Cupra Formentor SUV review
“The Cupra Formentor is a quick and fun-to-drive SUV, but it’s still heavily influenced by cheaper SEAT models”
- Sharp styling
- Fun to drive
- Firm ride
- Some cheap plastics
- Touchscreen could be better
Verdict - Is the Cupra Formentor a good car?
The Cupra Formentor represents the dawn of a new era for SEAT’s spin-off brand; it was the first standalone Cupra model to be offered without a SEAT counterpart and while it has since been joined by the all-electric Cupra Born hatchback, it still stands out as a highlight of the brand’s range. With both powerful petrol and fuel-sipping hybrid models to choose from, there’s little wonder why the Formentor snagged our Best Hot SUV gong at the 2024 Carbuyer Best Car Awards.
Cupra Formentor models, specs and alternatives
Initially, the Formentor arrived with just a high-performance 306bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine, which was already in use in the Cupra Ateca and Volkswagen Tiguan R, as well as a wide array of VW Group performance cars. Now, the range also includes two plug-in hybrids (with 201 and 242bhp respectively) and a further three petrol engines, with 148, 187 or 242bhp.
With five trim levels to choose as well, the Formentor range appears complicated but engines with 242bhp and above are reserved for the ‘VZ’ trim levels; you can only choose the lesser-powered engines for the ‘V1’ and ‘V2’ models. June 2023 also saw the introduction of a limited edition ‘VZN’ trim, with 19-inch matte black alloy wheels, bucket seats and a panoramic sunroof, along with a lofty £48k starting price.
The range-topping 306bhp petrol engine manages 0-62mph in under five seconds, while the 245bhp plug-in hybrid takes a couple of seconds longer, but can manage up to 34 miles of electric-only driving – the less-powerful hybrid can go even further.
For private buyers, the 1.5-litre TSI petrol is still likely to be the best buy, even if it's not the most interesting engine in the lineup. With 148bhp and a 0-62mph time of 8.9 seconds with a manual or DSG automatic gearbox, it's nippy enough for most SUV drivers, and this smooth and refined engine can return just over 40mpg. Its starting price is what's likely to win it the most buyers because it’s significantly lower than that of the range-topping PHEV or 306bhp Formentor, at around £30,000.
Despite not having much steering feel, the Cupra Formentor SUV is fun to drive. There’s a huge amount of grip, while versions fitted with a four-wheel-drive system boast impressive all-weather abilities. Body roll is kept to a minimum, even though the Formentor sits higher than the Cupra Leon. A range of driving modes culminates in a Cupra mode, which introduces a lower, more exciting engine note, a sharper throttle response, the firmest suspension setting and heavier steering.
It may be a brand-new, Cupra-specific model, but the Formentor shares most of its interior with the Cupra Leon, and therefore the SEAT Leon. We’ve no real issues with the familiarity of the interior but the touchscreen definitely could be a bit more intuitive, and some of the plastics don’t quite live up to the Formentor’s £40,000-plus price in top versions. The same criticism is also true of the Volkswagen T-Roc R and the Cupra Ateca.
The Formentor sits in between those two rivals for boot space, with 420 litres. Rear passenger space is good, although those in the back will have to crane around the bulky front sports seats to see forwards. The Formentor often feels like a coupe version of the Cupra Ateca, and despite the slightly reduced practicality, its design is likely to appeal to those wanting something that’ll stand out amongst a sea of familiar-looking SUVs.
While the 306bhp version arguably suits the Cupra brand the best and the PHEV is likely to go down a storm with business drivers, our pick is the 1.5-litre TSI in the entry-level V1 trim. Its price represents the best value, buyers are still getting the Formentor's enticing design, plenty of kit and good handling, and it's also a pleasant engine for most driving.