Cupra Formentor review | NationalWorld

Cupra’s first bespoke model showcases the brand’s performance potential – just choose your engine wisely

It’s been four years since the Cupra name was spun off from the main Seat family, but the brand still seems to be struggling a bit with an identity crisis.

It was launched as a performance brand in its own right – alongside but not part of the mainstream Spanish marque – but even now most of its models remain rebranded and retuned versions of Seat models.

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However, the Formentor is different. It’s the first bespoke Cupra model and it shows. While the Ateca and Leon make do with bigger wheels, lower suspension and a few bronze plaques for identification, the Formentor looks unlike anything else from the Spanish stable – and it looks great.

Sold as a coupe crossover, it’s much lower and sleeker than the larger Cupra Ateca and manages not to look like just a squashed SUV – something others in the segment struggle with.

Thanks to the shark-like nose and overall low roofline, it looks purposeful and dynamic, with its performance claims hinted at by aggressive air intakes, pinched lines above the wheel arches and meaty 19-inch alloys.

The bronze-colored detailing on the exterior badge is a Cupra hallmark and is reflected on the interior, where small colored touches like the air vents and dashboard trim help Cupra’s efforts to forge its own identity away from Seat.

The interior is an impressive facility overall. A low dash offers great forward visibility, helped by the slightly increased ride height, but you don’t feel like you’re sitting high. The sport seats are brilliantly comfortable, yet supportive and grippy, and the overall layout is modern and sleek with decent, if not quite premium, materials. There’s plenty of room up front and a surprising amount of space in the rear seats, plus a family-friendly trunk.

However, there is a but. The infotainment system, housed in a 12.3-inch touchscreen, is a disaster. The screen is big and sharp and colorful, but it’s sluggish and the menu structure and controls are unnecessarily complicated. The user interface feels like it was designed by someone who has never driven a car before. It’s not a Cupra specific issue. The entire VW group is cursed with the same faulty HMI and we can only hope they work to improve it.

Ignoring this clutter and concentrating on riding, the Formentor feels on firmer ground.

The ride is definitely firmer than your average family SUV, but not unlivable, and handling is superb. It feels smaller and lighter than it is thanks to the quick, direct steering and agile chassis, and it’s genuinely fun to zip around some twisty roads. Not just deaf fast like a VW Golf R, but actually lively and communicative, which is often a rarity in modern “hot” cars.

So it’s a pity that the engine of our special test car can’t quite keep up with the chassis. The 148PS petrol is the entry-level engine and it just doesn’t feel that fast. Acceleration is decent but not spectacular, and the seven-speed automatic transmission doesn’t feel particularly quick in Sport either. Switching to manual mode makes it easier to find a sweet spot, but even then the motor doesn’t feel particularly flexible or torquey.

In short it feels like a brilliant chassis that screams for a better engine/transmission and luckily there are other options. These range from a 187hp 2.0-litre petrol engine, to 1.4-litre hybrids with 201 or 242hp, to the top-of-the-line all-wheel-drive version that uses the same 306hp four-pot as the Golf R and Audi RS3 .

Choosing the lower motor means a lower list price. In the case of our second-tier V2 trim, that means £33,125 including options, which doesn’t seem unreasonable these days. In terms of specs, every car, even base V1s, gets three-zone air conditioning, full LED lights, a 10.2-inch digital instrument display, plus a 12.3-inch touchscreen, lots of USB Ports, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charging and a range of driver assistance systems. For an extra £2,000 I’d spec the V2 for the heated steering wheel, power memory leather seats and hands-free tailgate.

When I tested it, the Formentor felt like a good-looking car with great handling, held back by its powertrain and terrible infotainment system. Fitting it with a more powerful engine gives it the performance to live up to its sporty promise, and if you can suckle the media system woes, you’re looking at a quality, fun alternative to mainstream family SUVs.

Cupra Formentor 1.5 TSI V2

Price: £32,410 (£33,125 as tested); Engine: 1.5 liter, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol engine; Perfomance: 148 hp; Torque: 184 pounds foot; Transmission: seven-speed DSG; Top speed: 126 miles per hour; 0-62mph: 8.9 seconds; Business: 39.2 – 41.5mpg; CO2 emissions: 155g/km