Interested in a Cupra Formentor VZ?
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    Pros
    • This is what a baby Lamborghini Urus looks like
    • Striking design with all the latest tech
    • Superb chassis, excellent damping and handling
    Cons
    • Gets expensive with the options you need
    • Regardless of its Golf GTI DNA, I'd still like AWD
    • I'd like the one-touch 'Cupra' button in this variant
    Specs
    6.9L
    180kW
    159g
    5 Star

    If you’re like me and have grown a bit blasé with the stock-standard Volkswagen Golf GTI, you might want to take a closer look at the Cupra Formentor VZ if the goal is to up the excitement level in your daily driver, let alone space.

    In any colour or trim the Formentor is a proper head-turner. Though, it’s as much about punters getting an eyeful of Formentor’s disruptive Lambo-esque creases and trigonometric shapes as it is about Cupra’s strange, if not unfamiliar, tribal emblem – as good as all that looks.

    Colours are important in the world of Cupra and while there’s nothing aesthetically wrong with the Desire Red paint job on our tester. It looks positively sensational in either Magnetic Tech Matte or Petrol Blue Matte with a set of those Sport black and copper alloy wheels.

    It doesn’t really matter that the Formentor shares the Volkswagen Group’s MQB Evo platform either, because the Cupra looks and feels entirely different to its VW relatives. It’s also aimed at a distinctive type of buyer not swayed by familiar badges or generic designs, rather someone not afraid to stand out from the crowd. More of an individual, the brand claims.

    The design itself pushes the envelope more than anything else in the under $60K SUV category. Especially true when you think about the competitive set it’s up against. Models like Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Honda CR-V and Subaru Forester all of which have certainly evolved in latest-generation guise but not to the extent of attracting a ‘Baby Lambo’ tag like the Cupra Formentor.

    Inside, the design language is just as cool. There’s a thoroughly driver-centric cabin boasting a good splash of tasteful bronze accents and several design cues borrowed from Volkswagen’s high-end sports car stable; including Lamborghini Aventador-inspired air vents and Porsche 911-style drive selector.

    However, the Formentor is unlikely to meet everyone’s expectations for the family chariot. For starters it sits lower than most high-riders and when combined with a low-set driving position, it feels more like you’re piloting a hot hatch than a traditional family-friendly SUV.

    And while it’s not the most powerful variant in the Formentor line-up, there’s an awful lot to like about this Spanish-built SUV infused with a liberal dose of chilli peppers.

    How does the Cupra Formentor fare vs its competitors?
    View a detailed breakdown of the Cupra Formentor against similarly sized vehicles.

    How much does the Cupra Formentor VZ cost?

    With Formentor’s one-year Aussie Anniversary looming, most of the 2023 model range has incurred a slight bump in price, though the entry-level V has actually seen a price drop by $700 to $49,990 plus on-roads.

    The VZ tested here which is the next rung up cops a $1200 price rise, making it $54,990 plus on-roads, while both the Formentor VZe and top-spec VZx each rise by $2000 making them $62,990 and $63,990 respectively, plus on-road costs.

    Our tester also came with several options including the Leather and Sound Package ($2450), electric sunroof ($1800) and premium paint ($475). These options push the price of our tester to $59,715 plus on-roads. Cupra would also do well to offer its Sport black and copper alloy wheels on all variants from VZ up. They look outstanding.

    Rivals are few and far between, but two which come to mind are Volkswagen Group cousins including Grid Editions of both Tiguan R and T-Roc R, priced from $63,990 and $54,300 plus on-roads, respectively.

    Both have more powerful 2.0-litre engines than the Formentor VZ tested here, and are more of a match with the range-topping AWD VZx.

    There’s also the slightly shorter BMW X2 M35i from a wallet-crunching $77,900 plus on-roads.

    What is the Cupra Formentor VZ like on the inside?

    I’ll be honest, I’ve completely fallen for the copper-coloured tribal-like Cupra badge and various copper accents both on the steering wheel and throughout Formentor’s cabin, even the key fob gets the tribal treatment – it just works.

    The same edgy approach to the exterior has been applied inside the Formentor but somehow it’s still an exciting place to be. The steering wheel alone not only looks the goods but it’s also got the perfect rim size and is very tactile.

    The sports seats (no doubt plucked from sporty versions of the VW Golf) are superb for their comfort, design and support, especially in the optional leather trim.

    Horizontal lines feature from top to bottom with only the copper-coloured air-vent frames that disrupt the flow. This is where it points to some design influence from Cupra’s high-end cousin Lamborghini.

    Mostly, the materials are soft touch, but there’s no escaping a few cheaper plastics that you’ll also find in most of VW’s range, particularly around front and rear consoles.

    The technology play is well sorted with a super-sized touchscreen infotainment display totally devoid of easy-to-use dials and knobs. Actually, it’s not as bad as it sounds.

    While there are no traditional AC dials, the touch buttons at the bottom of the screen are receptive and quick to respond (I’d still like dials).

    Same goes for the Beats sound system. There’s no volume knob, but you do get a roller switch on the steering wheel that’s both intuitive and convenient.

    There’s also a fully-configurable digital driver’s display but while the clarity is sharp, the colour palate seems a trifle limited and the colours a tad flat.

    Like so many these days, we didn’t bother with the factory navigation when there’s wireless Apple CarPlay on board. It just makes things so much easier – and safer.

    While I still enjoy the act of moving a hand-held shift lever, it’s surprising how quick you get used to Cupra’s nicely knurled 911-style drive selector.

    The Formentor might be smaller than some of its key rivals there’s a surprising number of storage receptacles about. Up front there’s rubberised spots for your phone, keys and wallets, along with the mandatory cupholders and reasonably-sized console bin.

    All four door pockets are huge, and there’s no shortage of charging points either; no less than four USB-C ports (two up front, two back), while rear seat passengers get their own climate control panel.

    Boot space is largest in the Formentor VZ with 450 litres, while the entry-level V and top-spec VZe and VZx variants make do with 420 litres due to their all-wheel drive gear. You can also remotely drop the 60/40 split-fold rear seats via a lever in the cargo bay, which more-or-less fold flat bar a slight rise.

    What’s under the bonnet of the Cupra Formentor VZ?

    Each variant of the four-strong Cupra Formentor range comes with its own powertrain.

    The Formentor VZ tested here uses a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol engine, tuned to deliver 180kW and 370Nm through the front axle exclusively.

    The Cupra Formentor VZ claims to use 6.9L/100km on the combined cycle. All models run on 95 RON premium unleaded fuel except for the VZx, which requires 98 RON, and all versions feature a petrol particulate filter (PPF).

    In real-world conditions in our VZ tester we saw as low as 7.5L/100km, and as high as 11L/100km – but then this is a car that encourages you to have as much fun as is safe to do so.

    How does the Cupra Formentor VZ drive?

    On learning that I’d be hopping into the mid-spec, dialled down Formentor VZ with just two-pipes protruding out back was a bit of a letdown, at least initially.

    In fairness, my hot SUV were expectations running sky-high; given I’d just returned from Italy where we’d been track testing the fire-breathing Lamborghini Urus Performante armed with a Colosseum-crumbling 490kW and 850Nm. It’s one of the fastest SUVs on the planet, on and off the track.

    Nevertheless, performance versions of pretty much anything are always something to get excited about, no matter what the segment or indeed how much they cost. Just think of the Abarth 695 Competizione – loud, fun and also reasonably priced.

    While hot hatches are no longer the bargain-priced giant killers they once were, they’re still a fraction of the price of premium badged, go-fast models. And you don’t always need the quickest to have the most fun.

    Take the Formentor VZ driven here. It only makes 180kW and 370Nm, but unlike its entry-level V and top-spec VZx stablemates which are all-wheel drive, the VZ is driven by the front wheels exclusively.

    Don’t let that put you off, because it’s a genuine hoot and guaranteed to thrill. A little bit addictive, even.

    There’s more than enough grunt to satisfy, too, because as you’ve probably realised the Formentor VZ uses the same engine as its Volkswagen Golf GTI relative, but given its additional heft, it’s not quite as quick out of the blocks.

    Punch it from standstill and you’ll hit 100km/h in a no-nonsense 6.8 seconds compared to the GTI’s 6.3s run, so there really isn’t much in it. It still feels rapid and keeps on pulling well into the mid-range with all 370Nm on tap from just over idle.

    Better still, throttle response and sensitivity feels sharper than the VW product, with little or no lag from down low in the rev range.

    Unlike the VZx range-topper, the VZ doesn’t get the cool ‘Cupra’ mode button on the steering wheel, but you do get Sport which ramps things up a fair bit. Engine response is hair-trigger-like, and the dynamic chassis control – or adaptive dampers – firms up the suspension for roll-free handling in the twisties.

    Even in Sport the ride is best described as comfortably firm, but still with sufficient compliance to iron out all but the roughest roads and largest potholes. Honestly, the damper settings mean that you can use Sport mode all day long if you wish, without compromising overall ride comfort.

    Its low-riding stance really does come into play on your favourite twisty roads given the harder you push the better this chassis seems to respond. And never mind the VZ’s front-drive set-up, it’s got all the front-end grip you need on turn-in.

    As a front-wheeler I thought we’d have an issue with torque steer, but it’s not something I gave a second thought to. In the end I tried to encourage it with a good deal of lock and solid boot full of throttle and even then it’s minor.

    In fact, the Formentor feels agile and well balanced for a proper assault on the twisties should you be so lucky.

    It’s easy to drive, too. The steering is accurate and relatively lightweight, while I reckon the seven-speed DSG is one of the best in class, either in auto or manual mode. It’s scintillatingly quick on the auto downshifts, along with perfectly calibrated blips to boot.

    The paddles can be fun when you’re in the mood, but even left in Sport, the shifting and gear ratios are spot on.

    Likewise the braking. While the front rotors aren’t overly impressive for their size, the Formentor VZ still musters solid stopping power with good pedal feel all round. The same goes for all the major controls, really.

    What do you get in the Cupra Formentor VZ

    Formentor V highlights:

    • 140kW/320Nm 2.0 TSI 4Drive
    • 18-inch black-and-silver alloy wheels
    • Heated, power-folding exterior mirrors
    • LED headlights, daytime running lights
    • Auto headlights
    • Auto high-beam
    • Fog lights with cornering function
    • Rain-sensing wipers
    • Rear privacy glass
    • Adaptive dampers
    • 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster
    • 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system
    • Satellite navigation
    • Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
    • Wireless phone charging
    • 2 x front, 2 x rear USB-C ports
    • Cloth upholstery
    • Tri-zone climate control
    • Leather-wrapped, heated steering wheel
    • Paddle shifters
    • Keyless entry, start

    Formentor VZ adds:

    • 180kW/370Nm 2.0 TSI FWD
    • Front-wheel drive
    • 19-inch Exclusive Sport black-and-silver alloy wheels
    • 18-inch space-saver spare

    Formentor VZe adds:

    • 180kW/400Nm 1.4 TSI PHEV FWD
    • Mode 3 charging cable
    • Tyre repair kit

    Formentor VZx adds:

    • 19-inch Exclusive Sport black-and-copper alloy wheels
    • Hands-free power tailgate
    • Quad exhaust
    • Supersports steering wheel incl. additional buttons
    • Petrol Blue leather upholstery
    • Heated front seats
    • Power driver’s seat incl. memory
    • Side mirrors incl. memory function
    • 9-speaker Beats premium sound system
    • 360-degree cameras

    Is the Cupra Formentor VZ safe?

    The Cupra Formentor has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on Euro NCAP tests conducted in 2021.

    It scored 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 68 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 80 per cent for safety assist.

    Standard safety features include:

    • AEB with Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
    • Adaptive cruise control incl. stop/go
    • Travel Assist
      • Adaptive cruise control
      • Active lane centring
    • Driver fatigue monitoring
    • Emergency Assist
    • Lane departure warning
    • Lane keep assist
    • Blind-spot monitoring
    • Rear cross-traffic alert
    • Front, rear parking sensors
    • Reversing camera
    • Safe exit warning

    Formentor VZx adds:

    • Surround-view cameras

    How much does the Cupra Formentor VZ cost to run?

    The Cupra Formentor is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.

    Cupra launched in Australia with free scheduled servicing for three years, but that deal is set to end come March 31. From then, Cupra will instead charge customers $990 for a three-year maintenance pack.

    Incidentally, that price applies to Ateca, Formentor, Leon and Born ranges.

    CarExpert’s Take on the Cupra Formentor VZ

    More exciting than Volkswagen’s go-fast SUVs in every way.

    The Formentor VZ hits the sweet spot all things considered, given there’s ample power to play with as well as a solid handler in the bends.

    However, if your budget can stretch to the VZx, you’ll have a shed more go and all-wheel drive to handle it. You’ll also get the extra-cool steering wheel with Cupra button for rapid deployment of all that additional power.

    And, it looks sensational – a genuine head turner.

    Click the images for the full gallery

    MORE: Everything Cupra Formentor

    Anthony Crawford
    Anthony Crawford is a Senior Road Tester at CarExpert.
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    8.3
    Overall Rating

    Cost of Ownership8
    Ride Comfort8.3
    Safety8.7
    Fit for Purpose8.4
    Handling Dynamics8.8
    Interior Practicality and Space8.4
    Fuel Efficiency8.2
    Value for Money7
    Performance8.4
    Technology Infotainment8.6
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