What is it?
The newest offering from Australia’s newest performance brand. Cupra is the performance division of Spanish brand, Seat, which itself is part of the German automotive giant, Volkswagen Group.
If that sounds a bit confusing, think of Cupra as the Spanish equivalent of Volkswagen’s R-line range of vehicles. In fact, that’s actually what it is, for the most part, with the Formentor the Spanish take on the Volkswagen Tiguan R (and the Cupra Leon based on the Volkswagen Golf and the Cupra Ateca shares DNA with the VW T-Roc).
Given the cars all use parts from the Volkswagen Group, the key selling point for Cupra is style and the fact it isn’t a Volkswagen. The brand’s motto is ‘Cupra is, and always will be, for those who seek unconventional paths’ – which is a great saying, but you need more than a great phrase to sell cars.
We spent time in the Formentor VZx to see what this new machine has to offer.
Does it have any racing pedigree?
Yes, motorsport is actually at the heart of the brand, despite Volkswagen’s decision to withdraw itself from all racing. Cupra has a Leon-based TCR model as well as an entry in the ETCR series and backs the Abt Sportline entry in Formula E.
When the brand was first officially launched in Australia last year, Cupra Australia brand manager, Ben Wilks, made it clear to Torquecafe.com that he sees motorsport as having a key role for the brand, saying: “Motorsport is a key part of the brand… It’s clear that it’s a big part of the brand’s DNA, so it’s something we’ll keep an eye on.”
That hasn’t yet turned into a local motor racing program, but supporting a TCR entry would seemingly be an easy entry point for the brand into Australian competition.
What’s under the bonnet?
Cupra has an interesting line-up for the introduction of the Formentor, with a plug-in hybrid version (VZe) capable of 180kW/400Nm, as well as 140kW and 180kW versions of the petrol-only model.
However, we’re driving the range-topping VZx, which gets a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine capable of 228kW of power and 400Nm of torque, a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission and all-wheel drive.
Being the most potent member of the range the Formentor VZx feels suitably rapid, with good bottom end punch and strong pulling power as you keep your foot down. The 4.8 second 0-100km/h claim feels achievable, thanks to the good traction offered by the all-wheel drive system.
However, it’s the Haldex part-time system, not the new ‘Torque Splitter’ offered in the latest Golf R and Tiguan R, so you can overwhelm the front tyres if you really stomp on the accelerator.
One area where it feels a little underwhelming is the noise, with the four-cylinder turbo not offering any hint of excitement in the ‘normal’ drive mode setting and only offering slightly more excitement when the ‘sport’ mode is engaged.
It also feels, unsurprisingly, like many other models in the VW Group portfolio because it uses the same powertrain elements found in Volkswagens, Skodas and Audis.
How does it handle?
Like the powertrain, the chassis is from VW Group’s toolbox, the famous ‘MQB’ platform that became the poster child for modular underpinnings. MQB is the basis for so many models across the VW Group we can’t list them all here but the latest ‘MQB Evo’ that’s underneath the Formentor is used on models as diverse as the Audi A3, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Transporter.
That’s not to suggest the Formentor is a bad car to drive though, far from it. But it will have a very familiar feel to it to anyone who has driven a modern Volkswagen, Audi or Skoda.
Evaluated in isolation, the Formentor VZx is a nice car to drive with strong dynamic qualities. The steering in particular is very responsive, which allows you to push it through corners with precision and confidence.
The strength of the Formentor is its breadth of capability. As a small SUV it’s perfectly suitable transport for a young family but it also has a premium finish that gives it luxury car vibes and the performance and handling to keep enthusiasts happy.
Where would you most like to drive it?
Given its broad bandwidth, the Formentor is a nice car to drive everyday, but it would be great to push its limits on a racetrack to see if Cupra can live up to its performance image and reputation.
What’s the interior like?
This is one area where Cupra sets itself apart from its VW Group siblings. The unique exterior design carries over to the interior of the Formentor, helping it establish its own image and appeal.
While there are some obvious shared components, VW Group Australia’s decision to launch Cupra rather than Seat makes sense. This is a ‘semi-premium’ model for the wider company, filling a gap between Volkswagen and Audi.
The interior looks and feels at a luxury level, our test car was finished in blue leather with Curpa’s trademark bronze highlights.
How much does the Cupra Formentor cost?
The Formentor range begins at $53,790 (plus on-road costs) for the front-wheel drive VZ model but runs up to $61,990 for the all-wheel drive VZx we tested here.
For comparison, the Volkswagen Tiguan R is priced from $68,990 and the Audi Q3 40 TFSI Sportback starts at $66,100; these are the closest alternatives within the VW Group.
Would I buy one?
My first impression when I began the Formentor was ‘no’ because it felt so similar to so many other Volkswagen models I’d driven. But after a week living with the Cupra it grew on me, with its unique design an obvious head-turner (I lost count of how many people who stopped and looked) and its luxury finish making it an appealing daily performance car.
2022 Cupra Formentor VZx price and specifications
|Price:||From $61,990 plus on-road costs|
|Engine:||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Power:||228kW at 5450rpm|
|Torque:||400Nm at 2000rpm|
|Transmission:||Seven-speed dual-clutch auto, all-wheel drive|
|0-100km/h:||4.8 seconds (claimed)|