Cupra Formentor long-term test: report 1

The Cupra Formentor is great to drive and striking to look at, but how easy is it to live with? That’s what we’ll be exploring over the next few months...

Cupra Formentor LT NW Tracking

The car Cupra Formentor 2.0 TSI 310 4Drive DSG VZ2 Run by Neil Winn, hubs editor

Why it’s here To find out if a sports SUV is a better day-to-day companion than a traditional hot hatch

Needs to Offer the driver both thrilling performance and impressive levels of practicality 

Mileage 165 List price £39,870 Target Price £39,292 Price as tested £40,670 Official economy 33.2mpg Test economy 28.5mpg Options fitted Graphene Grey paint (£800)

5 May 2021 – The Formentor arrives

If you’re in the market for a new car (and I’d assume you are because you’re reading this article), it’s pretty likely that you’re considering an SUV.

Why wouldn’t you be? On paper, they make a lot of sense: their high seating positions make getting in and out a breeze, their large side windows provide fantastic visibility and their tall suspension and big, squishy tyre sidewalls offer the promise of good ride quality. Plus, there’s no denying that a physically larger car often feels more secure – something that's particularly important if you'll have children on board. 

Does all of that matter in the context of sports SUVs, though? These cars, after all, are designed to thrill the driver and accommodate families in equal measure, and that's a combination that hot hatches have specialised in from the beginning of time.

So, aside from the social cachet that comes with having an SUV on your drive, are there any real tangible benefits to opting for a tall and relatively heavy sports SUV over, say, a Volkswagen Golf R?

Cupra Formentor LT 4

Well, by living with one of the latest and greatest sports SUVs, the Cupra Formentor, that’s exactly what I intend to find out.

Before we dive into the fine detail of this versus that, what exactly is a Formentor? Well, if you’re a keen What Car? reader, you’ll be aware of the Cupra Ateca. It was the brand's first SUV (Cupra being the performance offshoot of Seat, in much the same way as Fiat's sportiest models are badged Abarth), but while it's massively quick in a straight line and handy around corners, it looks more or less identical to the Seat Ateca family SUV. In this regard, the Formentor is a whole different ball game.

It's a bespoke model exclusive to Cupra so you'll not find a Formentor with Seat badges, and, with its sloping roofline and muscular stance, it’s what we’ve come to define as a coupé SUV. You could almost describe it as a cut-price Lamborghini Urus. All right, perhaps that's a bit of a stretch, but there's no doubt that it has more visual flair than anything else at this price point – Golf R included. 

Cupra Formentor LT 3

Talking of Lamborghini, the interior of the Formentor nods towards the Italian brand in a number of places. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the air vents share the same design as those in the Urus, as do the smart digital instruments, with a big central rev counter dominating the display.

There’s also a pair of fantastic, deeply bucketed sports seats and a flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped in perforated leather. If this was a car that didn’t come from the VW Group, we doubt it would take very long before a team of very serious-looking German IP lawyers was called into action. 

At the time of writing, the Formentor is available in a number of configurations. There's a 148bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol engine, a pair of plug-in hybrids and a trio of conventional 2.0-litre turbo petrols, including a flagship 306bhp version. I’ve gone for the latter – which is the same engine as you'll find under the bonnet of the Golf R – because we reckon it best represents what the Formentor is all about.

Cupra Formentor LT 2

It's in VZ2 trim level, which is the default if you go for the engine in my car. At £39,870, it isn’t exactly cheap, but it comes packed with kit, including LED headlights, dynamic indicators, keyless entry, 19in wheels, a 12.0in infotainment system, a heated leather multi-function steering wheel, wireless phone-charging and a plethora of parking and safety aids. Stepping up to range-topping VZ3 trim brings more powerful Brembo brakes and fancier 19in wheels with a copper finish, but they didn’t seem worth the extra outlay. 

To really put the Formentor through its paces over the next few months, I’m planning to use it for a mix of family duties, commuting, a lengthy road trip, a head-to-head comparison with its closest rivals (Golf R included) and perhaps even the odd track day. After all, you’d expect a modern hot hatch to take all that in its stride, so why not a sports SUV?

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