Cupra’s Formentor will attract no end of attention on your travels

Until recently, cars that wore the triangular copper Cupra emblem were nothing more than rebadged and ever-so-slightly reworked Seats. But it wasn’t always going to be that way – the sub-brand just needed a little time to get its affairs in order. And when it did, it came up with the Formentor crossover.

SO THIS CUPRA ISN’T A SEAT?

Well yes – and no. Most of what you can’t see – think engine, transmission and many of the oily bits – are common to other brands in the VAG group, of which Seat is one. You can add Skoda, Volkswagen and even Audi to that list. Even some exterior elements such as the headlights and LED light bar at the back are common to Seat, but, apart from that, the similarities are minimal. Tested here is the lowest-powered car in mid-spec ‘VZ2’ and for the money you get quite a lot – but more on that in a minute.  Power comes from a 148bhp, 1.5-litre petrol although a flagship variant boasting over 300bhp – the flagship model aimed at Volkswagen’s T-Roc R and BMW’s X2 135i – is also available, as are two plug-in hybrids that marry a petrol with either 201bhp or 242bhp to an electric motor. There is also a choice of a 5 and a 6-speed manual, a 7-speed automatic and even all-wheel-drive further up the range.

IT’S A SHOUTY LOOKING CAR

The Formentor is certainly not a car for shrinking violets. Every aspect criews out to fellow motorists, pedestrians and cyclists, “Look at me!” If we had a pound for every time someone pointed at the car during our time in it, we might just have had enough to put down a deposit for one. Chiselled lines, muscular haunches and dramatic swoops are joined by an uncompromising looking front bumper, half-black half-silver 19-inch alloy wheels, an extended roof spoiler, and a rear bumper diffuser and twin exhaust arrangement. We particularly like how elements of the car – from the front apron to the wheel arch extensions to the wing mirror caps – create a tasteful contrast with the predominant body colour. Speaking of colour, it’s the only aspect of the exterior styling Cupra allows owners to put their stamp on it.

WHERE ARE ALL THE BUTTONS?

You are either going to love the cabin’s all-encompassing touchscreen or you are going to hate it. True, it can feel overwhelming as there are so many buttons, menus and sub-menus to work through to find just what you are looking for – the price you have to pay for a clean, uncluttered dash. 12-inches wide, the load time is quick and the graphics are on a par with the newest smartphones. As good on the eye and loaded with interchangeable features is the 10.25-inch digital instrument binnacle. Colour is added by way of ambient lighting, copper-coloured air vent surrounds and orange stitching on the dash, steering wheel and door grabs. Heated and electronically adjustable, the figure-hugging bucket seats cushion and support and look the part with the Cupra logo embossed into their headrests. The cabin is a nice place but it isn’t a knockout, it isn’t grand enough for a car at this price – and some of the materials at eye level prove it.

IT’S AN SUV – SO IS IT PRACTICAL?

Four adults’ luggage will be absorbed by the 450-litre boot in the Formentor but it’s a shame the floor isn’t height adjustable. If it were, it would alleviate the 4-inch lip that exists but, overall, the aperture is decent and there is minimal intrusion from the wheels meaning a nice, square shape. Two quick-release levers allow the 60/40 split-folding back seats to be dropped without the need to open either rear door, while the ski hatch allows for longer items to be poked through with minimal fuss. As for headroom, there is absolutely loads in the front and in the back of the Formentor and the same goes for leg room, too. You’ll also find an array of pockets to store items in not to mention USB ports to charge electronics.

TELL ME HOW THE FORMENTOR DRIVES

With the smallest petrol on board this Spanish SUV has bark but little in the way of bite, so it won’t come as a surprise to discover it trails in the real-world performance stakes. It doesn’t feel quick and the more you ask of the motor given the car’s sporting pretences, the louder it – and the noise from inside the cabin – grows. For that simple reason, the 1.5-litre is probably best avoided. The dual-clutch transmission on the other hand is, as we have come to expect, a smooth operator and quick to react when you want to go up or down the ratios via a pull of the dainty paddles behind the steering wheel. Once at a steady speed on a flowing country road, with the odd twist and turn thrown in, the Formentor begins to reveal a different side to itself. You won’t have any struggles threading it through S bends as the body is nicely tied down to minimise roll and the steering is weighty and accurate. Grip is decent, too, so you can drive hard with confidence in the wet or the dry.

PROS & CONS

+ Knockout, aggressive styling    
+ Extremely well equipped           
+ Sure-footed handling  
Too few buttons inside                             
Small petrol feels out of place 
Not the most practical SUV

MULTIMEDIA: The centrepiece of the dashboard, this 12-inch display is big, bright and bursting with content that can delight and drive you to distraction in equal measure. Navigation, media, telephone and driving mode choices all have to be made through it as there are no physical buttons to be found. That may score points from an aesthetics point of view but from a safety perspective it’s an own goal.

INTERIOR: All Formentors have a 10.25-inch digital driver binnacle and wireless phone charging, three-zone climate control, keyless go, automatic wipers, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors and a raft of safety features. ‘V2’ models add a heated steering wheel, reversing camera and an electric tail-gate. The decorated sports seats are heated and electrically adjustable and are supremely comfy.

STYLING: Cupra announced its arrival to the market with an SUV that is aggressively styled and neatly proportioned. Contrast paintwork, 19-inch 5-spoke wheels, blistered arches and muscular haunches are the order of the day and the end result is a car that looks great from whichever angle you choose to view it from. The headlights use LED technology and the rear lights have a ‘coast-to-coast’ lightbar.

PRACTICALITY: Forward visibility is fine as the windscreen pillars are reasonably thin but the chunky rear pillars make reversing trickier. For those travelling in the back, access could prove tricky if the driver or front seat passenger is particularly tall, while the raised hump in the centre of the floor adds to the challenge for whoever ends up filling the middle portion of the rear bench. Boot space varies by model.

SPECIFICATION

Price: £32,440 (as tested) 
Engine: 1.5-litre, 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 148bhp/1841b ft    
Transmission: 7-speed automatic, front-wheel drive         
0-62mph: 8.9 seconds    
Top speed: 126mph       
Economy/CO2: 41.5mpg/155g/Km 

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