The CUPRA Formentor e-HYBRID offers fun as well as electric driving capability, it looks good, and it has a practical SUV body style.
CUPRA is a new brand from SEAT – a CUPRA model is a more sporty version of a SEAT, which is already supposed to be sporty. And the Formentor is an SUV, and the e-HYBRID model is a plug-in hybrid, so this car ticks a lot of boxes – sporty, SUV and (partially) electric.
We think the CUPRA Formentor e-HYBRID looks great. It feels as though the design – as well as the engineering – of many Volkswagen Group models such as from SEAT and Skoda have had to fit in with fairly strict corporate guidelines over recent years, but the designers of the CUPRA Formentor appear to have been given some creative licence in the sporty design department. The Formentor is also practical thanks to its SUV body, with a boot capacity of 345 litres.
The interior is more obviously based on other SEAT models, but the styling is lifted by a few unique Cupra details such as the steering wheel.
The engine is standard Volkswagen Group – a 1.4-litre TSI petrol unit with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This is mated to a 116PS electric motor powered by a 12.8 kWh lithium-ion battery.
First things first, you can get a good driving position in the CUPRA Formentor e-HYBRID (which is not always the case with an SUV). Gone is any form of old-fashioned traditional gear lever, its place is a small, stubby selector. You can use this to select S mode, and there’s the ability to change gears manually using the steering-wheel mounted paddles.
It only takes a few corners to establish that the Formentor is fun – it goes round bends very nicely, and the ride is decent on smooth roads. The Formentor is also quiet and refined on the motorway. All this is despite the low profile tyres (which look great, but one wheel picked up a dent by simply driving over a pothole).
The main issue with the driving experience is that there’s a total of 400Nm of torque going through the front wheels. This is too much for the tyres to handle when accelerating out of wet junctions – there’s wheelspin and torque steer. This is particularly evident in Cupra drive mode (when there’s also a sporty simulated noise). This sort of torque really needs all-wheel drive rather than front-wheel drive to ensure decent traction.
The Formentor starts on electric power, and seems to stay on electric power (‘e-mode’) most of the time rather than switching to petrol – and you can even drive on electric in Cupra drive mode, which is good.
Talking of drive modes – which are Comfort, Sport, Cupra and Individual (no Eco!) – if you look for a drive mode switch on the dashboard, you won’t find one, as this is hidden away in the (large) touchscreen. And it’s not just the drive modes that are hidden away in here, it’s the hybrid modes (hybrid or e-mode). And the climate controls (you have to press the fan button to be able to change where the heating and ventilation comes from). And the lane departure warning system controls are also in the touchscreen. Overall, despite there being virtually no physical buttons to press, there’s too much button-pressing for basic car controls via the touchscreen – something that is fashionable with many Volkswagen Group cars at the moment.
Aside from it being really important for drivers to be able to easily press a button to ensure the car is on electric rather than on petrol power, it’s also important to see how many miles of electric range you have left – something that the Formentor doesn’t show on the instrument display, despite the display being very configurable (although it does give a percentage figure, and, yes, you can delve into the touchscreen to find this).
The CUPRA Formentor e-HYBRID has an official electric range of 34 miles, combined fuel economy of 176.6-188.3 mpg, and CO2 emissions of 33 g/km. In the real-world, the Formentor was delivering around 27 miles on electric power (and 376 miles in total on petrol and electric). Getting close to the 176.6-188.3 mpg would obviously depend on driving the car primarily on electric power; after a week of mixed driving we averaged 47.0mpg, which is probably slightly better than we would expect from a petrol-engined model.
The CUPRA Formentor e-HYBRID should take around three and a half hours to fully charge at a home using a 3.6kW wallbox.
The CUPRA Formentor e-HYBRID VZ1 245PS DSG costs £38,625, and very unusually, our test car had no options. Our VZ1 test car had the following standard equipment over and above the V2 trim: 19″ ‘Exclusive’ machined sport matte black / silver alloy wheels, manually-adjusted black bucket seats, rear diffuser with single exhaust pipe on each side, and dynamic chassis control. The full trim range is: V1, V2, VZ1, VZ2, VZ3, VZ Edition.
The CUPRA Formentor e-HYBRID looks good, it has a practical body style, it’s fun to drive, and you can also drive it on electric power. So it offers the best of both worlds – fun and efficiency. However the front tyres can’t handle all the torque that goes through them under enthusiastic acceleration, so an all-wheel drive model would offer better traction. But the main thing that spoils the driving experience is having lots of key controls for the hybrid system, drive modes and heating and ventilation hidden away in the touchscreen. So although the Formentor e-HYBRID has the capability to deliver electric driving, it’s likely that the number of electric miles driven in the real-world will be less because the hybrid controls are hidden away. The CUPRA Formentor e-HYBRID gets a Green Car Guide rating of 7/10.