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Car reviews - Cupra - Formentor - VZx


We like
Standout exterior and interior design, enthusiastic driveline, tenacious handling, surprisingly practical cabin, hard-to-fault build and materials quality
Room for improvement
Mismatched cup holders, synthesised ‘exhaust’ note, touch-biased controls and complex infotainment menu structure, poor AM reception, no DAB+

Funny name, great car – the Cupra Formentor VZx is the real deal

31 Jan 2023



ANOTHER Volkswagen Group marque is now available in Australia in the shape of Cupra, an offshoot of Spain’s national car-maker SEAT, that is offering a multi-pronged offensive that will see city-sized hatches, petrol, plug-in hybrid and electric models, and smaller-sized SUVs arrive in local showrooms, each with their own persona but all sharing an unambiguous dose of sporting European flair.


Take for example the range-topping Formentor VZx 4Drive sampled here. This flagship variant of the Formentor SUV range offers a sizzling 228kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo-petrol engine (Volkswagen’s EA888-series unit) paired with a Golf R-like Haldex Traction all-wheel drive system, quick-shifting seven-speed wet-clutch DSG transmission, sports-tuned suspension and optional Brembo brakes.


With a sticker price of $63,990, the Formentor VZx rivals dearer European-sourced models including the Audi SQ2 2.0TFSI Quattro ($67,200), BMW X2 M35i xDrive Pure ($70,500) and Mercedes-AMG GLA 35 4Matic ($97,800) – all priced before on-road costs.


Dressed in Petrol Blue metallic paint, the Formentor VZx on test is further distinguished by 19-inch Performance Sport black and copper alloy wheels, quad exhaust outlets, and Magnetic Tech Matte exterior finishes. Matte copper touches throughout pay homage to the Cupra name – Latin for copper.


It is complemented inside by a Supersports leather-rimmed steering wheel with shift paddles and heating, Petrol Blue leather-trimmed bucket seats, heated front seats with electric adjustment and memory for the driver, memory function for side mirrors and nine-speaker Beats audio with a subwoofer and 340W amplifier.


And the Catalonian-built Formentor is also surprisingly practical. The cabin will comfortably accommodate four adults and offers useful oddment storage, charging outlets and the likes.


The electric tailgate allows easy access to a useful 420-litre boot, and the rear seats fold almost flat to accommodate bulkier items.


Cupra Australia models are offered with a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is supplied via Volkswagen dealerships nationally.


(Oh, and in case you were wondering, the Formentor name comes from the gorgeous Cap de Formentor peninsula on the Balearic Island in Majorca. If you have the time to Google it, we guarantee you won’t be disappointed.)

Driving Impressions


As Australians, we are fortunate to have so many vehicles to choose from, and when it comes to new cars, there really is something to suit just about every taste and budget.


There are cars for the sporty, cars for the practical, cars for the tech-savvy, cars for the stylish… the list just goes on and on. But it is seldom that we come across a car that successfully melds those attributes into the one, striking package.


The Cupra Formentor VZx is just such a car – and although its Volkswagen Group origins are evident, they show themselves in areas such as assembly quality and materials finish, leaving the Formentor with its own distinct and vibrant character.


It is an exceptionally well-presented car and one that, as peculiar as it sounds, has its own Spanish flavour.


The Formentor VZx is energetic. Enjoyable. And no matter how you’re driving it – whether pottering around town or pushing along a winding country road – has an innate ability to bring a smile to your face.


Your position behind the wheel is rather hatch-like, despite the higher riding position of this SUV model. You feel cosseted and supported, natural at the wheel. It’s a great driving position for those weekend sprints down your favourite stretch of B-road.


The pedal placement, the steering feel, the way the dual-clutch transmission reacts to pedal input – especially in its sportier modes – comes together to create an experience that is hard to top; and I genuinely believe that even the most finicky of manual-gearbox drivers will agree with me on that last point especially. In fact, we found ourselves rarely needing to engage with the paddle-shifters at all.


Braking performance from the optional four-piston Brembos is simply stellar. There’s no fade, and in repeated hard applications we found the pedal maintained its feel and progressions with aplomb. The transmission gears down sweetly under braking as well, so well in fact you almost have to pinch yourself to remember you’re at the helm of a 1684kg SUV, and not a pocket-sized hot hatch. Perhaps it is the Volkswagen Golf’s underpinnings making themselves known...


Around the ’burbs, the Formentor is easy to manage and offers quick, light steering. The large wheels don’t tend to crash over speed humps and imperfections in the surface in the way you might expect. The only real complaint is a little wind and tyre noise once you hit freeway speeds (something entirely expected given the VZx rides on wide, grippy 19-inch rubber).


Push even further, and with Sport or Cupra mode selected (via convenient steering wheel-mounted button), and the Formentor feels equal parts engaging and undemanding. 


There’s a ‘flow’ to the chassis that seems to channel the driver’s inputs rather instinctively. Abundant torque, a front-bias driveline, acres of grip, and wonderfully progressive steering further add to the coherent connection between car and driver.


Performance on offer in the Formentor VZx is exceptionally well matched to the chassis, though in the default drive mode you could almost be forgiven for thinking the power delivery is somewhat lazy.


As a daily driver, the Formentor is happy to lope along with very little fuss. Gear changes are smooth and progress casual – just the thing for keeping fuel consumption to a minimum (we managed 9.9 litres per 100km on test). But at anything more than three-quarter throttle, or upon selecting Sport or Cupra mode, the Formentor’s reflexes tighten appreciably.


Shifts hasten as the engine races to redline more readily, the turbocharger boosts with a deliciously provocative note, and soon you’re charging with haste at speeds better experienced on the racetrack. Cupra quotes a 0-100km/h time of 4.9 seconds, which feels pretty accurate; we can only imagine how zesty the VZ5 must feel.


Cupra offers a limited run of the five-pot-powered VZ5 in other markets, the hard-charging model motivated by a 2.5-litre five-cylinder turbo-petrol from the Audi RS3 developing 287kW/480Nm. Sadly, the combination is offered in left-hand drive markets only.


The Formentor provides a good outlook for the driver and passengers, the only caveat being the thicker C pillar can make reversing from diagonal parks a little tricky. Fortunately, the camera system and safety aids help to remove the guesswork.


On the downside, however, the all-touchscreen infotainment array can take some getting used to, with many menu systems to navigate, poor AM radio reception, no digital radio reception (DAB+) and no illumination of the temperature controls at night. It’s also the kind of set-up that takes a little getting used to, but after a few days with the car – and customising your own preferences on the home screen – it soon becomes rather intuitive.


Less so are the small and large (staggered) cup holders in the centre console. The aft cup holder is overhung by the console lid while the front one is too deep for the average takeaway coffee cup. It’s a small issue, but one that could have been avoided with better planning of the console, which is unnecessarily consumed by the gear selector area (itself a small electronic lever) and adjacent longitudinal trays.


On the plus side, Cupra has absolutely nailed the headlight performance and dusk-sensing calibration, the rain-sensing wipers and the climate control performance. Southern Spain’s hot climate has paid dividends in making the system work well in Australia, and even on the hottest days we had no issue in keeping the cabin at a comfortable temperature.


When you add it all up, the Formentor is a sporty, practical, tech-savvy and stylish SUV that really knows how to turn heads. Sure, the model’s pricing is up there a little, but when compared with ‘premium’ European rivals – and factoring in just how much equipment and performance comes as standard – the overall offering is one that we think is very hard to look past.


In fact, we’re just a little bit enamoured with this car – and reckon anyone that jumps in for a test drive will be too.

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