Parkers overall rating: 4.1 out of 5 4.1
  • Several petrol engines available
  • Plug-in hybrids make up half of UK sales
  • No diesel Formentor for the UK market

The Cupra Formentor launched with a single 310hp performance derivative, but that's now been joined by a basic 1.5-litre petrol and a brace of 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid versions. A 2.0-litre petrol model with 190hp is on the way, as is an even more powerful five-cylinder VZ5 with acceleration to embarrass some Porsches.

We've tested the well mannered 1.5 and found it an agreeable choice of engine, striking a fine balance between reasonable costs and efficiency, with enough performance not to be disgraced at the traffic lights (0-62mph takes 8.9sec). 

Step up to the turbocharged 2.0-litre petrol engine with 310hp, and you find a wicked crossover capable of a 4.9 seconds 0-62mph sprint, but Cupra predicts that nearly half of all buyers will pick one of the E-Hybrids. We can see why: they provide nearly as much thrust at the powerful petrol models, yet with the ability to drive up to 37 miles on silent e-mode around town, and even up to motorway speeds.

You'll barely notice the way the car shuffles between electric motion and petrol power - you merely drop the transmission into D and the car does it all for you. The 13kWh battery doesn't take too long to charge at home and if you can afford the higher purchase price, we'd recommend the PHEVs as our pick of the range.

What's the Cupra Formentor like to drive?

In Comfort mode, the steering is light and direct, and pleasingly pointy at low speeds making the Formentor easy to manoeuvre around town. The suspension conveys an underlying tautness, but generally the adaptive dampers ensure an acceptable ride, though that’s a matter of personal taste. There's some tyre noise on rough tarmac at 30mph, but that’s accentuated by the mode’s generally quiet demeanour.

2020 Cupra Formentor driving front

On the motorway at 70mph, the 19-inch wheels on our test cars occasionally thumped through craters or over crests, and there was an underlying hum of rubber on road. Engine noise is well contained on all models, and the car will coast briefly if you back off the throttle, as the engine cuts out.

What's the sporty 310hp model like?

Flip from Comfort to Sport, floor the accelerator pedal and things change dramatically. The Formentor accelerates strongly, accompanied by a purposeful and sporty soundtrack as it drops down a gear or two. It’s ferociously fast, yet the brakes are powerful and inspire confidence to rein in all that performance.

The turbocharged 2.0-litre is found in many Volkswagen Group cars – Golf R, T-Roc R, Audi SQ2 and the Cupra Ateca. This Formentor shades them all on peak power, but offers the same relentless wave of torque as its sister cars, fed through a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission to all four wheels when the need for extra traction arises.

You'll immediately notice the accelerator become more responsive in Sport mode (selected by a button on the steering wheel). The software holds the revs higher, eliminating the occasional lowdown blip of whistly turbo spool-up in Comfort. Similarly Sport eliminates the steering’s lightness, injecting a little more directness and weight into the steering.

The exhaust comes alive, relaying a constant, percussive burble into the cabin and, under load, an urgent roar. But it doesn’t pop and snarl like a Mercedes-AMG A45 or the Volkswagen T-Roc R.

Handling

  • The Formentor is pretty comfortable, yet fun
  • Pricier models get adaptive suspension
  • It's very easy to drive

We've driven several Formentors now and can report that they're all slick to drive. There is a choice of manual and DSG auto transmissions, front- and all-wheel drive.

High-performance Volkswagen Group cars are excellent on wet, greasy roads, a capability built on four decades of all-wheel drive mastery. The Formentor’s computer-controlled, electro-hydraulic 4Drive system can decide within milliseconds if it needs to send power to the rear axle, by engaging a multi-plate clutch between the end of the propshaft and the rear differential. 

The Cupra can also optimise traction across an axle, by braking a wheel if it detects any slip and channeling power laterally. Even torrential rain is of no concern to the Formentor. Grip is impressive whatever the conditions.

2020 Cupra Formentor driving rear

This is predominantly a front-driven car that calls upon the rear axle when traction begins to wane, rather than the other way around. This makes the Formentor very safe and predictable to drive, if not the most exciting or tactile.

Fans of extremely fast SUVs may like to wait for the Formentor VZ5 - a five-cylinder 390hp version recently announced. Although only manufactured in left-hand drive, the UK importer may bring a few to Britain, although prices are likely to top £50,000. We will update our Cupra Formentor review once we've sampled this range-topper.