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The Cupra name has been around for a number of years now but, while it once defined the hottest versions of its parent company Seat’s model range, it is now a brand in its own right.
It’s first solo effort was the Cupra Ateca which, while quick in a straight line and useful around corners, wasn’t that different to the standard model.
There’s a choice of engines, starting with a 148bhp 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol and topping out with a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol that produces an impressive 306bhp.
If you’d rather go down the hybrid route Cupra have got you covered. The plug-in e-HYBRID versions combine 1 1.4-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to produce either 201 or 242bhp.
The Formentor, however, is a whole new kettle of Spanish hake. It’s an SUV with charismatic coupe looks that blend sharp crease, sexy curves and muscular haunches. It doesn’t, in fact, require an especially vivid imagination to see hints of the Lamborghini Urus in the design. That is equally true inside where, if you’re familiar with the Italian super-SUV, you’ll notice that the air vents and digital instruments, with a large central rev counter dominating the display, share more than a passing similarity.
You sit behind a leather-wrapped flat-bottomed steering wheel in superbly supportive, low-slung sports seats that proved comfortable even on long journeys. They hold you firmly in place through corners and, with pedals, steering wheel and seat lined up perfectly, plus height adjustment and lumbar support standard across the range, it’s hard to criticise the driving position.
The low, sporty, driving position means you’re not afforded the same lofty, commanding view you might expect in an SUV, however, the slim A-pillars allow for a decent view out the front. The same can’t be said for the rear because of the thick pillars that restrict the view out of the back. Rear parking sensors are included on all models – V2 and VZ2 trims and above also get front parking sensors and a rear-view camera – so that helps with reversing manoeuvres.
LED headlights are standard with VZ2 and VZ3 trims adding automatic high beam to the mix.
The dashboard is thoughtfully laid out but is devoid of any analogue buttons and switches. Even the air-conditioning controls – and this a particular dislike of mine – have been replaced with touch-sensitive controls that are difficult to find and feel without looking away from the road.
All models have built-in sat-nav, DAB radio, four USB-C ports, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, wireless phone charging and a 12in touchscreen infotainment system. The screen is bright, crisp, clear and responsive, though the menus aren’t arranged in the most intuitive of ways.
The Formentor is equipped with what are described as natural voice controls. What this means in practice is that you can say “hola, hola” to wake the system up and then follow that up with “I’m cold” and it should turn on the air con. Those of you familiar with any voice-operated software will appreciate that it doesn’t always work and, when it doesn’t, it can quickly become irritating.
Refinement is, for the most part, good. There’s very little engine noise permeating the cabin – though some might be disappointed at the absence of anything remotely sporty-sounding coming from the exhaust – but wind noise becomes noticeable as you approach motorway speeds.
The Formentor’s cabin looks great. As I mentioned previously, there’s a significant amount of Urua-like touches to add visual appeal but, while everything at eye-level looks and feels plush reach a little lower and you’ll find plenty of hard plastic. The plastic heater vents, with their spray-painted finish, look a little cheap too.
The coupe styling means that the Formentor isn’t as practical as more typical SUVs but, compared to its direct rivals, it is very competitive. There is, in fact, not a great deal of difference between it and the Ateca upon which it is based.
There’s ample headroom in the front and the seats slide a long way back, freeing up lots of space for long legs too. Despite the sloping roofline there’s a decent amount of head, and leg, room in the back too. A pair of tall adults will comfortably fit on the rear bench. It is , though, a tight squeeze if you carry a third passenger in the rear.
There’s lots of storage space in the front, with good-sized door bins, a pair of cup-holders, a cubby for your mobile phone and space in the front armrest. In the rear storage space is limited to two small pockets in the doors.
The rear bench folds flat in a 60/40 configuration. They don’t slide forwards and backwards but there is a ski hatch between the two outermost seats to make it easier carrying longer items.
Boots space runs at 450 litres in front wheel-drive models, dropping to 420 in four wheel-drive versions. That figure falls again to 345 litres in the hybrid.
There are plenty of engine and drivetrain choices – the VZ2 reviewed here combines a 1.4-litre petrol engine with a 12.8kWh battery – with power outputs ranging from 148bhp in the entry-level 1.5 TSI petrol to more than 300 in the 2.0 TSI 310 4Drive which boasts a 0-62mph time of just 4.9 seconds.
As you’d expect with a combined 245hp on tap and a battery helping out before the engine can deliver maximum torque, throttle response is sharp and pulling away at junctions is a painless experience.
VZ2 trims and above are fitted with adjustable dampers as standard. There are three modes to choose from – Comfort, Normal and Cupra – and, even if you opt for the latter, you’ll find that the improved agility and handling doesn’t sacrifice comfort entirely.
The Formentor, billed as a sporty SUV, doesn’t handle like a hot hatch – it’s tall frame and high centre of gravity sees to that – but while it doesn’t change direction with the same willingness its steering feels nicely weighted and accurate and there’s even some small detail about what’s happening beneath the wheels filtering back to the fingertips.
That feel helps you exploit the generous levels of grip on offer and it’s perfectly possible to hustle the Formentor along country roads with considerable pace. Progress is aided by a six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox that switches ratios quickly and smoothly.
The Formentor’s sporty profile and performance come with a premium over the Ateca upon which it is based. You sacrifice a little practicality for those Lamborghini looks too. It will still comfortably accommodate four adults and – if you avoid the hybrid versions – a good-sized boot. Handling is fun for an SUV and generous equipment levels mean that it can actually look pretty good value for the money.
Cupra Formentor e-HYBRID 1.4TSI VZ1 245PS DSG
For more information visit www.cupraofficial.co.uk
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