It’s a Cupra, I replied to the inquisitive passerby who was eyeing up my set of wheels.
Car Reviewed: Cupra Formentor VZ2 e-HYBRID DSG-auto 245PS
‘What, a Cooper?’ he came back at me. I explained that the sporty SUV he was standing beside was, in fact, badged Cupra, which is the posh, sporty brand made by SEAT, part of the giant VW group.
‘Very nice’ was the favourable response and he went happily on his way.
With sexy coupe-like styling, a squat, purposeful stance and some razor-edged lines, the Cupra Formentor certainly stands out from the herd of crossovers currently hogging the roads.
Based on the humble but dynamically excellent SEAT Ateca, it is sharper styled and even sharper to drive but less practical, partly because of the rakish roofline. There is an array of model choices ranging from 1.5litre to gutsy 2.0litre 310ps.
We opted for the middle path – the 1.4 TSI e-Hybrid, which punches out a not insignificant 245ps yet allows most drivers to squeeze around 40 miles out of a gallon of E10.
It must be said that hybridisation has somewhat penalised the Formentor’s luggage carry capacity, and the boot swallows just 345 litres of cargo.
But driving and economy are where the snazzy Cupra – which bears more than a passing resemblance to the exotic Lamborghini Urus – really shines. Sharp responses and excellent dynamics put the Spaniard ahead of its rivals, together with sufficient power to elevate it to the warm, but perhaps not the hot-hatch class.
62mph comes up in under eight seconds, meaning it’s brisk rather than racy. You could reasonably expect it to be quicker than this, with 245ps to play with.
But the power comes in a smooth stream allowing fast cross-country trips to be completed with ease and satisfaction. This version is front-drive, and there’s a bit of scrabble when the accelerator is floored in slippery conditions.
Handling is tidy, roll-free and precise, with a sharp turn-in and pleasing weighting. There is no shortage of grip around curves as the low profile rubber wrapped around the 19-inch alloys bites into the Tarmac. Ride is better than you might have expected, with enough damping to absorb most road imperfections.
As for economy, it uses its electrification sensibly and the miles are stretched out. Plug in and you’ll get 34miles on a single charge from the 12.8kWh battery. Officially the combined consumption is 188.3mpg – a figure unlikely ever to be attained in real-life conditions. Nevertheless, our 42mpg average seemed pretty useful for a spirited four-seater.
Space in the cabin is reasonably good, with decent leg and shoulder room front and rear. However, tall backseat passengers may have to dip their heads slightly due to the sloping roofline.
Another minor casualty of the design is the reduced boot space, down from 450 litres on the basic version, because of the necessary electrical bits and pieces housed beneath the cargo platform.
The cabin is smart, modern and high-tech, which translates as a tad cumbersome to use in many cases. Just about everything is operated from the 12-inch infotainment screen, which necessitates the driver pulling over if he wants to change radio channels or risk taking their eyes off the road.
Even the heated front seats require several presses to operate when a single movement should be sufficient.
It’s a stylish living environment with well-shaped leather sports seats and plenty of copper stitching to match the exhausts. Swish cabin lighting wraps around the doors and lights up, letting you know when a car is about to overtake. Impressive stuff.
Fun, economical and fast enough for most, the Cupra Formentor cuts a dash and is capable of going head-to-head with established prestige brands.
A fully paid up petrolhead (and diesel/electric too!), Jonathan has had columns in national daily titles (Daily and Sunday Express), edited and written for motor mags and currently concentrates on websites. He has tested cars across the globe and driven many on Europe’s major race tracks. His career began as a trainee journalist in Chester and he now lives near Cambridge. A former Pirelli Motoring Journalist of the year award winner.