Cupra is a relatively new name, having split out from Spanish Volkswagen Group subsidiary SEAT (say-at) in 2018, and replacing SEAT Sport as the company’s performance brand. SEAT are quite new here in New Zealand and the name isn’t well known yet, but in Europe they are everywhere, and the Cupra badge and the brand are well-respected for performance road cars.

The Cupra Formentor shares many mechanical and electronic components with its sister manufacturers’ cars, such as the Volkswagen Golf R and the Audi S3. Can Cupra bring a point of difference and some Spanish flair to the Teutonically efficient performance platform? 

We drove one for a week to find out. Well, two actually. The white press car suffered a chipped windscreen on its way to us, so Gazley Cupra loaned me their matte grey demonstrator, which had a few tasty extras.

What We Like and Dislike About The 2021 Cupra Formentor VZ

What we likeWhat we don’t like
Looks
Performance
Handling
Comfort
Equipment levels
Value
Touch controls
Heads-up display would be nice to have

What’s In The 2021 Cupra Formentor Range?

You have two choices of Formentor spec, the V 4Drive and the VZ tested here. Both have a 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine and four-wheel drive. The $54,900 V develops 140kW of power and 320Nm of torque and the $68,990 VZ a somewhat spicier 228kW and 400Nm. The VZ is 2.2 seconds quicker from 0-100, but uses 10% more fuel overall.

The V 4Drive spec is pretty good but the VZ has a more impressive level of features and toys.

2021 Cupra Formentor VZ Standard Equipment Highlights

  • Front Assist, City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Protection
  • Adaptive cruise control
  • Side Assist (blind spot detection with rear cross traffic alert)
  • Exit Assist (warning of vehicles / cyclists approaching from rear when opening door)
  • Rear and top view cameras
  • Lane Assist
  • High-beam Assist
  • Driver and front passenger front airbags with passenger de-activation
  • Front and rear curtain and side airbags
  • Driver’s knee airbag
  • Central airbag (between front seats)
  • ISOFIX points in outer rear seats with top tether anchorage points
  • XDS Electronic differential lock system (maximises road holding and improves cornering)
  • Traction Control System (ASR)
  • Anti-lock brakes (ABS)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Fatigue detection
  • 12.0″ colour touchscreen including Bluetooth, two USB-C & Aux-in ports and integrated voice control 
  • Full Link including Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay
  • Wireless phone charger
  • Navigation with Mapcare (map updates for three years)
  • BeatsAudio™ sound system featuring 9 premium speakers, 1 subwoofer box, 340W Amplifier and surround technology
  • Dynamic Chassis Control with CUPRA sport suspension
  • Keyless Entry and Go (KESSY)
  • 10.25’’ digital instrument cluster with configurable dashboard
  • Speed sensitive power steering
  • Triple-zone climate control
  • Electrically adjusted driver’s seat with memory function
  • Heated steering wheel
  • Heated front seats
  • Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
  • Interior ambient lighting & LED interior illumination
  • Full LED headlights (includes dipped and main beam)
  • LED front fog lights with cornering function
  • Rain and light sensors
  • Electrically adjustable, heated and folding door mirrors
  • Front and Rear parking sensors
  • Hands-free electric tailgate
  • LED taillights including coast-to-coast light

Our Review Vehicles’ Optional Equipment

White car 

  • Petrol Blue leather $1850

Total cost $70,750

Grey car

  • 19” Machined Copper II alloys $2000
  • Matte Magnetic Tech paint $3500 
  • Black leather $1850
  • Electric Panoramic Sunroof $2500

Total cost $78,750

Colours available are:

  • Candy white
  • Magnetic Tech (dark grey)
  • Asphalt Blue
  • Nevada White
  • Graphene Grey ($700)
  • Desire Red ($700)
  • Dark Camouflage (very dark green – $700)

And for a point of difference over most cars, there are two matte finishes:

  • Petrol Blue ($3,500)
  • Magnetic Tech (seen in our photos – $3500)

For a full list of specs and options available for the Cupra Formentor VZ jump on over to the Cupra New Zealand website.

How Does The 2021 Cupra Formentor VZ Compare To Its Competition?

If you want a fast crossover SUV, the Formentor looks like pretty good value.

Make/ ModelEnginePower kW/NmSeatsFuel L/100kmBoot
Space,
litres
Price
Mercedes GLA352.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo225/40058435$108,900
BMW M235i2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo225/45057.6470$92,900
Audi SQ2 quattro (AWD)2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged221/4004.97.7335$80,990
Mini Countryman John Cooper Works Classic2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo225/45057.6450$78,990
Hyundai Kona N2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo206/39259361$69,990
Cupra Formentor VZ2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo228/31057.7345$68,900

First Impressions Of The 2021 Cupra Formentor VZ

Because of the cracked screen on the press car I got two attempts at a first impression with the Formentor. The first was in the matte grey Magnetic Tech paint, and in that colour the Formentor really stands out. With its angular design and the dark finish, it has hints of Batmobile about it. Adults stared, kids stared, either with a confused “What the heck is that?” expression or just a grin. It does look really special in this finish. Add in the aggressive styling, copper highlights and details are a point of difference.

My second first impression was of the white car, and though it doesn’t stand out and attract stares in the same way as the matte finish, it does look really smart. The same aggressive design and copper highlights lift it above the SUV norm and it still gets looks.

What’s The Interior Like In The 2021 Cupra Formentor VZ?

The copper highlights and angular shapes are carried over to the inside design of the Formentor, and they work really well. It will feel pretty familiar to anyone who has been in a Mk8 Golf or an Audi S3. Like those cars, fit and finish is excellent and the plastics feel solid and convincing.

The Formentor has a fully digital 10.2” driver’s display which is configurable with all sorts of displays from a simple digital speedo, rev counter with boost and G-meters, or full-colour satnav map just to give a few examples. It’s bright and clear and easy to read. There’s no heads-up display, which would be nice to have in a sporty car like this.

One area where Cupra have added their own flair to the car is with the steering wheel. There’s the usual array of buttons for cruise control, operating the menus in the driver display, and audio. They’re all pretty logically laid out, though I found it a little awkward at first having a left-hand thumb wheel for the volume and right-hand buttons for track skipping. Where the Cupra magic happens is with the two big round buttons at about 4 and 8 o’clock on the steering wheel, for engine start and drive modes. In other VAG cars, the start, and particularly the drive mode buttons feel like a bit of an afterthought and are not immediately to hand. Cupra have fixed this, realising that these are part of the driving experience of your sporty car.

With more general controls they didn’t hit the mark quite as well. Physical buttons have been ditched on the centre console in favour of touch controls. There’s a large central touch screen that controls everything. Definition and resolution are excellent and the 360-degree cameras are good resolution. One gripe I had about the top-down view was that the graphics tended to obscure the video, making it hard to see the lines in a car park, or the edges of my narrow drive. There are touch controls under the central screen for dual-zone climate temperature and volume, but they’re only marked with small +/- symbols or red/blue marks. If you don’t know where to look, it’s not obvious. When you put your hand near the screen it reacts and enlarges the buttons on the display, which helps, but having everything in the screen is not as intuitive as it could be.

Bluetooth connection worked well and consistently. Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay are available if they are your thing. The 340W Beats Audio surround sound system is very good, with the 9 speakers supplying good clarity, and decent bass helped by a sub in the middle of the spare wheel.

There are two USB-C ports in the centre console, a wireless phone charger, and rubberised storage areas for your bits and pieces. To the rear is an armrest/storage cubby and two cup holders. I’m not sure what the cup holders were designed for but it wasn’t for New Zealand coffee cups. In the front one your standard medium takeaway flat white cup sits too low so the lid rests against the rim and it’s hard to pick up the cup. The rear one is narrower so the cup sits awkwardly high and the armrest gets in the way. Neither is satisfactory!

As standard, the Formentor has sports seats with cloth centres and leather sides. Both of our review cars had the $1,850 optional leather seats, and they look excellent with the contrasting copper stitching. They’re firm but comfortable. The driver’s seat is electrically adjusted but the passenger seat is manually adjusted. The doors have nicely padded armrests and stitched leather panels, but the trim in between looks a bit plasticky in contrast.

The rear seats are equally well-appointed and there’s good legroom for a car of this size. In the grey car with the $2500 optional panoramic glass roof, the rear felt light and spacious. In the white car with steel roof it felt smaller and obviously less light, but was still comfortable. The rear seats are 60/40 split for load flexibility and there’s a ski hatch behind the centre armrest.

Rear passengers get their own climate control zone and temperature control panel as well as two USB-C charging ports.

Boot capacity is a respectable 345 litres or 1,415 litres with the seats folded. The boot is a good shape, with bag hooks and steel tie-down loops.

What’s The 2021 Cupra Formentor VZ Like To Drive?

Once you’re seated comfortably, the Cupra driving experience starts with the big round button on the steering wheel. Hit this with your right thumb and the 2.0-litre turbo engine growls into life. The car defaults to Comfort mode. Hit the Cupra button with your left thumb and you’re in Cupra mode, which tightens up steering response, throttle response, gear shifts and suspension, and makes a more aggressive noise. The extra noise is via the car’s Beats Audio speaker system, but it sounds excellent, so who cares how it’s generated?

Pushing the button again cycles through the other modes: Comfort, Sport, Individual and Off-road. These all work as you’d expect. No Eco mode so if you want to drive your sports SUV efficiently it’s up to you to moderate that right foot in Comfort mode.

Around town the Cupra is easy to drive – its relatively small size means it fits well around Wellington’s occasionally tight and congested roads. And it fits easily into car parks unlike some larger SUVs. The smart cruise works well and comes to a complete stop. It can be a bit jerky at low speeds, but I found the same when driving it myself. Something about the transmission or the throttle tuning made it tricky to drive smoothly at low speeds. 

I like the way Cupra has integrated the blind spot warning into the ambient LED strip in the doors. When there’s a car in your blind spot the front section of the strip glows bright orange. Really neat and clever re-use of an existing component.

The Formentor feels quite nippy around town but like the Audi S3 it shares a powertrain with, in normal driving it disguises its 228kW of power pretty well. It’s easy to forget how powerful this car is.

On the motorway everything is fine. Ride comfort is good and road noise isn’t intrusive. But this is a sporty SUV, and once you get out of the city and off the highways it’s time to hit that Cupra button. When you do there’s a pronounced growl of engine noise, everything tightens up, and when you lift off the accelerator there’s childishly satisfying pops and woofling noises. Accelerate hard and the Formentor will demonstrate its rather rapid 4.9-second 0-100 time, making the classic dual-clutch “DSG farts” as it shifts gear so quickly you can hardly tell it’s doing it. Except the speedo digits are going up pretty rapidly.

Thanks to the four-wheel drive system and XDS Electronic differential lock, cornering and grip is impressive. In the few times I drove the Formentor on winding roads I never even approached any limits of traction or grip. It’s impressive, as is the way it controls body roll. It suffers a little from the same issues that I had with the Audi S3, that it’s somehow a little too competent, and feels like it wants to go way faster than speed limits allow. But you really can have a lot of fun with this car.

What about fuel consumption? My usage was more shorter trips than long, and I was somewhat over the quoted 7.7l/100km, averaging 10.9l/100km. I’m confident this would be lower if you threw in a few longer trips to make more of a combined figure.

2021 Cupra Formentor VZ Specifications

Vehicle TypeSports Crossover
Starting Price$68,900
Price as TestedWhite car – $70,750
Petrol Blue leather $1850
Grey car – $78,750
19” Machined Copper II alloys $2000
Matte Magnetic Tech paint $3500 
Black leather $1850
Electric Panoramic Sunroof $2500
Engine1984cc 4-cylinder turbocharged petrol
Power, Torque
kW/Nm
228/310
Transmission7-speed DSG
Spare WheelSpace saver
Kerb Weight, Kg1644
Length x Width x Height, mm4450 x1839 x 1511
Cargo Capacity, Litres
(seats up/seats down)
345/1415
Fuel tank capacity,
litres
55
Fuel Economy,
L/100km
Advertised Spec – Combined – 7.7
Real-World Test – Combined – 10.6
Low Usage: 0-6 / Medium Usage 6-12 / High Usage 12+
Towing Capacity
Kg, unbraked/braked
750 / 2000
Turning circle, metres10.7
Small: 6-10m / Medium 10-12m / Large 12m+
 Warranty5 years / 100,000 KMs mechanical warranty
5 years CUPRA Assist roadside assistance
3-year paintwork warranty
12-year anti-perforation warranty
Safety informationANCAP Rating – 5 stars – Link
Rightcar.govt.nz – 5 Stars – NRW134

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Economy
8
Handling
8
Infotainment
7
Interior
8
Performance
8
Ride
8
Safety
8
Styling
8
Value
9
Driver Technology
7
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I love everything about cars! Driving, looking at them, modifying. It's great to see what people do with cars, the different car cultures. If I was rich, my garage would be bigger than my house!
Cupra’s primary marketing focus is sportiness, in looks and function, and they have done a great job of achieving that with the Formentor VZ. It’s fast, handles well, and looks great.</p>With the equipment included it’s excellent value and even this top spec model beats other comparable performance small SUVs on price. Added to that it’s pretty exclusive here in New Zealand, for now. If they keep on producing cars this good then they’re going to sell plenty.</p>2021-cupra-formentor-vz-car-review

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