Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid review: power potential

Damien O’Carroll
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sport utility vehicle
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  • Looks great
  • Fun to drive
  • Decent electric-only range
  • Only fractionally quicker than the V 4Drive
  • But not AWD like the V 4Drive
  • Initially frustrating infotainment system

When Cupra was first spun off Seat (remember them?) as a sub-brand of the Spanish carmaker, it was intended to be a more exclusive performance brand, hawking hotted-up versions of Seat vehicles (a Spanish HSV, if you like) and was even slated to get its own stand-alone model not related to an existing Seat.

This was the Formentor. Originally intended to be a Seat as well, the success of Cupra emboldened the wider VW Group to make it a Cupra exclusive. Which was fine and all, but what of the less-cooking variants that would have been destined to wear a Seat badge?

Well, they would become Cupras too, kicking off the quickest devaluation of a dedicated performance brand into more mainstream products ever. 

Not that this is a terrible thing, as the lesser versions of the Formentor are very nice, and bring all the sharp-edged, copper-tinged coolness of the hot versions down to a more affordable price point. But, still... 

The Formentor line up consisted of the hot VZ, with its 228kW/400Nm version of the VW Group’s 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine and AWD (think VW Golf R), while a lesser 140kW/320Nm AWD V 4Drive model and a 110/kW/250Nm 1.5-litre turbo petrol FWD V model were also introduced early on. 

Now a plug-in hybrid version has been added to the lineup that, on paper, bridges the gap between the hot VZ and more modestly powered versions. The V e-Hybrid packs a 110kW/250Nm 1.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine and an 85kW/330Nm electric motor hooked up to a 12.8kWh battery for a total system output of 180kW and 400Nm, with an all-electric range of around 53km. 

While this sounds close to the VZ, the fact that the e-Hybrid is FWD and weighs almost 100kg more than the VZ, means that its performance is similar to that of the V 4Drive.

All of which means it is a very nice small SUV with perfectly adequate performance and a decent electric-only range that could easily see you using no petrol whatsoever in the daily commute, while also packing some sharp looks that make it stand out from other similar VW Group vehicles that share its platform and powertrain.

It is worth the extra to get the added electric assistance, fat torque spread and DCC, even if the extra power doesn’t bring much in the way of extra performance.

Thankfully Cupra’s sportier pretensions shine though in a package that could well threaten to be otherwise somewhat generic, with a firm and sporty suspension set up that gives the e-Hybrid a sharp, nimble chassis, while the steering is accurate and nicely responsive.

This agile, sporty nature elevates the Formentor above more vanilla offerings on the same platform, upholding the brand’s sporty USP – at least tenuously – and making it a satisfyingly engaging car to drive, either around town or out on the open road. The e-Hybrid also gets the full Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) that the hot VZ packs, giving it an advantage over the V models in terms of handling and ride.

The hybrid powertrain’s big advantage in both situations is the shove that the almost ever-present torque provides across its rev range, which relegates the electric-only running to a nice bonus. 

On the inside, all the expected Cupra features are present – a modern and attractive dash with plenty of copper highlights, supportive and comfortable seats trimmed with qualit

y fabric and leather inserts (or fancy full leather with copper stitching for an additional $2100), a stubby little gear shift lever and an infuriatingly convoluted infotainment system that, admittedly, does get easier to use with familiarity, but is an absolute mind-boggler to begin with.

When Cupra first launched the e-Hybrid, it was a rather unpalatable $78,900, making it $5000 dearer that the cooking VZ version. However, it is currently available for $69,900, which is easier to swallow, but still a good $12k more than the V 4Drive.

Comfortable, frugal and practical as a daily driver, the Formentor is also capable of being rather fun on a winding back road.

To be fair though, it is worth the extra to get the added electric assistance, fat torque spread and DCC, even if the extra power doesn’t bring much in the way of extra performance.

ENGINE: 1.4-litre petrol 4-cylinder with plug-in hybrid system POWER: 180kW/400Nm GEARBOX: 6-speed dual clutch automatic, FWD 0-100KM/H: 7.0sec CONSUMPTION: 1.3l/100km (3P-WLTP) PRICE: $69,900.

How much is the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid?

Cheaper than it was. When it was first announced, the e-Hybrid was $78,900, making it actually more expensive than the cooking 228kW Formentor VZ. Now, however, it is $69,900, which is easier to swallow, but still puts it a hefty $12,700 more than the AWD V 4Drive model that it is only a literal fraction of a second quicker than. But then it is also considerably more economical than it, as well as scoring the VZ's DCC system.

What are the key statistics for the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid powertrain?

While its 1.4-litre petrol engine produces the same figures as the 1.5-litre petrol engine of the Formentor V (110kW/250Nm), the electric motor adds a further 85kW and 330Nm to the mix, for a combined peak output total of 180kW and 400Nm. The 12.8kWh battery provides it an all-electric range of up to 54km.

Is the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid efficient?

Cupra claims 1.3l/100km combined fuel consumption for the e-Hybrid which, given a healthy amount of all-electric urban running (and nighty charging to ensure you have the full 50+ kays available for the next day) is easily achievable. Forget to plug it in, however, and that will "skyrocket" into the 4s. Which is still exceptional.

Is the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid good to drive?

Absolutely. The core underpinnings of the Formentor e-Hybrid are every bit attuned to sporty driving as the rest of the range, meaning it is a delightfully agile and responsive car to throw around. The extra weight of the (admittedly rather small) battery doesn't have any meaningful impact of the eager handling and ride quality is just as impressive.

Is the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid practical?

While it may only be a 'small' SUV, the Formentor has the traditional advantages of truly useful cargo space (between 345 and 1415 litres) in the rear and plenty of storage spaces in and around the cabin. 

What do we like about the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid?

Comfortable, frugal and practical as a daily driver, the Formentor is also capable of being rather fun on a winding back road. The additional electric boost adds to the fun, while the addition of DCC widens its spread of abilities even further. It also looks very cool.

What don’t we like about the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid?

It's not AWD and it's only fractionally quicker than its considerably cheaper AWD sibling...

What kind of person would the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid?

Someone who wants a small, seriously economical family runabout with more than a touch of style, but one that can also be up to the task of having fun once the kids have been dropped at school.


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