Sharp looks, handles well for a crossover, plenty of space and equipment
Fiddly touch-sensitive heater almost as annoying as having to explain the badge to your mates
What is it?
Well, it’s not a Seat. Not now, not ever. The Formentor will only ever be badged as a Cupra, Seat’s sporty and electrified offshoot marque. So, if you thought all Cupras were just rebadged Seats, this hunkered down ‘coupe-SUV’ just trampled all over your argument.
So if it’s not a Seat what is it?
Obviously, it’s not a completely bespoke machine from the ground up. That’s not how the Volkswagen Group set about taking over Planet Car. 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 brand-new (and pretty 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, prompting one Top Gear staffer to wonder aloud how Cupra has been allowed to sneak out a design that’s so much better resolved than Lamborghini’s Urus. In this class, looks sell, and that’ll help the Cupra find a footing.
Are the engines all fast ones?
The Formentor engine selection isn’t quite as spicy as you’d think from all the schporty advertising. The range starts off with a 148bhp 1.5-litre four-cylinder that’s familiar from other VW products, then next up there’s a 2.0-litre unit developing 187bhp.
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. The eHybrid, as it’s known, is capable of a claimed 31 miles on electric power alone. 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.
What will it cost?
There are six trimlines available – V1 and V2 are the starter course, VZ1, VZ2 and VZ3 trims the tasty main and then there’s the limited edition dessert, VZ Edition, of which only 100 have been allocated to the UK. Prices start at a bargain £27,745 for the V1, ranging to a slightly eye-watering £42,990 for the VZ3 – that’s quite some ground to cover.
What’s the story 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 is the verdict?
The Formentor is not exactly a car of many surprises. It’s built on a tried and tested platform. It’s powered along by engines that’ve shone in many a decent, recent hot hatchback. And even its headline act inside, the enormous touchscreen, was allowed to debut in the new Seat Leon before it arrived in Cupra’s flagship.
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 of the crossover set, 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 please-everyone 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.