Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid review
All-new Cupra Formentor combines plug-in hybrid power and performance in an SUV package. But is it as good as it looks?
- Good to drive
- Well equipped
- Spacious and practical
- Powertrain not exciting
- Infotainment interface
- Not as sporty as it looks
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||32 miles||177-188mpg||33g/km|
The Cupra Formentor is the first car that the Spanish brand can truly call its own. Cupra was spun off from SEAT and initially you could only buy versions of SEAT cars that had been tuned and given a performance focus – such as the Ateca and Leon. The Formentor, however, is the brand’s first standalone model, and it’s available as a plug-in hybrid.
The Formentor isn’t just a performance SUV, as there are some fairly ordinary engine options. The plug-in model is one of the more expensive versions in the range, at around £40,000, although it’s not the most powerful.
It uses a 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine alongside an electric motor; they make a combined 242bhp and 250Nm of torque. You'll find the same drivetrain under the bonnet of the Audi Q3, Volkswagen Golf GTE, Volkswagen Tiguan, SEAT Tarraco and Skoda Octavia vRS hybrids, and there's also going to be a 201bhp model, although we haven't tried this yet.
The battery has a useable capacity of 12.8kWh, which means the car can travel for up to 32 miles on electric power alone. It should take around three hours and 40 minutes to charge on a home wallbox. Official figures say that the Formentor emits 33g/km of CO2 and fuel economy of up to 188mpg is possible – but as with all plug-in hybrids, that depends entirely on how often you plug it in.
This car will certainly appeal to company-car users, as it sits in the 11% band for Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax in 2021/22, rising to 12% the year after. And as the Formentor is a striking-looking model, with sharp lines, an SUV stance and interesting details such as the LED headlights and bulging rear wheelarches, it’ll definitely stand out in the office car park.
Yet the Cupra doesn’t feel as exciting to drive as it looks. The engine is a big part of this, as it sounds strained. You can choose a 'Cupra' driving mode that adds synthesised engine sound to the cabin, but it also adds unnecessary weight to the steering. The driving modes do tweak the suspension, though, and the Formentor corners with more composure in this sporty mode. All in all, it's pretty good to drive, as it has plenty of grip.
The Cupra isn’t uncomfortable, as the suspension provides enough damping despite the slightly firm setup. Even on the larger wheels it deals with bumps reasonably well, especially in the more relaxed driving modes.
There’s a good amount of space inside for passengers, although the boot isn’t that big for an SUV, at 345 litres. That's less than you get in an Audi Q3 or BMW X1 plug-in, which are the Formentor’s main rivals. The car has some distinctive interior details including copper-coloured stitching and sports seats, plus digital dials and a large 12-inch infotainment screen. Sadly, the interface isn’t the best, as it takes too many clicks to get where you want to go, but at least there’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone connectivity.
Our test car had some quality issues, but we expect those to be sorted when we get to try a right-hand-drive model soon. There are two trim levels available: VZ1 and VZ2. Even the lesser model comes with LED lights, 19-inch alloys, digital dials, wireless phone charging, a reversing camera and plenty of safety kit. The VZ2 comes with a heated steering wheel, Nappa leather seats and extra safety technology, including lane-changing assistance.
The Formentor is a successful first car for the fledgling Cupra brand, as it’s stylish, practical, good to drive and pretty comfortable. The interior is smart and full of technology, and company-car buyers will love the hybrid model, though we’re not sure it lives up to the looks as the engine isn’t very exciting.