What Car? says...
SUVs can sometimes be a bit boxy and boring, but not the Cupra Formentor. Nope, this Spanish car blends coupé styling with family SUV practicality and is cheaper than you might imagine (as long as you choose the right version).
If you haven't heard of Cupra before, that's not too surprising. It's a relatively new standalone brand, although the badge has been worn by the sportiest Seat models for a while. Indeed, the two car makers still have close ties, and the Cupra Ateca and the Cupra Leon are based on Seats.
The 306bhp flagship Formentor is a proper sports SUV that has four-wheel drive and goes toe-to-toe with the BMW X2 M35i and the VW T-Roc R. However, the more sedate versions are up against other regular SUVs with coupé-esque rooflines, including the Audi Q3 Sportback, DS 4 and Toyota C-HR.
Read on and we’ll tell you how the Cupra Formentor stacks up for everything from performance, handling and practicality – and we'll also tell you which version makes the most sense.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
There's a wide range of engine options for the Cupra Formentor so there's one to suit most buyers. For something quick enough and not too expensive to run, we'd recommend the entry-level 148bhp 1.5 TSI 150 petrol. You don’t have to work it hard to make decent progress and it’ll beat the entry-level 1.8-litre C-HR to 62mph. If that’s not quite fast enough, the 187bhp 2.0 TSI 190 4Drive introduces four-wheel drive and will cover 0-62mph in 8.9secs.
As you might expect, the TSI 245 is quicker still, but the fastest Formentor is the 2.0 TSI 310 4Drive, which is very recommendable as a sports SUV. It feels as quick as the X2 M35i once the engine is on song from around 2000rpm and romps away to its 6500rpm red line, hitting 0-62mph in just 4.9sec.
If you want a plug-in hybrid (PHEV), our choice would be the e-Hybrid 204. With a combined power output (including the electric motor) of 201bhp, it can sprint from 0-62mph in 7.8sec and officially cover up to 36 miles on electric power alone. The more powerful e-Hybrid 245 knocks nearly a second off the 204’s acceleration time, but there are better PHEVs for the money, including the Audi Q3 TFSIe.
Suspension and ride comfort
The standard suspension that comes with the Formentor's V1, V2 and VZ1 trim is firmer than less sports-focused rivals but manages to strike a good balance between comfort and body control.
If you opt for VZ2 trim or above, you’ll get adaptive suspension as standard, which has three simple modes to tailor the ride quality. In Comfort mode, it's a bit firmer than the best-riding SUVs – such as the Skoda Karoq and the Volvo XC40 – but less jittery than the Q3 and the X2.
Even in the stiffest Cupra mode, the Formentor is adequately comfortable, giving you improved agility and handling without rattling your brain around.
The Formentor doesn’t feel lithe in the corners like a hot hatch but for an SUV it’s surprisingly agile. It steers more sweetly than the DS 4 and the C-HR, with better weighting and accuracy. There's even a little feel from the road surface, so you can sense the grip that's available.
Grip is something you’ll find no shortage of, even in the 1.5 TSI 150, while racier versions of the Formentor can carry even more speed through corners thanks to wider tyres. All the regular petrols have excellent body control that lets you drive them hard with confidence.
The plug-in hybrid (e-Hybrid) versions let the side down, though. They're not unwieldy as such, but the extra weight of their batteries upsets the handling balance.
Noise and vibration
All the engines are smooth and relatively unobtrusive, which enthusiastic drivers who want a sporty coupé SUV might find a little disappointing. Even the exhaust note from the sportiest TSI 310 isn’t as throaty as the cheaper Ford Puma ST or as invigorating as the (vastly more expensive) Porsche Macan S.
While you won’t hear much from the engine, you will hear some road and wind noise as you get up to motorway speeds. In fact, if you spend a lot of your time up at 70mph, you might want to take a look at the quieter VW Tiguan.
The 1.5 TSI 150’s standard six-speed manual gearbox is easy to use and has a defined clutch bite, while the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic changes gears smoothly and quickly. The auto can be a bit jerky when parking and as you pull away from junctions, though.
Strengths Smooth and punchy petrol engines; good handling for an SUV; slick manual gearshift
Weaknesses Engines don't sound very exciting; agility suffers in the heavier plug-in hybrid versions
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
If you like a sportier driving position, you should enjoy the Cupra Formentor. You sit much lower down than in most SUVs, including the Q3, the Tiguan and the XC40.
The pedals line up neatly with the steering wheel, and the driver’s seat is comfy on long journeys and supportive through corners – especially if you’ve got the electrically adjustable bucket seats that are standard from V2 and VZ2 trims. Height adjustment and adjustable lumbar support are standard on all models.
The dashboard is well laid out, but doesn’t feature any proper buttons or switches. The air-conditioning controls have been replaced with touch-sensitive pads that are difficult to feel and aren’t backlit, meaning you have to look away from the road to find them. We much prefer the physical controls in the Q3, the X2 and C-HR.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The low driving position means you don’t have the same commanding view out of the front as you do in some higher-set rivals. Even so, the front windscreen pillars are reasonably narrow, so seeing out of the front at junctions is no problem.
Rear visibility isn’t quite as good, though. The chunky rear pillars make reversing into a parking space trickier than it would be in the, for example, the Tiguan. Rear parking sensors are standard on all Formentors, though, and front sensors and a rear-view camera are added from V2 and VZ2 trim.
Visibility at night is good, thanks to powerful LED headlights coming as standard with all trim levels. The VZ2 and VZ3 trims add automatic high beam assist.
Sat nav and infotainment
The screen is bright and clear, although the operating system has a slightly odd arrangement. The rival with the infotainment best system is the X2 – that has brilliant software and an easy-to-use rotary controller interface.
You get natural voice control in the Formentor. To wake it up, you holler “Hola, Hola”, followed by a command such as “I’m cold”, which should turn up the heater. It didn't always work for us, though.
The interior has plenty of visual appeal – it looks strikingly similar to the one in the (far more expensive) Lamborghini Urus and the perforated leather steering wheel and contrast stitching on the dashboard helps make the interior looks suitably sporty
It's not perfect, though: further down in the interior you'll find some hard plastics, and the spray-painted plastic heater vents look a bit cheap.
Go for V2 trim or above and you'll get Nappa leather seat upholstery and a leather-wrapped dashboard, which make the interior feel more upmarket. Overall, it trumps the C-HR's interior but the X2 and XC40 feel a cut above.
Strengths Interior looks the part; comfortable driver's seat
Weaknesses Some parts of interior feel cheap; other SUVs offer a higher driving position; fiddly touch-sensitive controls
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Due to its sporty shape, the Cupra Formentor doesn’t absorb people or their belongings as effortlessly as some SUVs can, but compared to its direct rivals – including the X2 and the C-HR – it’s pretty roomy. In fact it offers almost as much practicality as the Seat Ateca (with which it shares its basic underpinnings).
There’s plenty of head room in the front and the seats slide back a long way, for maximum leg room. In fact, we can confidently say that unless you're incredibly tall, you’ll fit just fine.
Storage space upfront is ample, with decent door bins, two cup-holders that’ll easily take a cup of coffee, a small cubby to put your phone in and a space within the front armrest, which is standard across the range.
If you’re thinking that the Formentor’s rakish coupé SUV roofline is bound to make it a less practical option than its rivals in the rear, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Two tall adults will fit comfortably, with good head and leg room, and there’s a fair chunk more space than you’ll find in the DS 4 or the Toyota C-HR.
Even so, compared with many boxier family SUVs it's not massive and you might want to consider the BMW X1, Tiguan or XC40 if you plan to have people back there often. That’s especially true if you tend to use all three seats a lot, as rear-seat passengers will find shoulder room tight at full capacity.
You don’t get as much storage space in the rear as the front: passengers have to make do with small door cubbies and nothing more. With two in the back, an armrest can be folded down from the middle seat backrest.
Seat folding and flexibility
You get 60/40 split-folding rear seats as standard. They’re easy to fold down but aren’t as versatile as the 40/20/40 rear seats you get in the Audi Q3, the X1 and the Tiguan.
You can’t slide the rear seats forwards and backwards like you can in those rivals, either. There is, however, a 'ski hatch' in the backrest of the middle rear seat, meaning you can slot longer items between two rear passengers.
The Formentor's boot will easily deal with a buggy, a set of golf clubs or even luggage for a long weekend away. The front-wheel-drive models have a handy 450 litres of roomy beneath the parcel shelf, which is reduced to 420 litres in four-wheel-drive (4Drive) versions. Either way, that's more than you get in the C-HR, but a tad less than in the X2.
The exception is the e-Hybrid versions, which make do with a 345 litres of boot space – less than a VW Golf. We managed to fit five carry-on suitcases below the e-Hybrid's parcel shelf – the same as in a DS 4 E-Tense 225.
Strengths Plenty of space in the back; bigger boot than key rivals (petrol versions); ski hatch on rear seatbacks
Weaknesses Plug-in hybrid versions have a smaller boot; rear seats don't do anything clever
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
If you want a quick sports SUV you'll find that the Cupra Formentor 2.0 TSI 310 4Drive is cheaper than the X2 M35i but costs slightly more than the Cupra Ateca. Other versions of the Formentor are significantly cheaper, including our favourite 1.5 TSI 150, which compares well with the regular X2 and C-HR.
Strong predicted resale values result in competitive PCP costs, and discounts are often available on our free New Car Buying pages. The 1.5 TSI is an efficient engine and will officially average nearly 45mpg. The 1.4 TSI 204 e-Hybrid and 245 e-Hybrid plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) are the best bet if you're a company car driver paying benefit in kind (BIK) tax.
Company car drivers can benefit hugely from the low benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax rates offered by the 1.4 TSI 204 e-Hybrid and 245 e-Hybrid PHEVs. These versions offer the lowest monthly salary sacrifices.
Equipment, options and extras
There's really no need for anything beyond the entry-level V1 trim because that comes with enough toys. As well as the parking aids and the infotainment gadgets we mentioned earlier, you also get 18in alloys, full LED headlights, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, privacy glass, power-folding door mirrors, three-zone climate control, keyless entry and adaptive cruise control.
VZ1 is the automatic upgrade if you go for one of the more powerful engines (242bhp or 306bhp) and adds 19in alloys and a powered tailgate with gesture control. V2 and VZ2 add heated Nappa leather bucket front seats and 19in alloy wheels.
Top-tier VZ3 trim is available only with the most powerful TSI 310 engine and gets you bigger Brembo brakes, bespoke 19in alloy wheels and more sophisticated matrix LED headlights. It’s a fairly pricey trim, though, so unless those brakes are really important to you, we’d stick to the cheaper trims.
Cupra as a brand finished bottom of the most recent What Car? Reliability Survey, below the likes of Alfa Romeo and Land Rover. The Formentor was also one of the least dependable family SUVs in the survey, due to a high number of non-engine electrical glitches and problems with the infotainment system.
To give you some peace of mind, a three-year/60,000 mile warranty is included as standard. That matches what you get with the XC40, although isn’t as good as the three-year unlimited mileage warranty of the X2.
Safety and security
The Formentor scored strongly in tough new Euro NCAP safety tests that were introduced in 2021, scoring the maximum five stars. The Q3 and the X2 (both also five-star cars) were tested under an older, less stringent procedure, so it's hard to compare results directly, but what we can tell you is that the Formentor proved very good at protecting adult and child occupants in a crash.
Whichever trim level you go for, you’ll be getting a good amount of safety equipment, with automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and traffic-sign recognition all coming as standard. Opting for VZ1 trim adds the Safety and Driving Pack L which gives you blind-spot monitoring and a safe exit assist function, while VZ2 and VZ3 models feature lane-change assist.
Buying & owning overview
Strengths Impressive Euro NCAP safety score; 1.5 TSI is keenly priced; competitive PCP finance deals
Weaknesses Disappointing reliability; other plug-in hybrids offer cheaper company car tax
Early evidence suggests
The 1.5 TSI version of the Cupra Formentor is actually our favourite, because it's nippy enough and keeps the price respectable.
|RRP price range||£31,300 - £48,270|
|Number of trims (see all)||6|
|Number of engines (see all)||6|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||188.3 - 44.8|
|Available doors options||5|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£860 / £3,452|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,721 / £6,904|