Cupra Formentor Review 2023 | Top Gear
BBC TopGear
BBC TopGear
Subscribe to Top Gear magazine
Sign up to our Top Gear Magazine
Wednesday 27th September
Crossovers have become the same-iest cars ever. Why not go for one that’s a bit more left field?

Good stuff

Sharp looks, handles well for a crossover, plenty of space and equipment

Bad stuff

Fiddly touch-sensitive heater almost as annoying as having to explain the badge


What is it?

This is the Formentor SUV from Cupra. That doesn't really clear anything up, does it? Well, Cupra is a sporty, standalone brand spun off Seat, having previously been the mere performance arm of its Spanish parent. Confused? There's more: Cupra will shortly become the main mass market sporty brand for the entire Volkswagen Group, with Seat tucking in behind as a sort of mobility... thing.

Anyway, the Formentor is the first unique model from Cupra, so you won't be able to peg the car straight off as an awkwardly rebadged family runabout. It's a mildly confusing little car – it's an SUV, because those are fashionable and people want a high-riding slice of comfort and security. Except it's a hunkered down, low running SUV because people always want something that's a bit dynamic. Hmm.

Advertisement - Page continues below

It can't be completely new though can it?

Obviously it’s not a completely bespoke machine from the ground up. That’s not how the Volkswagen Group works. Under its crisply creased skin, the Formentor is based on the same raw ingredients as the well-rounded Seat Ateca, or for that matter the VW Golf: same basic chassis, shared gearboxes, and the latest touchscreen infotainment centre from the excellent Leon hatchback.

The Formentor is longer and lower than the school run-spec Ateca, though, giving it a more butch stance. In the metal it’s a handsome beast, which is good because in this class looks sell. 

Are the engines all fast ones?

The Formentor engine selection isn’t quite as spicy as you’d think from all the racy advertising. The range starts off with a 148bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder that’s familiar from other VW products, and manages the 0–62mph sprint in a glacial 8.7 secs. Next up there’s a 2.0-litre unit developing 187bhp that knocks nearly two seconds off the 62mph dash.

If you’re feeling vaguely eco-conscious there’s a plug-in hybrid set-up in two states of tune, teaming a 1.4-litre turbo engine with an electric motor to develop either 201bhp or 242bhp (7.8 and 7.0s).

Advertisement - Page continues below

If you’re feeling less eco-conscious, the range-topper is a 306bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo unit driving all four wheels and familiar from the likes of the VW Golf R and Audi S3. That manages the 0–62mph run in 4.9 seconds.

What will it cost?

There are six trims available – V1 and V2 are the starter course, VZ1, VZ2 and VZ3 trims the tasty main and then there’s the cherry for dessert, the VZN model. The car now starts at just over £31k for the V1, ranging to a slightly eye-watering £48,270 for the 306bhp VZN. That’s quite some ground to cover.

The PHEV - or eHybrid as Cupra calls it - offers up to 36 miles of official range and a three-digit fuel economy figure: both will be significantly less in practice, but the car's 12 per cent BIK rating make it the default option for company car buyers here. The entry 1.5-litre petrol will sip along at around 40mpg while the spicier petrols are rather closer to 30mpg.

What’s with the name?

Apparently it’s nothing to do with the ghoulish soul-sucking villains of the Harry Potter universe, nor the yeasty properties of brewing your own beer. ‘Formentor’ is in fact a picturesque peninsula in Majorca – a nod to Cupra’s Spanish roots. Remember that when your mates ask you what your car’s called, because weirdly, the word ‘Formentor’ doesn’t appear anywhere on or indeed inside the car.

Our choice from the range

What's the verdict?

Drive a Formentor and at least it says you might know a bit about cars beyond Google’s first results page

The Formentor is not exactly a car of many surprises. It’s built on a tried and tested platform. It’s powered by engines that’ve shone in many a decent, recent hot hatchback. But that’s not to say this curiously badged, go-faster offshoot is an also-ran. Seat’s Ateca is one of Top Gear’s favourite crossovers because it’s so wilfully unpretentious and easy to use, yet the driving experience manages not to be the motoring equivalent of a Third Division nil-nil draw. It’s almost fun.

So, taking those ingredients and wrapping them up with more power, in a lower, prettier package creates a car that has some genuine appeal. And it doesn’t matter that it’s not a household name. Very few cars these days say anything about you beyond ‘there was cheap finance available on this and I liked the colour'. Drive a Formentor and at least it says you might know a bit about cars beyond Google’s first results page.

The Rivals

compare car finance
Powered byZuto Logo
more on this car
Take one for a spin or order a brochure
Powered byRegit Logo

Subscribe to the Top Gear Newsletter

Get all the latest news, reviews and exclusives, direct to your inbox.

By clicking subscribe, you agree to receive news, promotions and offers by email from Top Gear and BBC Studios. Your information will be used in accordance with our privacy policy.

BBC TopGear

Try BBC Top Gear Magazine

Get your first 5 issues for £5