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In-depth reviews

Cupra Formentor review – our favourite hot SUV

“The Cupra Formentor is a quick and fun-to-drive SUV, but it’s still heavily influenced by cheaper SEAT models”

Carbuyer Rating

4.2 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Price
£33,180 - £52,380

Pros

  • Sharp styling
  • Fun to drive
  • Fast

Cons

  • Engine noise lacks theatre
  • Some cheap plastics
  • Touchscreen could be better

Verdict - Is the Cupra Formentor a good car?

The Cupra Formentor has been facelifted with more power for the flagship model and a longer electric range for the plug-in hybrid versions. Plus, there’s a redesigned exterior that’s a bigger departure away from SEAT’s styling, and we’re pleased to report that it’s even more fun to drive and just as usable every day. Cheaper, less-potent, but still sporty-looking models may be the best bet for most drivers, but those after the thrill of the top VZ3 model won’t be disappointed.

Cupra Formentor models, specs and alternatives

The Cupra Formentor was the first car to be completely unique to the Cupra brand, which traditionally released sportier performance versions of SEAT models. Initially, it arrived with a powerful engine that was also used in the Volkswagen Golf R and hot SUVs such as the Cupra Ateca, so it’s pretty punchy, but Cupra has since released less powerful models offering all the racey styling with improved fuel economy.

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For 2024 the Cupra Formentor got a facelift with a new look that’s a more drastic departure away from the design language of sister-brand SEAT. Now it gets a simpler, smoother look that does away with a prominent grille in favour of a small opening at the front and triangular headlights with clusters made up of three smaller triangles.

The Formentor goes up against a diverse range of rivals. It aims to offer a premium edge which puts it up against cars such as the Mercedes GLA, Audi Q3 and Q3 Sportback, BMW X2, as well as more mainstream coupe-SUVs such as the Peugeot 408 and Renault Arkana.

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Affordable hot SUVs include the Ford Puma ST – though this has ditched the manual option and produces much less power compared to the Formentor – or an increasing amount of electric SUVs on the market, which pack enough of a punch to be considered performance SUVs, including the Ford Mustang Mach E and Jaguar I-Pace – these are considerably more expensive than the Formentor, however. There’s also the fellow Volkswagen-Group car the Volkswagen T-Roc R, and more premium sporty SUVs also include models such as the Alfa Romeo Stelvio and Porsche Macan, though these are also more expensive. 

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Initially, the Formentor arrived with just a high-performance 306bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine, used across a wide array of VW Group performance cars. Now, the range also includes two plug-in hybrids (with 201 and 242bhp respectively) and one other petrol engine with 148bhp.

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Initially, the flagship variant of the Cupra Formentor used a 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 306bhp, but power was bumped up to 329bhp following the facelift. There’s a variety of models sitting below this if you’re more a fan of the Formentor’s style and image but want better fuel economy and aren’t as bothered about outright performance. These include an entry-level 1.5-litre with 148bhp and a manual gearbox, or with an automatic transmission and mild-hybrid tech. Then there’s a 2.0-litre petrol version with 201bhp and four-wheel drive. There are also some plug-in hybrid variants (badged eHybrid) using the same 1.5-litre engine paired with an electric motor to produce 201bhp or 268bhp.

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Up until the facelift, there were six trim levels to choose from, with lesser-powered models offered in ‘V1’ and ‘V2’ trims, ‘VZ’ trims above this, and a limited edition ‘VZN’ trim. Trim levels on post-facelift cars are yet to be confirmed, but they’re expected to follow a similar structure.

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The facelift also brought some updates to the Formentor’s touchscreen infotainment system, so now it runs on a 12.9-inch display with the fourth generation of Volkswagen Group’s MIB software, which replaces the 12-inch screen of the old car.

We like the fact that the Cupra Formentor is fun to drive when you want it to be, but also fairly civilised when you just need to get from A to B, offering a great all-round balance. The 2.0-litre engine on the flagship model sounds a little too sedate for our liking, though, so you might find other cars offer more in the way of aural excitement.

It may be a 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 as with pre-facelift cars some of the plastics don’t quite live up to the Formentor’s circa £50,000 price tag 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 329bhp version arguably suits the Cupra brand the best and the eHybrid is the best pick for business drivers, our pick is the 1.5-litre TSI in the entry-level 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.

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Charlie writes and edits news, review and advice articles for Carbuyer, as well as publishing content to its social media platforms. He has also been a regular contributor to its sister titles Auto Express, DrivingElectric and evo. As well as being consumed by everything automotive, Charlie is a speaker of five languages and once lived in Chile, Siberia and the Czech Republic, returning to the UK to write about his life-long passion: cars.

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