screen – measuring in at twelve inches – and it’s here where you’ll access media and nav functions. It did suffer one small glitch during our time with it, but the classic ‘on and off’ soon remedied this issue. The screen takes a little getting used to – particularly as most of the heating and ventilation controls are found here rather than through physical buttons – but once you’re up to speed it’s clear and responsive. You get wireless Apple CarPlay as standard, too.

All cars get three-zone air conditioning, LED headlights and that ultra-wide infotainment system. Wireless phone charging is thrown in as well, bolstering the tech levels on-board even further. Prices for the Formentor range kick off from £27,395 when fitted with a 148bhp turbocharged petrol engine.

Cupra has really found its feet with the Formentor. It’s a compelling showcase of what this firm can do when allowed to craft its own vehicles, reinforced with tried-and-tested engines from Volkswagen Group’s stable of powertrains.

This performance-orientated model adds to the appeal, though we’d likely find merit in the standard car through its excellent levels of standard equipment and good fit-and-finish. This is a ‘regular’ car that arrives with added sparkle and is an impressive showcase of what’s to come from Cupra. We can only expect even bigger and better things.

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