Cupra Formentor long-term test
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...
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 thrilling performance and impressive levels of practicality
Mileage 3557 List price £39,870 Target Price £39,292 Price as tested £40,670 Official economy 33.2mpg Test economy 31.1mpg Private price now £33,310 Trade-in price now £37,474 Running costs (excluding depreciation) Fuel (£627)
26 July 2021 – A fond Formentor farewell
At the beginning of my time with the Cupra Formentor, I posed a simple question: "Aside from the social cachet that comes with having an SUV on your drive, are there any real tangible benefits to opting for a sports SUV over a traditional hot hatch such as, say, a Volkswagen Golf R?". Well, after living with the Formentor, I can hopefully give you a straightforward, if somewhat nuanced, answer.
When it comes to the raw driving experience, a sports SUV, with its relatively high centre of gravity, is never going to be as razor-sharp as a dedicated hot hatch, but the Cupra Formentor gets remarkably close.
Across country, it’s very reassuring to drive briskly. Not only can you be highly accurate when it comes to placing the car on the road, thanks to its beautifully sharp steering, but there’s plenty of grip and a lovely neutral handling balance. In fact, it’s only through particularly vicious S-bends that you can detect the Formentor’s extra height over something like a Golf R.
My one real criticism is that the Formentor’s four-wheel drive system has been set up to deliver maximum point-to-point pace rather than to give it a playful edge. Instead of allowing a little bit of slide on the exit of a corner, the Formentor simply grips and goes. In fact, while this kind of setup is par for the course in the world of sports SUVs, I reckon it is a limitation that Cupra is aware of, because the Formentor VZ5 (a new range-topping variant with the same 385bhp five-cylinder engine as the Audi RS3) has been given a newly developed four-wheel drive system that features a dedicated ‘Drift mode’.
Aside from missing that last bit of driver interaction, though, the Formentor really is an exceptional all-rounder. In fact, I’ve never had a car that has fitted into my life quite so seamlessly.
With the engine in Sport mode (I like the sharper accelerator and gearbox response that this brings) and the suspension in Comfort, the Formentor has perfect manners for the city. And, farther afield, you also don’t have to worry about catching the underside of the car when entering National Trust car parks because it doesn’t ride as low as a traditional hot hatch. This was especially useful on an impromptu road trip to The Trossachs, when my sat-nav took me down a rough and undulating fire road. The result was one dirty but completely unphased Formentor.
Even the fuel economy is perfectly acceptable for a 296bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine. Granted, it doesn’t sip petrol like a Toyota Prius, but over 3000 miles of mixed driving the Formentor returned an average of 31.1mpg – quite a bit better than the 25.4mpg that my colleague Alastair Clements saw when running a Cupra Ateca.
Speaking of the Ateca, there is no denying that Cupra’s first attempt at a sports SUV was a success from a driving viewpoint, but that car’s looks border on anonymous, which is something you can’t say about the Formentor. Editor Steve Huntingford’s mother actually went out and bought a Formentor after seeing mine, while one of my neighbours was sufficiently impressed to arrange a test drive.
But should you buy one? Well, if you want the last word in driver interaction, then I’d still suggest you take a look at a dedicated hot hatch. But if you’re in the market for something with startling pace and composure, a beautifully put together interior, impressive refinement and an exterior design that is even better resolved than Lamborghini’s Urus, then yes. Yes, you should.
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