Cupra Formentor: plug-in hybrid or petrol?

Published: 08 June 2021

► CAR lives with a Cupra Formentor
► Regular reports and diary updates
► Warts 'n' all real-world testing 

Month 2 of our Cupra Formentor long-term test: comparing it with the PHEV

This new Cupra is named after a remote beach on Mallorca, nestling on the northern outcrop of the Mediterranean island at the end of a snaking mountain pass that drops from the sprawl of Pollença. A few years back, I was enjoying a family holiday thereabouts when who did I bump into? None other than CAR editor-at-large Ben Barry. Small world etc.

This time my surprise encounter is with an even closer family member: it’s the Formentor’s new plug-in kin: the E-Hybrid downsizes our VZ2’s 2.0-litre TSI for a smaller 1.4 paired with an 85kW electric motor with a choice of 201bhp or 242bhp system output. We’re in the brawnier version.

Charging the 13kWh lithium-ion battery every night means we manage 21 miles on silent e-propulsion before the petrol engine awakes (not matching the claimed 34-mile e-range). It seamlessly juggles both power sources, acceleration feels brisker than the claimed 7.0sec 0-62mph and there’s a surprising wriggle of torque steer under full throttle.

Because 94 per cent of UK journeys are shorter than 25 miles, the Formentor E-Hybrid makes more sense than our thirsty VZ2.

By Tim Pollard

Logbook: Cupra Formentor VZ2 TSI 4Drive

Price £39,830 (£40,385 as tested)
Performance 1984cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 306bhp, 4.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 31.4-33.2mpg (official), 27.1mpg (tested), 193g/km CO2
Energy cost 21.2p per mile
Miles this month 535
Total miles 1495

Month 1: the start of our Cupra Formentor long-term test

Keeper Tim Pollard and the CAR magazine Cupra Formentor

A new arrival has joined the CAR magazine long-term test fleet - and few members of the public have a clue what it is. We’ll be living with the Cupra Formentor for the next six months and you can follow all the action and commentary right here, in our daily driver diaries, with monthly reports and extra bonus snippets and observations.

Badge of dishonour
Recognise the badge? Your mates will be baffled and bemused in equal measure, we suspect: the Cupra logo might have won little cut-through with the public since launch in January 2018, but it looks like it could slice off a super-hero’s hand with that sharpened angry nunchucker vibe that looks straight out of a comic book. It’s the newly spun-off standalone brand from Seat, which is attempting to win where DS (Citroën’s offspring), Infiniti (Nissan) and Abarth (Fiat) have in different ways struggled to win traction. 

An athlete at heart
In keeping with its sporty positioning, we’re testing the Formentor in muscular 306bhp form. It’s the top-dog 4Drive DSG model powered by the VW Group’s 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged four, so a mildly detuned VW Golf R in Spanish finery, and that means performance figures to make you sit up and take notice: Cupra claims 0-62mph in a Porsche-bothering 4.9 seconds and top speed electronically capped at 155mph. Other engine choices are 1.5 TSI petrols and a 1.4-litre PHEV that we’ll be sampling in the weeks ahead.

A chassis to match
The engine isn’t the only thing plundered from VW HQ: the Formentor is naturally based on the MQB hardware that underpins most of the Golf-class progeny. This brings the familiar all-wheel-drive set-up and independent suspension, which should be handy to tame the 295lb ft torque plateau all the way from 2000 to 5450rpm. It’s early days, but I can already tell this is going to be a fast car, especially with its rapid-shifting seven-speed twin-clutch DSG transmission. It feels blink-and-you’re-past quick.

Cupra Formentor VZ2

Props department
The badge might be daft, but the rest of the Formentor’s package is more mature. It’s a modish mash-up of a design, a tall hatchback on tip-toes, with just enough crossover vibe to make it stand out from the Leon brigade without quite having the SUV aesthetic of the Ateca. An in-betweener, then. Nobody knows what it is, and I like that – and they like what they see. It’s a contemporary design, which promises decent practicality too. Ours looks smart in Midnight Black, the sole optional extra at £555.

Specs, price and kit
Our Cupra Formentor arrived in the depths of winter in one-rung-down-from-top VZ2 spec, which boosts the standard 18-inch wheels to 19s, adds soft-touch nappa leather hide and electric operation to the sports seats, plus heating for your bum, hands and door mirrors. It also bundles in the Safety and Driving Pack XL, which reads road signs, auto-dips your main beam and uses cameras and sensors to keep you safe. Those Golf roots mean you get all manner of digital gizmos, too.  

Logbook: Cupra Formentor VZ2 310PS 4Drive DSG

Price £39,830 (£40,385 as tested)
Performance 1984cc turbocharged four-cylinder, 306bhp, 4.9sec 0-62mph, 155mph
Efficiency 31.4-33.2mpg (official), 193g/km CO2
Energy cost n/a
Miles this month 75
Total miles 960

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By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet