Cupra Formentor – Designed-from-the-ground-up

Ian Lamming drives the Formentor, the first model exclusively developed by Cupra.

WE are all familiar with SEAT’s sports division, Cupra, well at least we should be as it’s been three years since it was given its own ‘Transformer’ badge.

But while the modus operandi until now has been to pimp up the bodywork of an appropriate SEAT model, tune the engine and suspension and add the word ‘Cupra’ somewhere on the skin, things have just changed.

Formentor is Cupra’s very first, designed-from-the-ground-up, model, so there is no SEAT version of this particular shell.

In case you were wondering, it is named after the wild cape on the Spanish island of Mallorca, in the Balearics, its look designed to encapsulate all the attributes of the unique setting, a rocky landscape, sculpted by the wind.

It also seeks to meld the ruggedness of an all-terrain SUV with the silhouette of a coupe, reflecting its sporty, high performance alter ego.

Whatever the hype, designers have done a great job and it is beautifully proportioned, with short overhangs, wide track and menacing deep front grille and a rear diffuser with quadruple tailpipes. The huge 19in alloys fit the bill nicely and the Formentor does look great from any angle, especially with its trick LEDs back and front.

It’s a look that makes a bold statement – wouldn’t it be embarrassing if it had timid dynamics. It’s ok, performance more than lives up to the Batmobile aesthetics. This thing is a rocket ship.

The 2.0 litre turbocharged TSI petrol engine offers an impressive 310PS, which it channels via a quick-shifting seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox to all four wheels. Benchmark sprint time? Just 4.9 seconds to 62mph. Now that is rapid. Top speed is a governed 155mph.

Not only does the all-wheel-drive maximise grip, Formentor also gets dynamic chassis control so all that power should never get the better of the driver. It’s easy to forget this thing is an SUV as it leaves you thinking you are in a hot-hatch. But when you need to stick the old pushbike in the back it will fit without even having to remove the front wheel, which you can’t do in a hatchback. Don’t you just love SUVs.

The flat bottomed leather steering wheel has many switches but two of the more important are the starter button on the right, in case you are looking for it somewhere on the dash, and the Cupra performance button on the left. Press this once and it goes to ‘S’ for sport, press it again and you get the Cupra symbol popping up on the dash. You also get maximum performance, sharper feel and an off-beat sound akin to that of a high performance five-cylinder; it’s delightful. There’s also a mountain symbol, for when things get sticky, and open road mode for the dual carriageways and a little cog for personalised settings.

Inside feels very 21 century with virtual dash and big touchscreen infotainment. Press any of the  functions on the 12in touchscreen and you are rewarded with an audible ‘tish’; it’s like being slapped across the face.

Spec is also very high and includes satnav, adaptive cruise control, heated seats, smart phone wireless charger, rear parking sensors and camera. Body-hugging copper stitched blue leather sports bucket seats, electrically adjustable on the driver’s side, are a nice touch and needed for the yaw this impressively swift vehicle can produce through the bends.

I love the Cupra logos projected by puddle lamps onto the ground on entry and exit and the cocoon of brushed dark aluminium with copper accents on the trim.

Horizontal full-LED wraparound ambient lighting, which runs the width of the dashboard and in both front doors, also includes safety functions, flashing yellow when blind spot detection is activated. Nice.

Obviously Cupra designers had a lot to prove when drawing up plans for the Formentor and they certainly have treated it with the infinite care that a first born deserves.

Fact File

Cupra Formentor 4Drive

Engine: 2.0

Power: 310PS

0-62mph: 4.9 secs

Top speed: 155mph

Combined MPG: 33.2

Transmission: seven-speed DSG-automatic

CO2 g/km: 193

Price: £40,385.00