Of the more than 7000 expressions of interest registered from Australian buyers for incoming Spanish brand Cupra, the Formentor is the most popular.
It’s not hard to see why. It’s a sleek-looking small SUV… that’s really a nicely raised hatchback, but done so rather elegantly.
The Cupra Formentor is based on the same MQB platform as the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3, meaning it shares a similar wheelbase and interior packaging as its German counterparts. However, unlike other Cupra models that are based on a Seat equivalent, the Formentor is a unique offering.
Volkswagen Australia is largely in charge of bringing the Cupra brand to market, and it’s likely the more spacious Ateca SUV, the Leon hot hatch and upcoming Cupra Born EV will all take a back seat to the Formentor.
The Seat-owned brand will not have an easy task convincing Australian buyers it’s worth their time, given the extremely competitive segment the Formentor plays in. Thankfully, the brand is aware of that and is set to do things differently.
Apart from ditching the traditional dealer model and going for an agency model, which sees fixed prices with no room for negotiation, Cupra will also launch a Cupra Garage on Pitt Street in Sydney’s CBD. The brand has partnered with big dealer groups to hit the market in other locations too.
That aside, the small SUV market is a crowded space and the Formentor is not exactly standing out from the competition when it comes to price or features, but it’s definitely a unique and very capable offering. For some, that will be more than enough.
From a design perspective, the Formentor strikes a rather aggressive look without being over the top. It’s a good-looking car, but can feel a little derivative in the current flock of SUVs, with its only real brand identity the signature Cupra bronze highlights inside and out.
There are elements of the Subaru XV’s design from the front (albeit made much sharper), and the rear carries the current design trend of a horizontal light bar across the boot.
For our first taste of Cupra vehicles we went to Sydney Motorsport Park to try New Zealand-spec Formentors (same setup as Australian cars) that couldn’t be driven on local roads.
Although we had limited time around the track that – frankly – isn’t representative of how a normal person would ever drive a Formentor SUV, we got a reasonable feel for the car on the limit.
We will be doing a more comprehensive review of all Cupra vehicles when they become available in the coming months. For now though, should you consider a Cupra Formentor?
Pricing for the Cupra Formentor range starts at $50,690 plus on-road costs for the entry-level Formentor V, which runs a 140kW 2.0-litre turbo petrol engine with all-wheel drive, climbing to $61,490 plus on-roads for the flagship Formentor VZx with its 228kW 2.0-litre turbo and all-wheel drive.
In between the entry point and flagship are a 180kW Formentor VZ FWD ($53,790) – think of it as a raised Golf – and the 180kW Formentor VZe plug-in hybrid ($60,990) which debuts the VW Group’s most powerful 1.4-litre PHEV drivetrain in Australia, available overseas in the Golf GTE and Passat GTE, as well as the Tiguan eHybrid.
2022 Cupra Formentor pricing:
- Cupra Formentor V: $50,690 ($54,990 D/A)
- Cupra Formentor VZ: $53,790 ($58,490 D/A)
- Cupra Formentor VZe: $60,990
- $63,990 D/A (ACT)
- $64,990 D/A (QLD)
- $65,990 D/A (NSW, SA)
- $66,490 D/A (VIC)
- $66,990 D/A (WA)
- $TBD D/A (TAS, NT)
- Cupra Formentor VZx: $61,490 ($66,490 D/A)
Of the four engine variants available in Australia, we drove the base 140kW V and the top-spec 228kW VZx.
It’s hard to put a real-world perspective on the driving given it consisted of about eight laps in each vehicle, but it’s fair to day we were impressed by the car’s overall balance and poise.
The Formentor drives differently to most other SUVs in market, in that it has very flat feel to its dynamics. There is not a great deal of body roll and, in the top-spec at least, the power delivery out of corners was impressive with no noticeable turbo lag.
Remember, this is the same engine you’ll find in the Audi S3, so it’s no slouch. It also carries over the Audi’s quad-exhaust setup. If you really want to have some fun, we’d like slightly longer paddle shifters.
The base spec is still a perfectly reasonable choice, and although it can occasionally feel a little slow in its torque build up and response from the right pedal, it would hardly disappoint buyers looking for a daily SUV.
We tried our best to clip as many kerbs as we could to simulate some hard road surfaces and can report back that with the adaptive dampers standard across the range, the Formentor never felt crashy or overly harsh.
If you’re really mad about your performance you can go for the $4150 Brembo brake package, which we feel is a little over the top and probably totally unnecessary for a car like this.
We look forward to finding some Australian roads to test this out further.
The bronze highlights around the air-conditioning vents and steering wheel, as well as the matching bronze stitching, help give the Formentor’s interior a unique look in what’s otherwise a recognisable Volkswagen-esque interior setup.
A 10.25-inch digital instrument display alongside a massive (for the cabin) 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system tilted ever so slightly toward the driver gives the interior a really modern feel.
Both screens are super high-resolution, and the larger unit is very responsive. We briefly tested the wireless Apple CarPlay and found it is quick to load, without any noticeable glitches.
The small gear lever, first seen in the Porsche 911 and now in Volkswagen products like the Golf, might take some getting used to but it saves space and works a treat.
The plastics surrounding the centre console are a little on the harsh side, but the touch points of the Formentor such as the arm rests and the upper door covers feel nice and soft.
Forward vision from the driver’s seat is pretty reasonable and you can feel like you’re almost in an SUV depending on how high you have your seat, but it does tend to give more of a hatch vibe than anything else.
There’s reasonable headroom for taller passengers up front, and the rear seats can manage two large adults without much issue – but just like the Golf and A3, you would not be wanting to carry five large adults in the Formentor for very long.
We would like to the see some optional items like power tailgate come standard across a range that starts at over $50,000, rather than be part of an option pack on all but the top-spec.
There are four options for the Formentor. The base spec Formentor V has all four wheels powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine punching out a reasonable 140kW of power and 320Nm of torque.
Both the V and VZ use a seven-speed wet dual-clutch transmission, but the Formentor VZ’s turbocharged 2.0-litre engine gets a bump to 180kW and 370Nm, though power is pushed to the front-wheels only.
Stepping to the Formentor VZe plug-in hybrid, which we are yet to drive, sees the brand ditch the 2.0-litre engine in favour of a turbocharged 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with an electric motor and lithium-ion battery pack, for system outputs of 180kW and 400Nm.
This electrified powertrain is unique to the VZe, and makes use of a six-speed wet dual-clutch auto and front-wheel drive.
The range-topping Formentor VZx uses a 2.0-litre turbo petrol with 228kW and 400Nm. It’s all-wheel drive, and has a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.
Formentor V highlights:
- 140kW/320Nm 2.0L turbo petrol engine
- 4Drive AWD
- 18-inch black-and-silver alloy wheels
- Heated, power-folding exterior mirrors
- LED headlights and daytime running lights
- Fog lights with cornering function
- Automatic high-beam
- Automatic headlights
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Rear privacy glass
- Adaptive dampers
- 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster
- 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Satellite navigation
- Wireless phone charging
- Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- Two front and two rear USB-C ports
- Cloth upholstery
- Tri-zone climate control
- Leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel
- Paddle shifters
- Keyless entry and start
Formentor VZ adds:
- 180kW/370Nm 2.0L turbo petrol engine
- Front-wheel drive
- 19-inch Exclusive Sport black-and-silver alloy wheels
- 18-inch space-saver spare
Formentor VZe gains:
- 180kW/400Nm 1.4L PHEV drivetrain
- 110kW/250Nm 1.4L turbo petrol engine
- 85kW/300Nm electric motor
- Tyre repair kit
- Mode 3 charging cable
Formentor VZx adds:
- 228kW/400Nm 2.0L turbo petrol engine
- 4Drive AWD
- 19-inch Exclusive Sport black-and-copper alloy wheels
- Hands-free power tailgate
- Quad exhaust
- Petrol Blue leather upholstery
- Heated front seats
- Power driver’s seat with memory
- Mirror memory
- Nine-speaker Beats sound system
- Supersports leather-wrapped steering wheel with additional buttons
Optional equipment includes:
- Panoramic glass sunroof: $2100 (all models)
- Brembo brake package: $4150 (VZx only)
- Leather and Power package: $2750 (V, VZ, VZe)
- Leather front sports seats
- Heated front seats
- Power driver’s seat with memory
- Mirror memory
- Hands-free power tailgate
The Cupra Formentor wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on Euro NCAP tests conducted in 2021.
Category scores included 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 68 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 80 per cent for safety assist.
Standard safety features include:
- AEB with pedestrian/cyclist detection
- Lane-keep assist
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Adaptive cruise control
- Travel Assist (adaptive cruise + lane centring)
- Driver fatigue monitoring
- Safe exit warning
- Emergency Assist
- Reversing camera
- Front and rear parking sensors
Unfortunately our market misses out on a surround-view camera until model year 2023 production.
The Cupra Formentor is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
All Cupra models will include three years of scheduled servicing with purchase, with further servicing costs to be confirmed.
We are looking forward to having a longer drive in the Cupra Formentor on Australian roads before we really form a stronger opinion about the small SUV, but our first impressions are relatively positive.
Cupra is asking a reasonable amount of coin for its vehicles and while the standard list of equipment is reasonable and the performance of the car is generally good, the market is crowded.
It’s going to take some exceptional customer care and/or great buy-back future value guarantee program (in the works) to convince the everyday consumer to look past mainstream manufacturers, let alone Volkswagen’s excellent range of SUVs.
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