Cupra Formentor first drive: the lone racer
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Cupra Formentor VZ
- Sensational style
- Great value for a performance SUV
- Still pretty practical
- High-tech interior is a bit fiddly
- Less practical than cheaper Ateca
- Will lower powered models cheapen Cupra brand?
Cupra (the name is a contraction of “Cup racer”) used to be a performance specification for Seat models. So there were Seats that were also Cupras.
In 2018 Cupra became a standalone brand, although the models were still based on vehicles from the Spanish brand’s mainstream lineup (the Cupra Ateca, for example). So yes, there are Cupras that are also Seats.
Confused? Us too, but things are about to get a lot more simple with the launch of the Cupra Formentor. It’s a coupe-style medium SUV that’s a Cupra, and Cupra only. There will be no Seat version and nothing like it in the wider Volkswagen, Audi or Skoda worlds either.
It’s a big deal for the Group’s smallest brand, globally and here in NZ, where the local distributor reckons Cupra will account for more half of its sales by the end of the year (Seat-badged vehicles being the other part of the equation).
Think of Formentor as a coupe alternative to the Ateca SUV if that helps. It’s a snip longer (including another 50mm in the wheelbase) and a bit lower, but with a similar footprint.
The flagship Formentor VZ (Veloz means “fast” in Spanish) is a sister model to the Cupra Ateca VZ. At $68,900 it’s $2k more than the Ateca, with the same 228kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine and AWD system – complete with aggressive “Cupra” drive mode.
There’s also a Formentor V 4Drive, which offers 140kW/320Nm – pretty much the same powertrain as the Seat Ateca FR 4Drive and with the regular drive settings. No Cupra attack-mode for this $54,900 machine.
Seat, sorry Cupra is smart enough to know that Formentor is also primarily about style. It looks sensational and although there’s $14k between the two models, they appear virtually identical. The only way you can tell them apart is from the VZ’s quad pipes and different wheels. And given the range of rim options being offered, that second thing isn’t such a big deal.
So those that want the VZ’s extra zing will be happy to pay; under $70k for a 220kW-plus SUV that does 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds is still a genuine bargain. Those that don’t can still enjoy all of the image/style with the V 4Drive.
On the road, the VZ is every bit as brisk and composed as the Cupra Ateca we already know and love. Don’t come looking for the raw character and crackling exhaust of Cupras past; the brand’s modern machines are everyday-comfortable in the lesser modes, but even when you crank the VZ up to the Cupra setting it’s sharp and composed without being too rigid. A dizzying 15 different settings for the damping should help you get it just-so.
Interior design marks a huge departure from the Seat standard and is closer to the new-generation design showcased in the VW Golf 8 and latest Skoda Octavia: more touch-tech, including haptic-feedback controls, a 10.25in digital instrument cluster with configurable display and 12in infotainment display.
Don’t think that the low profile prevents this being a family machine. The extra wheelbase over the Ateca and the different mounting points for the rear seats mean the rear compartment is still very habitable. Although you do lose 65 litres of bootspace in the Formentor.
Formentor is certain to be a halo/growth model for Cupra in NZ and there’s more to come. A 150kW/350Nm Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) version with 53km EV range is on the wish list for NZ next year; before that we may see a V FWD with the 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre petrol engine. Pricing for the plug-in is anybody’s guess at this stage, but a Formentor V in the $40k bracket would be mighty appealing.
ENGINE: 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four
POWER: 140kW/320Nm (V 4Drive), 228kW/400Nm (VZ)
GEARBOX: 7-speed automated dual-clutch, AWD
0-100KM/H: 7.1sec (V 4Drive), 4.9sec (VZ)
ECONOMY: 6.9l/100km (V 4Drive), 7.7l/100km (VZ)