It’s more accurate to think of the Cupra as more of a cut-price alternative to cars like the Porsche Macan, or the Audi Q3 and BMW X2 – it’s very much in the posh sports-SUV vein. And if you are thinking that the Cupra looks like your kind of razzy, fun coupe-SUV thing, you’d be mad not to consider the plug-in hybrid.
There’s no pure electric Formentor on the cards for now, but there is a variety of non-electrified petrol engines, or two variants of this plug-in hybrid. The cheaper of two Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid models offers pure electric range of up to 36 miles, and a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine that – combined with the electric motor – produces 201bhp.
We’ve driven the higher powered 241bhp ‘e-Hybrid VZ’ model, which manages up to 34 miles of electric range, and gets the same 1.4-litre petrol engine, just turned up to deliver more power and a 0-62mph time of 7.0sec (as opposed to the 7.8sec of the cheaper version).
It is fun to drive, too. Being front-wheel drive (and with a chunky 400Nm of torque to deal with) there’s a very noticeable traction issue if you mash the throttle as you exit a corner, which has the steering wheel squirming around in your hands as the wheels struggle to get transfer power to the road.
Other than that, there’s a pleasing precision and surety to the way the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid goes down the road, and if you select the ‘Cupra’ mode on the standard drive select you also get an encouraging burble from the exhaust to go with the fairly aggressive acceleration. Having said that, it doesn’t really feel as exciting as you might expect of something with this much power – you have to go for the top-spec petrol-only Formentor with its four-wheel drive and Golf R powertrain to get that.
But in this version the motor and petrol engine blur their efforts nicely, the six-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is smooth enough, and the whole thing feels rapid, secure and encouraging, with an edge of naughtiness in that Cupra drive mode.
Perhaps more importantly to many, it’s comfortable and refined enough to make for a very civilised commuter car, although it’s worth noting that the high-powered Formentor e-Hybrid gets adaptive dampers as standard, which is not the case for the cheaper PHEV version that we’re yet to drive.
That electric range is comparable with most rivals, so if you do a lot of short journeys then the real-world range of around 25 miles should allow you to keep petrol costs to an absolute minimum. The cabin in the Formentor is also comfortable. The driver gets a supportive seat, and posh-feeling materials slathered across a swoopy dashboard, which helps to back up Cupra’s claims that this is a premium car. It doesn’t feel as classy as the cabins in an Audi or BMW, but it gives the Lexus UX a run for its money in terms of perceived quality.
Equipment is very generous, and ‘premium’ appropriate too. The lower powered e-Hybrid is offered in two lower specs – V1 and V2, while the higher-powered is offered in Cupra’s sporty trims – VZ1 and VZ2. Even the cheapest of those trims gets 18-inch alloys, full ambient interior lighting, LED headlights, wireless phone charger, keyless entry, adaptive cruise control, rear parking sensors and more.
Higher trims add such luxuries as electric seats and leather dash, while VZ1 and VZ2 trims get more safety and style equipment. The huge 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system is, of course, a focal point. It’s got all the features you want, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, nav, Bluetooth and digital radio.
Having said that, we’d like a more logical menu layout – it takes time to get used to where some of the settings are hidden, and more than that we’d like physical buttons for the cabin temperature control. It can be a faff to have to leave your chosen screen just to tweak the climate control.
You’ll get a couple of average-sized adults in the back seats no problem at all, but that swooping roofline means it’s a bit tighter back there than in a VW Golf GTE, let alone the even roomier Seat Leon e-Hybrid and Skoda Octavia iV, or the much more practical Ford Kuga PHEV.
Similarly, boot space is adequate but nothing exceptional. The Cupra Formentor plug-in hybrid loses 105 litres of boot space to the 12.8kWh battery, but the remaining 345 litres leaves room for a chunky buggy and you can drop the seats in a 60/40 split if you need to.
If carrying big dogs or bikes in the car is a priority, you should consider one of the numerous roomier alternatives, but for normal family life the Formentor will be just fine.