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The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.5

Available new from £27,395

Having flown the Seat nest, the Cupra sub-brand launched with its high-performance version of the Ateca just a couple of years ago but this new Formentor is its first all-new model and is based on the very latest Volkswagen Golf foundations. The result is a desirable high-performance crossover that compares favourably with the equivalently priced VW T-Roc R and Audi SQ2 while undercutting the Mercedes-AMG GLA35 and BMW X2 M35i it also competes with. If the running costs look a bit steep for the 310 horsepower petrol smaller engines and hybrids will join the range in due course.

Reasons to buy

  • Stylish looks
  • Great to drive
  • Competitively priced

Running costs for a CUPRA Formentor 2/5

As it stands the Cupra Formentor is only available as a high-performance model powered by a 310 horsepower petrol engine, reflecting its modest score here. The range will soon be joined by a 245 horsepower hybrid version, which should be much more attractive in running cost terms but, as it stands, the Formentor is going to be an expensive car to live with. Real-world fuel consumption in our hands didn’t better 30mpg, the hefty Benefit In Kind band is going to rule it out for company drivers and it’s best considered an indulgence and something of a statement car. Good news? It’s a winner on both scores, turning heads and impressing everyone, even those who don’t recognise the badge. It’s also usefully cheaper to buy than the equivalently powerful Mercedes-AMG GLA35 and BMW X2 M35i while appearing considerably more exotic.

Reliability of a CUPRA Formentor 4/5

The Formentor shares its foundations, engines and electronics with the latest Volkswagen Golf and many other vehicles within the group, including those from Audi and Skoda. It’s too early to say how reliable this new generation platform is but the economies of scale and generally decent reputation of all these brands should give reason to be confident. If you’re committing to a typical 48-month finance plan you may want to consider upgrading the standard three-year warranty to a five-year one, which you can do for a relatively modest fee if you do so when ordering. A fixed cost service plan is another option worth considering.

Safety for a CUPRA Formentor 4/5

Those new Golf underpinning mean the Formentor benefits from all the very latest safety and assistance systems and is, effectively, a generation on from the equivalent T-Roc R or Audi SQ2 it compares with on performance and price. All Formentors get smart cruise control, automated emergency braking, forward collision warning system, lane keeping assistance and more. Top models get even more tech, including an alert that, in a neat touch, makes the ambient interior lighting glow orange if there’s an unseen car in your blindspot. We’d question the prevailing industry trend for putting everything – including heating and ventilation controls – through the touch-screen, though, and we also had at least one ‘false positive’ from the collision detection system that slammed the brakes on automatically for no reason, which was a little unnerving.

How comfortable is the CUPRA Formentor 4/5

The sleeker, more low-slung look of the Formentor is more contemporary and stylish than the Ateca’s blocky SUV shape but, thankfully, it’s still got plenty of interior space to operate successfully as a family SUV. Rear headroom is a little less accommodating but legroom is fine for adults and the boot is a decent size, albeit with a high floor for humping shopping onto. The sports seats up front – clad in distinctive blue leather on our test car – are as comfy as they are stylish, following a theme of the cabin in general.

Higher powered versions of the Formentor like the one we drove include adaptive dampers, which vary the suspension stiffness according to which of the various driver modes you select from the button on the steering wheel. These models also get bigger wheels, which look good but make the ride comfort at urban speeds somewhat brittle. Those buying into the Formentor’s sporty image probably won’t mind this too much and the pay-off is impressive body control as the speeds rise and hot-hatch like agility with the bonus of SUV all-wheel drive traction in slippery conditions. In its most potent form the Formentor is a fast and enjoyable car to drive, living up to the looks and capable of deploying its considerable performance on any road, in any weather.

Cupra mode adds extra weight to the steering and fake engine noise, neither or which contribute much to the experience but can at least be turned off in the configurable individual setting. Judgement of the more basic models on standard suspension and smaller wheels will have to wait until we’ve had opportunity to test them.

Features of the CUPRA Formentor 5/5

Interior design is a fast-moving part of the industry these days but, right now, the Cupra Formentor feels like the cutting edge, with sleek shapes, clean surfaces and excellent integration of technology throughout. All trim levels get the same combination of a fully configurable instrument panel and large, 12-inch screen through which you interact with all the car’s systems via voice, touch or gesture control. This includes a 12-month subscription to the many and various connected services, navigation, wireless CarPlay connectivity, wireless phone charging and more. Note you’ll need to update your cables to USB-C if you want to plug anything in. It all looks great and works well, though we’d prefer back-up physical controls for basic functions like volume and heating and it should be easier to dim the screens for night driving.

Power for a CUPRA Formentor 4/5

The fact Cupra has launched the Formentor in its high-performance variants skews the score in this section in its favour, the first models to arrive including the 310 horsepower petrol we drove and the 245 horsepower hybrid that will follow shortly. Lower-powered hybrids and petrols will expand the range further down the line.

In this flagship guise the Formentor is a seriously fast car, with performance figures to match all-wheel drive hot hatches like the Golf R and Audi S3 and little real-world compromise from its taller stance and additional weight. 0-62mph takes less than five seconds and the response to the throttle is strong throughout the rev range, though if you indulge yourself there you’ll be wanting to keep an eye on the speedo to avoid getting into serious trouble. Confidence to use this performance in all weathers comes from the all-wheel drive and the Formentor feels absolutely planted, even when the roads are slippery and wet.