Cupra Formentor VZ Edition 310 – long-term review - Report No:7 2023 | Top Gear
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Tuesday 3rd October
Long-term review

Cupra Formentor VZ Edition 310 – long-term review

£48,045 / £48,660 as tested / £595 PCM
Published: 11 Nov 2021


  • SPEC

    VZ Edition 310



  • BHP


  • 0-62


Goodbye Cupra Formentor: a car to like, but never love

It’s not often that I get handed a long term test car that resolves into a proper conundrum. Generally, you come away after five or six months and 10k miles with a very strong idea what you think, and I tend to base the concept of success or failure on two things: one, does the car deliver on what the manufacturer says it’s supposed to, and two, whether or not I’d actually spend my own money on one.

With full disclosure, I’m not a huge fan of mid/full-size SUVs as opposed to something a bit leaner, simply because most of them are used for simple stuff that could easily be accomplished in a smaller hatchback. If something genuinely excites you then absolutely fair enough, and if that space and AWD is used then there’s genuinely no issue, but I fear the temptation to go for something extra-chunky as a default is a bit of inglorious overkill in most cases.

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The Cupra Formentor seems to span a few different genres though, so it’s an interesting car that seemed like it might meet my needs. It’s also the first bespoke model from the brand, and so it was interesting to see where Cupra can carve itself out a niche under the VW MegaCorp umbrella.

Based on the small MPV platform of the Seat Ateca, it’s actually pretty big inside, but with a more tall-riding, hatch-ey profile. There’s all-wheel drive and DSG, 300+bhp and a decent slug of torque, courtesy of a similar 2.0-litre four-pot petrol that does sterling work in the VW Golf R. It’s all a bespoke model, with some really lovely details and a slightly grumpy look that makes it stand out. All good stuff.

I was so-so about it at first, much more keen by the end, simply because it proved versatile and spacious. With a roofrack dropped on top, it coped with five-up-and-dog camping, and the dog appreciated the space in the boot. Albeit he’s not a very big dog. A roomy set of back seats helped when stuffing three gangly teens in there, too.

The footprint is relatively modest given the interior space on offer, which means it never feels too big to park, and generally I have enjoyed the practicality.

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To drive, it impresses, but never quite stuns; not lollopy enough to be genuinely soft and cosseting, but never sharp enough to be a pin-sharp weapon for a smooth road, it has proved itself to be a bit of a jack of all trades, dealing out competence rather than genuine fizz. Saying that, it’s fast and composed - chuck it down a backroad and you’ll likely be going a far bit faster than you think. It’s 7 or 8 out of 10 on pretty much everything, and that’s good.

But it never really made me want it. The fuel economy never really reached any kind of dizzy heights of efficiency, even on a decent run. You have to be feather-footed to get the best out of it, and nobody really drives that consciously in real life.

And I can’t do any sort of summing-up without mentioning the travails with the multimedia touchscreen. It failed, it froze, it was slow and unresponsive. When it blanked, it took with it so many systems the car became all but undrivable - which you could ‘fix’ by getting out and locking the car and re-booting the system, but still.

A visit back to HQ made it slightly more keen to actually react when touched, but that didn’t help with the confusing and overly-complicated UX (user experience), and to be honest, it might well be a deal breaker for me. On top of that, having to disconnect the Lane Keep Assist function every time I got into the car - it simply doesn’t work properly where I drive 80 per cent of the time, swerving into cyclists and parked cars and verges - the ‘helpful’ eco tips that flash up in the binnacle, and a touchscreen that does big, flashy menu changes at random points (very distracting), I wonder how VW as a group could have got this system so wrong.

You do get more used to it as time goes on, but for me, a sign of good product design is intuitive and comforting use. And this isn’t it.

So that leads us back to the original thoughts. And yes, I think this is a genuinely good starting point for the Cupra brand, and does deliver on what the marketing blurb says. Its distinctive, useful, interesting. A little bit of tweaking and it would satisfy a brand sweep of consumers, and do so with style.

I actually think I’d prefer the plug-in hybrid version (fun to drive, weirdly, and I have home charging) with the extra mpg, but generally this is a very nice car; if it’s on your company car list, it would be well worth a look. But when it comes down to it, I think I’d need a car that hit me in the heart a little more if I were to stump up my own cash, and the Formentor, progressive and complete as it is, isn’t that car.

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