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Cupra Formentor Review

9 / 10
15 March 2024

Coupe-SUVs aren't new at this stage – look at the likes of the BMW X2, Mazda CX-30 or Renault Arkana – but they usually end up as something of a compromise.

Adding a curved coupe roofline to an SUV limits space, without quite capturing the elegance of a true coupe. The Cupra Formentor nails the recipe, however, blending the best parts of coupe and SUV body styles while demanding almost no sacrifices.

What we like:
  • Well-judged handling
  • Impressive practicality
  • Lots of standard equipment
What we don't like:
  • Ride is a little firm
  • Not the most refined option
  • Fiddly infotainment and touch controls

Should I buy a Cupra Formentor?

The Cupra Formentor is the first standalone model from SEAT's sporty offshoot brand. Unlike the Cupra Leon and Ateca, which have many near-identical – but less exciting – Volkswagen and Skoda siblings, the Formentor has a unique body shape and dramatic styling that stands out among a sea of cookie-cutter SUVs.

We've been down this road before, however. Cars like the BMW X2, Audi Q3 Sportback and Toyota C-HR all blend the curved profile of a coupe, with the upright stance of an SUV. And, every single one of them ends up a bit compromised trying to mash those two competing body styles together. So, is it the same story for the Formentor?

Thankfully, no. Building the Formentor from the ground up as a coupe-SUV has allowed Cupra to perfect the recipe. The car is sporty and engaging to drive, with just enough compliance that your family won't complain on long drives. And, it mostly avoids the biggest pitfall other coupe-SUVs fall into – actually having enough space for a family of four and their cargo.

All models come with reasonably good performance, so there's no need to shy away from the entry-level version if you're on a tighter budget. If you want the Formentor's 'go' to match its 'show', however, you'll probably want to consider one of the more powerful petrol or plug-in-hybrid engines.

It's not quite a clean sweep. The cabin looks a little bland in places and we don't like the touch-sensitive controls on the dashboard. There's also a bit more engine and road noise than we'd like – perhaps the biggest compromise in the effort to make the Formentor feel like a sporty car.

Interior and technology

Recent Volkswagen Group models have embraced minimalism in the cabin and the Formentor is no exception. The button count is kept to a bare minimum, with most functions handled either through the screen, on the steering wheel, or via touch-sensitive controls above the air vents.

In practice, this setup is fiddly and takes quite a bit of getting used to before you'll confidently remember where key functions are. The aforementioned touch-sensitive buttons are hard to hit without looking at them and have really inconsistent responses – sometimes ignoring your finger swipe completely, sometimes overreacting and sending the temperature or stereo volume skyrocketing. To add insult to injury, the controls aren't illuminated, so hitting them at night is basically impossible.

Once you've learned your way around the infotainment system, things get a bit better. All Formentor models get the same bright, clear 12-inch touchscreen and digital driver's dials. We're not quite sold on the menu layout, which is a little fussy with too many on-screen options, but the graphical sharpness and responsiveness is generally pretty good.

Beyond the technology, there's not actually much in the cabin worthy of note. The interior panels are simple with sharp lines and minimal styling details, although we appreciate the little flashes of copper that help break up the somewhat excessive black materials.

Scan your eyes a little lower in the cabin and the Formentor's more affordable roots become more obvious. Hard and untextured plastic adorns most of the surfaces below the dashboard, which looks a bit bland compared to more plush rivals like the Mazda CX-30 or Mercedes GLA.


So many coupe-SUVs fall down at this stage – their sculpted bodies hiding cabins that are barely any bigger than the hatchbacks these cars often base themselves on. The Formentor isn't one of them, however.

Space for front passengers is generous and adults of all sizes will be able to get comfortable. You won't get quite the same upright and commanding view offered by taller, boxier SUVs. Instead, you feel like you sit relatively low and far back, with your eyes looking out over the Formentor's long bonnet, a little like you might in a proper sports car.

Things are actually more impressive in the back, though, because the Formentor is one of the few coupe-SUVs that can comfortably seat adults back there. Even with a tall front occupant, a similarly tall rear passenger still has enough leg and foot room, and they won't need end up with a crick in their neck from the car's curved roofline thanks to impressive headroom.

The closest you get to a compromise demanded by the car's body style is in the Formentor's boot. There are 450 litres of space, which is about average for the class – comfortably more than you'd find in a Leon hatchback, but it lags a little behind the more upright Ateca. That's still enough space for a couple of large suitcases or a big pushchair, so most family buyers will find that the Formentor is practical enough.

Engines and performance

Our test car came equipped with the 150hp 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine – the entry-level option for Formentor buyers.

This model is widely available on the used market and offers respectable acceleration. There's enough horsepower to pull you all the way up to motorway speeds without much strain, and you won't find yourself stirring the gearbox every time you hit an incline.

Where it doesn't quite deliver, however, is when you mash the pedal into the carpet. A car with looks as dramatic as the Formentor feels like it should launch itself towards the horizon when you give it a big boot of throttle. And the 1.5-litre TSI just isn't exciting enough when you're using all its power – you're rewarded with a loud wail from the engine but acceleration that's no more impressive than a regular family hatch.

We reckon the Formentor's upgrade engine options go a long way to addressing this issue. There's a pair of plug-in-hybrid options with either 204 or 245hp – both with impressive low-speed responses thanks to their punchy electric motors. We still think you're best off opting for any of the Formentor's 2.0-litre petrol engines, which come in 190 and 245hp guises or, if you're feeling brave, a range-topping 310hp model which delivers supercar-like performance.

Most models come equipped with the DSG automatic gearbox we've widely sampled in other VW-Group cars. It's a good match for the Formentor, with snappy reactions to quick stabs of throttle, and none of the slightly jerky low-speed behaviour earlier DSG units sometimes exhibited. Otherwise, entry-level cars come with a six-speed manual gearbox, which is easy and rewarding to use.

Driving and comfort

Another sin committed by some coupe-SUVs is that they do nothing to upgrade the driving experience over a conventional SUV. This means they might have sporty looks and possibly even a decent amount of power, but aren't actually any fun to drive.

Not so in the Formentor. It flows down the road with a level of ease that masks the fact it's a good few inches taller than a standard hatchback.

It doesn't pitch or roll around like a drunken sailor when thrown at a corner, either. The composed suspension battles the laws of physics with all its might to hold the car level with the horizon through turns. This encourages you to be a bit aggressive with the front end, chucking it into corners and feeling the car tuck faithfully into the requested line.

Switch out of sport mode and you'll find the same composure and predictable controls that made the Formentor so entertaining when driven hard, make it easy to place on the road when just cruising around. There's also an abundant sense of grip, which should give you the confidence to use the Formentor in all seasons – especially if you swap to winter tyres during the colder months.

The only slightly sour note is comfort and refinement, which have moved one row back for the sake of driving fun. As a result, the suspension is fairly firm and will translate every bump in the road to the cabin – not so violently that the car becomes tiring over long distances, but a Skoda Karoq, for example, is substantially more comfortable. You're also subject to a fair amount of engine and road noise in the Formentor, with the aforementioned Karoq also proving far more hushed in most circumstances.

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