Cupra Formentor V e-Hybrid first drive: now with extra voltios

David Linklater
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There’s no doubting the visual and driver appeal of Cupra’s coupe-SUV, the Formentor. But one of its big problems is that in a 2023 world, the New Zealand range is looking a bit, well, combustion enginey.

Cupra's playing it cool: only charge port differentiates the Formentor e-Hybrid at the front.

That’s now rectified with the arrival of the Formentor e-Hybrid. Joining the trio of conventional turbo-petrol models, the V e-Hybrid combines a small 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine with a plug-in battery pack and electric motor that’s good for a claimed 53km of EV commuting.

This is Cupra NZ's first PHEV, although not its first EV: we already have the sporty pure-electric Born hatchback.

Figuring out where it fits in Formentor world involves the usual EV line-blurring as we factor in the high capital cost of plug-in technology. So here we go.

New V e-Hybrid is FWD; so that's two FWD and two AWD Formentors in the lineup.

The e-Hybrid is a “Formentor V” and front-drive, which aligns it with the lower end of the lineup. But it’s actually the most expensive Formentor you can buy: $78,500, well above even the rip-snorting Formentor VZ AWD ($70,990).

The e-Hybrid is the second most powerful Formentor in the range, with a combined 180kW/400Nm.

However, the real-world gap almost disappears when you subtract the Clean Car Discount rebate for the V e-Hybrid, making it $74,475, and add the Clean Car Discount fee for the VZ, making it $74,095.

Formentor V e-Hybrid combines 1.4-litre petrol and 12.8kWh plug-in battery.

And despite the tiny engine, the e-Hybrid is actually the second most powerful Formentor in the range: with a combined 180kW/400Nm, it’s well above the 110kW of the V and 140kW of the V 4Drive, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of the VZ’s 228kW.

Specification adds quite a bit to the other Formentor V models: it aligns closely with the VZ, including the full Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) setup.

But hang on (again), because it’s not just about power. The e-Hybrid is also a whopping 262kg heavier than the other FWD Formentor, the 1.5-litre V. With 0-100km/h in 7.0sec, it’s only as quick as the mid-range V 4Drive. But still decently brisk.

Formentor V e-Hybrid picks up quite a bit of specification from go-fast VZ.

It’s all a bit much to take in, so let’s just say this: a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) is a very welcome addition to the range and it’ll certainly get more attention for what’s always been an impressive, impressively stylish little SUV.

The specification adds quite a bit to the other Formentor V models: it aligns closely with the VZ, including the full Dynamic Chassis Control (DCC) setup with sport suspension, speed-sensitive power steering, a Travel Assist function for the adaptive cruise (linking it up with lane assistance), bucket front seats with memory setting, black headlining, sports pedals and a wireless phone charger – handy, because wireless phone projection is standard across the range anyway.

Nice wheels on Cupra Formentor V e-Hybrid, but copper highlights are a $600 option.

The Agile Pack (usually a $2500 option) is also standard on the e-Hybrid, adding heated front seats, automated parking and 19-inch machined alloys. Although the copper highlights on the wheels are still an extra $600.

It’s certainly a different driving experience to other Formentors. There are the usual PHEV models, including pure-electric driving up to 140km/h (as long as there’s battery charge), charge/save (more relevant for European Green Zones than us, admittedly) and full hybrid, which also means full and frank performance.

Formentor was first standalone Cupra; no Seat equivalent.

The acceleration figures may not wow you on paper, but the torque from the hybrid system means the plug-in Formentor feels pretty muscular in the low-to-mid range. The more aggressive steering setup and sports suspension also add to the sense of purpose, even when the DCC is in Comfort mode.

We’ve spent a fair bit of time moaning about how you have to go into the infotainment menu to change drive modes in most Cupras (except the VZ, which has a dedicated button) in past reviews, but during the media launch event for this new model we did get a gentle reminder from the Cupra people that if you click the gear selector into Sport on the Formentor e-Hybrid, the whole car joins in. Fair enough.

For a brand that’s sometimes showy, Cupra can also be surprisingly understated.

The e-Hybrid has a special six-speed version of the DSG transmission (other models are seven-speed) but makes up for that with an extra clutch, making three in total – all part of the workings between the engine and transmission, with the electric motor sandwiched in between.

The Formentor’s PHEV tech will spread to other Cupra models for 2024. Expect to see a Leon Sportstourer V e-Hybrid in January 2024, with exactly the same powertrain and a very similar price: $77,900, although it remains to be seen whether a Clean Car Discount will be part of the equation then.

Cupra Formentor V e-Hybrid sports copper exhaust trims.

For a brand that’s sometimes showy, Cupra can also be surprisingly understated. For example, it’s really hard to spot the different Formentor models, the most obvious exterior difference being the exhaust, um, “trims”: pretend angular outlets for the V models and authentic oval quad-pipes for the super-fast VZ.

So, a DRIVEN Car Guide top tip: if you’ve missed the AC charge port on the left-front guard of the e-Hybrid, look for the squared-off exhaust trims, which are finished in copper for the plug-in model.

ENGINE: 1.4-litre turbo-petrol engine with 12.8kWh plug-in battery and electric motor
POWER: 180kW/400Nm (combined), petrol maximum 110kW/electric maximum 85kW
GEARBOX: 6-speed automated dual clutch (DSG), FWD
0-100KM/H: 7.0sec
CONSUMPTION: 1.3l/100km, CO2 33g/km (WLTP), EV range 53km
PRICE: $78,500 (Clean Car Discount $4025)


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