Reviews

CUPRA Formentor 310BHP review

Can the first pure CUPRA model live up to the hype?

What is it?

This is it, this is the first all CUPRA model produced by SEAT’s sub-brand. A cross between a traditional hatchback and an SUV results in the CUV, or Crossover Utility Vehicle category. A category that is expected to continue grow over the coming years. CUPRA call this a Coupe Crossover.

We’ve driven it for the first time, and in the UK on a day visit to SEAT/CUPRA HQ alongside the new CUPRA Leon (review to follow). Due to COVID we’re behind the other reviewers in Spain and SEAT/CUPRA have kindly managed to get this left-hand drive model over to the UK for us to drive, for the moment the only production version Formentor in the country. The weather was awful but there were a few gaps in the rain during the time we had with the car.

The model specifically is a 2.0 TSI 310PS 4WD DSG in Petrol Blue Matte. The vehicle is the equivalent of a top of the range Formentor in the UK and gives us a good indicator of what to expect ahead of the RHD models which will be arriving in the UK in late November early December.

Customers in the UK have been able to pre-order the CUPRA Formentor since 8th July, receiving a limited-edition VZ model, Only 100 VZ Edition models will be delivered to the UK with exclusive upgrades for pre-bookers. The name VZ comes from the word ‘Veloz’ in Spanish, translating as ‘Speed’ or ‘Fast’. We’ve already got a few members who have ordered theirs.

So, have we got a CUPRA Leon on stilts, a slightly shrunken CUPRA Ateca, or does the Formentor mark out its own territory? After all, you won’t be able to buy a SEAT version of the car like you can with the Leon and Ateca, so this is a CUPRA only car.

Verdict

The Formentor eats up the tarmac, handles well for its size, turns heads, and is a great first effort for CUPRA’s first home grown model.

Our rating

4.5 stars out of 5

What we didn’t like

  • Removal of important physical buttons and dials
  • Almost too many models to choose from

Exterior

Of course, helped by being the first time anyone in the UK has seen one on the road, and for many wondering what on earth the badge is, this car turns heads… Lorry drivers, hatchback drivers, pedestrians, bus drivers, SUV drivers they were all doing double takes.

The car is striking, especially in the matte blue colour with the copper wheels and Brembo brakes.

Starting at the front, despite being a CUPRA specific model, it still matches the CUPRA Leon in many ways. The light shape, the overhanging nose, the bonnet lines and creases, the front grille surround, all very-similar to the Leon, just with different proportions. It’s only when you get to the fog lights do things significantly change.

CUPRA Formentor front
CUPRA Formentor front

The fog lights are oval shaped and high up on the car, only inches away from the main headlights. To the either side of the fog lights are two air scoops (real ones) feeding air to the front wheel arches.

The centre grille uses the same ziz-zagging jagged looking slats as the Leon in gloss black. Surrounding this is CUPRA’s grey/silver gloss surround (replacing the gloss black of the previous SEAT CUPRA models).

CUPRA Formentor front grille
CUPRA Formentor front grille

Below the number plate the lower grille continues the theme and is wider featuring two aggressive styled grey/silver elements that hook back onto themselves and feed around the lower bumper and around the wheel arches, along the side, over the back arches all the way around the back.

CUPRA Formentor front design
CUPRA Formentor front

The lowest part of the front grill features a gloss black lip running between the grey/silver pieces.

The FMIC (front mounted inter-cooler) is clearly visible through the wide lower and upper grille slats, adding to the menacing look of the car, er, crossover coupe.

CUPRA Formentor front

The front is certainly the most striking part of the car.

Moving to the side, squint hard and you’re looking at a relatively low-profile hatchback, of course you’re not, look properly! but CUPRA have kept a purposeful look from the side, especially finished with the 18″ Brembo brake and 19″-wheel combination on this model. This car had Bridgestone Turanzas fitted.

The arches are high and are accentuated by the previously mentioned grey/silver plastic running around the entire lower part of the bodywork.

CUPRA Formentor side
CUPRA Formentor side

The wing mirrors are in the same accented colour. Gone are the gloss black mirrors of previous CUPRA models. The good news is the mirrors are tough as nails, I had an unfortunate run in with a caddy van passing me at speed on the narrowish roads. The Formentor mirror took a small mark that rubbed out easily (and thankfully!), the caddy van’s mirror didn’t come off so well, and totally disintegrated.

CUPRA Formentor side
CUPRA Formentor side

Whilst I didn’t get to see the car in the dark, I know that it has the down firing “puddle” lights showing the CUPRA logo.

Back to the side profile, a line runs from the main lights and grows in depth at the start of the a-pillar and tapers out just before the b-pillar (which are in traditional easy to scratch gloss black), the line then picks up again at the end of the rear door and angles upwards over the fuel cap and rear light to create a hunched look.

CUPRA Formentor
CUPRA Formentor side

One of the most noticeable elements from the side is the lower grey/silver strip that thickens and as the lower part of the doors taper inwards. This was particularly noticeable on the matt paint due to lack of shine and reflection.

Moving to the rear of the car, a roof spoiler casts a big shadow over the rear window and has two triangular pieces that meet it from the side of the boot. No vertical gloss fins like the Leon.

CUPRA Formentor rear

There is also no light below the spoiler.

CUPRA Formentor spoiler
CUPRA Formentor spoiler

The window sweeps down into a curved shape at the bottom meeting the overhanging lip, like the Leon that gives the impression of a second rear spoiler.

The rear red-light strip runs across the full width of the boot and includes the centre brake light and overhangs the inset bodywork below, inset that is apart from the raised CUPRA badge and the CUPRA lettering in gloss black below it. The badge isn’t the opening latch I’m sorry to say, but then this has an electric tailgate (there is a button hidden above the number plate area still if you need it).

CUPRA Formentor rear badge
CUPRA Formentor rear badge

Another ridge that curves down the sides to surround the large grey/silver gloss trim where the number plate is attached.

Finally, the quad exhaust setup is surrounded by a gloss black trim with some small central fins.

CUPRA Formentor full rear
CUPRA Formentor rear

Let’s not forget the roof, which has two gloss black roof rails, and this car had a sun-roof.

Interior

I’m going to make another reference to the CUPRA Leon here, as I drove them back-to-back that’s bound to happen. Apart from leather trim on the dashboard and higher seating position the interior is remarkably similar. Same steering wheel, same interior lighting strip, same dashboard layout, same bucket seats, same infotainment unit, same virtual dash.

Formentor interior wide shot
Formentor interior wide shot

Whilst the Formentor is the first “pure CUPRA” it’s not that pure as you may be led to believe. Of course, CUPRA isn’t going to spend a load of money for R&D and materials and parts just to make them vastly different and unique in relation to the CUPRA Leon, which would be financial suicide I’m sure.

Therefore, I’ll cut them some slack, and there’s something to be said for familiarity and consistency. SEAT have always been great at ergonomics with button placement, visibility (MK2 Leon A pillar excluded) and general interior feel in my view. As the saying goes, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Apart from the new buttonless world of course, but I’ll rant about that in a bit, don’t worry.

Opening the driver’s door, you are greeted with the aluminium kick plate with glowing white CUPRA lettering. Slipping into the supportive bucket seats (which are electrically adjustable with memory settings), you will find a good seating position. Everything is just a bit higher and you feel a bit more enclosed than you do with the CUPRA Leon.

CUPRA lettering lit up
CUPRA lit lettering on the kick plate / door sill

The door cards and handle are in blue leather with copper stitching and the door handle sees the return of the grey/silver colour.

CUPRA Formentor door
CUPRA Formentor door

The air vents have copper and silver/grey surrounds which are similar in shape to the front grille.

The exterior light controls can be found on the same panel as the Leon, they are horrible. Just put the simple dial back please in future SEAT/CUPRA. Luckily, we have auto lights otherwise you’d end up punching the light pad in frustration.

CUPRA Formentor vent
CUPRA Formentor vent

There is a brushed aluminium looking strip that runs the full length of the dashboard, it looks nice, but it’s plastic.

The steering wheel is my favourite part of the interior up there with the bucket seats.

Bucket seat
CUPRA Formentor bucket seat

The outer wheel retains the shape of previous SEAT CUPRA models with the grips at the top, perforations on each side and a flat bottom. You can clearly see the dashboard screen through the wheel (which is also adjustable as you would expect).

CUPRA Formentor dash
CUPRA Formentor dash

A CUPRA logo sits in the centre with a carbon fibre effect covering the horn. To the left you’ve got your volume controls and cruise controls. Below these you have the CUPRA button that allows you to change driving modes. I found that instead of having to toggle between them if you hold the button down it goes straight to CUPRA mode whatever mode you were previously in, which is handy.

The buttons on the right side control your virtual dash, back and forward media controls, voice control, and the heated steering wheel (yes I didn’t know that was a thing until now), and the engine start, stop button.

You’ll find a set of grey/silver gloss flappy paddles behind the wheel which feel nice enough.

Flappy paddle

The virtual dash is the same as the CUPRA Leon, and MK4 SEAT Leon for that matter, apart from the CUPRA elements and car graphic of course.

Typical alloy pedals, and as this is a left-hand drive car, a proper alloy kick plate. We’ll no doubt get given a basic plastic one on the right hand drive cars as SEAT/CUPRA have always clearly felt we’re not worthy of even a smaller alloy kick plate (I appreciate it’s by the centre console so will be narrower, but still, they could if they wanted to).

The mats are new in that they are not all material, the lower half is plastic/pleather in a carbon fibre style, presumably to stop wear / moisture getting into the carpet material which is just at the top half. CUPRA logo and lettering is also featured on the mats.

The centre console has the large infotainment screen. It’s clear enough and responsive enough, but let’s just get it out the way. The lack of proper controls for temperature settings just is frustrating bordering on annoying. The touch pad area below the screen just doesn’t cut it.

CUPRA Formentor driver's position
CUPRA Formentor driver’s position

OK now that’s out the way, not much to report here that we’ve not covered in the video for the Leon, again with the CUPRA graphics added. I didn’t get time to do a deep dive here and I’m aware it is possible to change the various levels of the dynamic chassis control and other driving elements to quite granular levels. We’ll hopefully explore that further and report back when we get more time with a UK car in the coming months.

Below the unit are two vents in similar shape to the single one on the left of the wheel and the hazard button is located in the centre.

A deep cubby with two USB C ports sits below and can charge your phone.

We then come to the ESC off button which I lost track of the number of times I kept pressing that thinking it was the start/stop button for the engine while I was getting in and out of the car to take photos. New muscle memory will be required (at least for me) to get used to the button being on the steering wheel.

CUPRA Formentor centre console
CUPRA Formentor centre console

Below that you have the mini stubby gear lever. It took a while for me to get used to, but I appreciate the space saving it brings to the cabin over a traditional DSG stick.

To either side are a couple of trays, one of which perfectly fits the shaped key.

Moving into the back legroom and headroom is good and the rear passengers have their own climate control and two more USB C sockets.

CUPRA Formentor rear seats
CUPRA Formentor rear seats
CUPRA Formentor rear seats
CUPRA Formentor rear seats

The insides of the door bins are spacious enough front and back, and again stolen from the Leon.

Access to the boot is possible with the pull-down centre armrest.

CUPRA Formentor boot

The boot is a good size with a 450 litre capacity.

CUPRA Formentor boot under tray
CUPRA Formentor boot under tray

Driving and performance

310 BHP and 4WD on the tried and tested MQB chassis, what’s not to love?

Grip is excellent and handled the wet Milton Keynes roundabouts and high speed straights with ease. I had a short time with the car so it was in CUPRA mode the whole time. The ride felt composed and comfortable even when pushing it and it inspired confidence when cornering.

Power is plenty and the car surges forward when you want it too and doesn’t drop off as you hit the higher revs. It’s a familiar engine from the SEAT Leon CUPRA 300/290/280 so if you’ve got or had one, you’ll know what to expect. If the rumoured 400HP RS3 engine gets put in this thing it’s going to be quite loony.

The brakes are good as you’d expect from Brembo.

CUPRA Formentor wheel and Brembo brakes
CUPRA Formentor wheel and Brembo brakes

Gear changes felt adequate in drive and sport mode. I always felt the MK3 Leon CUPRA‘s DSG switching was never quite right, Drive mode it didn’t change up quick enough, Sport mode it held the revs too long. There needed to be a happy middle ground. The Formentor certainly improves on that and I can’t say I found it frustrating. However, caveat as above, I didn’t have very long with it to get a definitive view on this.

The extra height and weight were noticeable over the CUPRA Leon, but it still felt happy to be chucked about a bit and didn’t feel too compromised over a traditional hatchback. CUPRA have kept the “sporty” (yes, I know a cliché in reviews like this) feel and keen drivers won’t be disappointed if they choose this over the Leon.

CUPRA Formentor driving
CUPRA Formentor driving

I had some time taking the car across country (yes that’s when the mirror incident happened, don’t remind me), and it handled the uneven road surface, bumps and dips and puddles easily. Switched to urban roads as I travelled back to drop the car off and it felt just as home and as happy there.

Sound wise, from the interior the car sounds great. It’s difficult to tell how much is engine symposer or real engine sound. It may not even have one, I need to check and get back to you (at the time of writing).

Last thoughts

It does feel you’ve got the best of both worlds here, hatch meets SUV, a good all-round vehicle. I don’t personally feel there is a compromise. Of course, getting back into my CUPRA Ibiza for the drive home felt like a go-kart in comparison, and if I’m honest that’s still more fun to drive than both the CUPRA Leon and CUPRA Formentor I drove back-to-back, but then it’s a different class of car so not really a fair comparison.

The Formentor is attractive, fast, different enough to deserve to sell well for CUPRA. One of the press team told me at least one customer who has a Formentor on order is switching from a Porsche Macan!

CUPRA Formentor and CUPRA Leon
CUPRA Formentor and CUPRA Leon

There are a lot of different versions to choose from and we provided some thoughts about the lower powered versions here. It used to be clear cut, CUPRA was the top model, now the lines are blurring.

When we get more time with the CUPRA Formentor and in right hand drive, we’ll add to this review and hopefully do a full in-depth video review as well. For now, let us know what you think in the comments below.

A big thank you to SEAT/CUPRA for letting us drive the new car.

Specifications of the equivalent UK model in this review

ModelCO2 (g/km, WLTP)Fuel econ. (mpg, WLTP)On-the-road price
Formentor VZ Edition TSI DSG-auto 4Drive 310PS19331.4-33.2£43,840

Full specifications and included equipment

Mike the_cupra

Active Member
May 29, 2020
56
22
A good review and I like the look of the car. My frustrations were the prices/specs, which are much more complex than the Ateca. But I think this is because of the less powerful (and cheaper) variants which will come in time. This is the second frustration (as you've addressed). It will be interesting to see how many UK cars we end up getting, especially as the cheaper cars roll out. Striking that balance between exclusivity and popularity is a difficult one!
 
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Yaz2010

Active Member
Sep 16, 2020
62
9
I cant agree enough with you Mike. Dealers have no clue at all on what and how much they want to sell it for.
 

Mike the_cupra

Active Member
May 29, 2020
56
22
I cant agree enough with you Mike. Dealers have no clue at all on what and how much they want to sell it for.
I don't think I'd be in a Cupra now if I didn't look at the Ateca spec sheet and think "wow that has a lot as standard". The dealer told me they had a C&S in stock and that was that. I was looking at Tiguans and Karoq's. Salesmen were reading out what each one had and didn't have, and they were all missing something obvious!