The Cupra Formentor is a charmer, good enough to nab our Performance Car of the Year award when it arrived fresh a couple of years ago.
We like that it’s just a bit different and that all models are dynamically interesting. Don’t need extra performance? The entry-level V with a 1.5-litre turbo and a handy 110kW/250Nm starts at $50,990 and is Clean Car neutral.
Need a bit more go? The AWD 2.0-litre V 4Drive at $56,000 is good value given its 140kW and 320Nm outputs (though it now has a fee of $1725).
Yet another Formentor offering is the incoming V e-Hybrid mixing the 1.5-litre turbo powertrain with a 85kW/330Nm motor, for a combined output of 180kW/400Nm.
It carries a large premium, priced at $78,500 but qualifies for a $4025 rebate. Cupra pricing is what you’ll pay, including all on-roads, as the brand operates an agency-type model here.
Once the hybrid gets here, the VZ won’t be the most expensive Formentor on the price list but it’s still the most potent.
Now starting at $70,990 (up $2k from when we last drove it), it has a 228kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged four pot, but the new fee regime means you’ll need to cough up a further $3105 in CO2 tax.
This one is wearing the Tribe Edition pack adding another $4000. It’s effectively a black styling kit (grille, wheels, body cladding and mirrors covered in matte black) while the interior is trimmed in Dinamica (a man-made suede-like upholstery) and this Cliff Grey hue is only available to those who join the tribe.
So once rebates, fees and options are taken into account, this particular Formentor is the most expensive you can buy at just under $80k.
So does the VZ still stack up at that price? The likes of the T-Roc R and SQ2 have a higher starting price, so too the Countryman JCW, and don’t have quite the same driver appeal.
The Kona N wears a similar sticker, is equally fun to drive, but is smaller and FWD only. That the Formentor is striking, practical and a top performer still seals it for us.
Formentor, being a compact SUV, has some extra air beneath it for urban obstacles and an easier entry. The seat height isn’t too pumped up though, while the seat itself is a sporty number, well bolstered with an expansive range of adjustment.
This has varying views for the instruments if you’re one who likes to have a sat nav map front and centre, though we prefer the large tacho with a digital speed readout in the middle and the G-meter to the side. This does however encourage antics in the bends to see if you can push the numbers higher.
The central touchscreen, while vibrant and reasonably quick to action your commands, is quirky and takes time to acquaint yourself with it.
For instance, we were trying to find the re-centring button for the sat nav map, yet it only shows up when your finger gets near the screen. We guess it means less buttons clogging the viewing space but really.
Formentor is one of those practically sized machines with enough space in the rear for two adults seated in comfort and a well shaped hold for most requirements.
It’s easy to park too with a surround view camera, quick steering between the locks and a car-park friendly turn around.
It’s an affable commuter as well. While the torque doesn’t come on properly until 2500rpm, there’s enough below this mark for easing through traffic.
The auto, a six-speed twin-clutch, is quick with the take up of power and with the changes. Fuel use for urban dwellers will be in the mid 11s, while the long term figure for this tester over 1800km was 10.7L/100km.
The VZ gets the Cupra drive mode selector on the wheel for easy engagement, and there is a marked step up from the Normal to the Sport and Cupra settings (the latter a Sport+ scenario).
You get more engine noise pumped into the cabin in the sporty modes, and a few pops from the exhaust pipes on the overrun.
The standard-fit adaptive dampers aid ride quality by softening off in Normal mode, while firming nicely in Sport for when the corners arise.
With this platform, you can enter the Individual mode and dial up your preferred setting for the steering, AWD, engine and sound while also stepping through 14 notches of damper firmness.
Sport is a middle setting, Cupra has them at 75 per cent stiffness while you can really pump them up by going all out to step 14 (not advisable however). At the other end, you can add some downiness to the town ride if you have lots of speed humps and such in your neighbourhood.
The VZ is a real road warrior too. Click into Sport mode and it’s enlivened, the throttle racier, the trans keener. The turn-in is crisp, the steering interaction sorted and with abundant grip and traction it rips through the bends.
This is tied down in the rear better than the front-drive models, but still lively and engaging, and certainly quicker. And so for us, Formentor remains a top pick in this niche class of small and fast SUVs.
|Model||Cupra Formentor VZ Tribe Edition|
|Clean Car Discount||Fee – $3,105|
|Engine||1984cc, IL4, T, DI|
|Power/Torque||228kW@5450-6600rpm / 400Nm@2000-5450rpm|
|Drivetrain||6-speed twin-clutch, AWD|