Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
We've already mentioned that the Cupra Formentor has a wide range of engine options to suit most buyers. If you're after something that's quick enough and not too expensive to run, we'd recommend the entry-level 148bhp 1.5 TSI 150 petrol engine. Its 0-62mph time of 8.9sec is punchy enough and you don’t need to work the engine particularly hard to make decent progress. And after all, it’s quicker than the entry-level 1.8-litre Toyota C-HR and not far behind the more powerful 2.0-litre version.
If you're after a plug-in hybrid, go for the e-Hybrid 204. With a combined power output (including the electric motor) of 201bhp, it can sprint from 0-62mph in 7.8sec. It can also cover up to 37 miles (officially) on electric power alone.
The 242bhp e-Hybrid 245 knocks nearly a second off the above acceleration time, but its electric range is also slightly less (34 miles). We don't recommend this, though, because there are better plug-in hybrids for the money, such as the Volvo XC40 Recharge T4.
At the time of writing, neither the 2.0 TSI 190 nor the TSI 245 was available to test, but we know those petrol engines from other VW Group cars and they're strong. But if really strong performance is your bag, how about the 2.0 TSI 310 4Drive? It's a very recommendable sports SUV that feels every bit as quick as the Volkswagen T-Roc R once the engine is 'on song' from around 2000rpm. From there, it romps away to its 6500rpm redline, hitting 0-62mph in just 4.9sec – roughly the same as the BMW X2 M35i and T-Roc R can manage.
All the engines are smooth and relatively unobtrusive. Petrolheads might find that's a problem in the TSI 310, because it would be nice if it sounded a little more exciting. It has a bit of a parp to the exhaust, but it's hardly invigorating like the Porsche Macan S, although that's a lot more money. Even the cheaper Ford Puma ST sounds throatier.
The six-speed manual gearbox that's standard in the 1.5 TSI 150 is easy to use, with a defined clutch bite, and you'll find that any Formentor with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox changes gears smoothly and quickly. The auto 'box can be a tad jerky at parking speeds, though.
You hear a fair bit of road and wind noise at speed; a quieter car in this respect would be the Volkswagen Tiguan. Most versions of the Formentor have a predictable brake pedal that allows you to come to a halt smoothly. The e-Hybrid's brakes aren't as good – because they're affected by the harvesting of energy for the battery as you slow down – but they're not as abrupt as those of some hybrids.
The Formentor doesn’t feel lithe in the corners like a hot hatch, but, for an SUV, it’s very handy. It steers more sweetly than the Toyota 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.
And there’s plenty of grip, even in the 1.5 TSI 150, while the racier versions with bigger tyres can carry even more cornering speed. All the regular petrols also have excellent body control that lets you drive them hard with confidence – more so than the Citroën C4. Only the e-Hybrids let the side down. They're not unwieldy, as such, but the extra weight of their batteries really upsets the handling balance. The BMW X1 25e is a much more rewarding plug-in hybrid to drive with real gusto.
Adjustable dampers are standard from VZ2 trim up, and these have three simple modes to choose from. In Comfort mode, the Formentor is a bit firmer than the best-riding family SUVs, such as the Skoda Karoq and Volvo XC40, but nowhere near as brusque as the jittery BMW X2. Even the stiffest Cupra mode boosts agility without addling your brain.
Then again, you don’t need to have the fancy-pants adaptive suspension. Even the basic 1.5 TSI’s non-adaptive set-up strikes a fine balance between comfort and body control, so it won’t turn your spine into a pretzel.
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