This is the cheapest and least powerful Cupra Formentor money can buy in Australia, but does it water down the best parts of dearer models to lower the price?
- Sharp handling, comfortable ride
- Perky 2.0-litre turbo engine
- Spacious cabin given its footprint
- Too many touch-sensitive controls, including frustrating volume and temperature sliders
- Low-speed hesitation from dual-clutch transmission, engine stop-start tech
- Entry price will squeeze many buyers out
Cupra – a Spanish offshoot of Volkswagen – has been in Australia for about 18 months, and it’s carving out a niche among buyers looking for a sporty-looking and driving Volkswagen that’s not a Volkswagen.
Or at least, the Formentor is. More than half of Cupras sold in Australia last year were Formentors, which is marketed as an SUV but has sleek styling, and isn’t much taller than a Volkswagen Golf.
The most popular variant is the top-of-the-range, high-performance VZx – with a 228kW turbo engine and sub-five-second 0–100km/h acceleration – but there’s still appeal in the variant on test here, the entry-level 140kW Formentor V.
While it may not have the hard-hitting numbers of the top-spec variants, is the most affordable Formentor still worth considering?
How much does the Cupra Formentor cost in Australia?
There are four models (excluding special editions) in the Cupra Formentor range: the 140kW all-wheel-drive V petrol, 180kW front-wheel-drive VZ petrol, 180kW front-wheel-drive VZe petrol-electric plug-in hybrid, and the 228kW all-wheel-drive VZx petrol.
In this review we are testing the V priced from $51,990 plus on-road costs, or $56,490 drive-away nationwide, for Model Year 2024 (MY24).
The Formentor V has increased in price by $1500 drive-away since the Cupra brand arrived in Australia in mid-2022 – and it is $2000 dearer than its lowest price of $54,490 drive-away in early 2023 – though since launch a hands-free power tailgate, DAB digital radio, and tow bar pre-wiring have joined the equipment list.
The vehicle on test is an MY23 example, but aside from the fitment of the power tailgate and digital radio on newer builds, it is identical to MY24 models. All examples of the Formentor V in stock on the Cupra website at the time of writing are MY24 builds.
Our test car is optioned with a panoramic sunroof and Desire Red premium paint, which for MY24 would add $2150 and $490 respectively to the price – bringing it to $54,630 plus on-road costs, or $59,130 drive-away.
The Formentor V is classified on the Australian new-car sales charts as a mid-size SUV, but at 4450mm long it is shorter than some small SUVs, and isn’t much taller than a traditional hatchback such as a Volkswagen Golf.
The closest rivals for the Formentor V on size, price and performance come from within the Volkswagen Group: the 4390mm-long Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline AWD ($52,490 drive-away) and 4509mm-long VW Tiguan 162TSI Elegance AWD ($57,090 plus on-road costs).
Other rivals include a 4575mm-long Mazda CX-5 G35 GT SP AWD ($52,810 plus on-road costs) or a 4460mm-long Toyota Corolla Cross Atmos Hybrid AWD ($50,030 plus on-road costs).
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Standard equipment in the Cupra includes 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and tail-lights, a 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster, 12-inch infotainment touchscreen with wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and satellite navigation, a wireless phone charger, fabric and leather-look upholstery, keyless entry and start, tri-zone climate control, a heated leather-trimmed steering wheel, adaptive suspension, and a suite of safety technology.
Although not fitted to this test vehicle, a $2800 Leather and Camera Package can be optioned, adding full leather upholstery, heated front seats, a power-adjustable driver’s seat with memory, a memory function for the side mirrors, and a 360-degree camera.
|2024 Cupra Formentor V
|$51,990 plus on-road costs
|Colour of test car
|Premium paint – $490
Panoramic glass sunroof – $2150
|Price as tested
|$54,630 plus on-road costs
|Volkswagen Tiguan | Skoda Karoq | Mazda CX-5
How much space does the Cupra Formentor have inside?
Cupra markets the Formentor as an SUV, but the driving position isn’t much higher than a conventional petrol-powered hatchback – which may be a good thing, or a bad thing, depending on your preference.
As with other Cupra models, the interior design is more extravagant than a similarly priced Volkswagen or Skoda, with hexagonal air vents, copper-coloured accents and stitching, and an ambient light strip that runs across the dashboard.
It inherits the large screens and primarily touch-sensitive controls for key functions from other VW Group models – for better and worse.
The manually adjustable front sports seats are a highlight, delivering excellent support in corners for a mid-size SUV – including under-thigh support for taller drivers – and respectable comfort on a longer journey.
The leather and fabric upholstery included as standard breathes well and feels more than nice enough for the price. A $2800 Leather and Camera Package is available, with full leather upholstery, front seat heating, and power adjustment and memory for the driver’s seat.
Tilt and reach adjustment is available in the steering column, and the leather-trimmed steering wheel has physical – rather than touch-sensitive – buttons that are easy to use.
However, we wish the steering wheel from the top-of-the-range Formentor VZx – with shortcuts for the drive mode – was standard across the range, as tapping through menus in the touchscreen to change the suspension or engine mode on the move is not ideal.
There is faux leather on the door inserts – and soft-touch material on the dashboard and door tops – but the centre console and lower dashboard are covered in hard plastic. Perceived build quality in this test vehicle was good, with no obvious rattles.
Storage space is covered by a large glovebox, accommodating door pockets, space for key fobs or a thin wallet on either side of the stubby gear shifter, and a handy compartment under the driver’s seat for valuables. However, the centre console compartment is small, and there’s realistically only space for one 600mL bottle in the cupholders.
Features for front-seat occupants include wrap-around multi-colour ambient lighting – which lights up orange when a car is in your blind spot – plus tri-zone climate control, keyless entry, push-button start, two USB-C ports, and one 12-volt socket. The sun visors have illuminated vanity mirrors but don’t extend to cover sun glare hitting the side of your head.
A wireless smartphone charger is standard, but it worked intermittently – disconnecting on the move, or not registering my phone at all when first placed – and when it did function as intended, as with most wireless chargers, the phone became hot to the touch.
Rear-seat passengers are well accommodated, with ample knee room, and plenty of toe room and head room, even if the front seats are slid back and the occupants are tall.
The rear bench is wide enough to carry three passengers across if needed in a pinch, but there is a large centre tunnel in the floor – as this is an all-wheel-drive car – and tall middle-seat passengers may brush their hair on the sunroof frame when leaning forward to plug in a USB cable.
Speaking of USB cables, there are two USB-C ports – plus rear air vents (with their own temperature zone), grab handles, a fold-down armrest with two cupholders, map pockets on the seatbacks, and modestly sized door pockets. There’s hard plastic on the tops of the door cards, unlike the front.
Cupra quotes 420 litres of boot space with the rear seats up, which is on the smaller side for the mid-size SUV class – but it’s worth keeping in mind the Formentor is shorter bumper to bumper than many SUVs in the class below. The tailgate is power-operated on MY24 vehicles, with a kick sensor.
The rear seats fold 60:40 for longer items – with a ‘ski port’ opening in the middle seatback for trips to the snow, or just an occasional trip to the timber aisle at Bunnings – with small compartments on the sides of the cargo area, and a space-saver spare under the floor.
|2024 Cupra Formentor V
|420L seats up
Does the Cupra Formentor have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?
Standard in the Cupra Formentor is a 12-inch infotainment touchscreen with wired and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, AM/FM/DAB digital radio, voice control, and embedded satellite navigation.
Once you get the hang of the various menus, the system is easy to use, with a bright display and generally quick responses.
Wireless Apple CarPlay dropped out on multiple occasions, though there is a wired connection available as a backup.
The infotainment system also needs some time to boot up. In the first 30 seconds after the car is started, it can exhibit some lag – and in one instance shortly after starting the engine, the parking sensors stopped working for about 20 seconds, and a warning message flashed up in the instrument display.
As with other new Cupra and Volkswagen cars, the majority of the controls usually seen on physical buttons have been moved into the infotainment system.
Changing the fan speed – or the drive mode – from Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is at least three taps away, and while there are touch-sensitive sliders under the screen for the volume and air temperature, for some reason they are not illuminated so they are very difficult to use at night, or with any precision on a bumpy road.
Fortunately, there is a volume dial on the steering wheel for the driver to use.
There are shortcuts for key apps along the bottom of the touchscreen when not in Apple CarPlay or Android Auto – however, these are still icons on the screen, rather than physical buttons, so they are more distracting to use on the road than they should be.
The layout of the climate-control menu is also unusual. Sliders aside, the controls in the touchscreen for the air temperature and fan speed are in different menus – and the toggle switch for recirculating air is in a different sub-menu that is one more tap away.
A facelift for the Formentor is due in Australia in early 2025 which – if other new-generation VW Group cars are a guide – could fix some of these issues, adding illumination to the touch sliders, and even snappier infotainment software. However, this is yet to be confirmed.
The 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster is one of the best in any car at this price, with a range of customisable views – including a central tachometer, and a full-screen navigation map – plus bright and contemporary graphics.
The quality of the six-speaker sound system is average; a premium-branded Beats stereo is included in the optional Leather and Camera pack.
Cupra does not offer smartphone app connectivity with its vehicles in Australia for things like remote services and vehicle checks.
Is the Cupra Formentor a safe car?
The Cupra Formentor is covered by a five-star safety rating from the Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) based on testing conducted in Europe in 2021.
It received scores of 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 technology.
The score will expire after 31 December 2027 unless the Formentor is submitted for retesting to current, more stringent crash-test standards.
What safety technology does the Cupra Formentor have?
Standard safety technology in the Cupra Formentor includes autonomous emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane-keep assist, lane-centring assist (Travel Assist), adaptive cruise control with “follow to stop”, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, door exit warning, driver fatigue detection, proactive passenger protection, and Emergency Assist.
Also fitted are front and rear parking sensors, a rear-view camera, assisted parking, automatic high-beam headlights, and tyre pressure monitoring.
All models feature 10 airbags, comprised of the usual six – dual frontal, front-side and curtain – plus a front-centre airbag to prevent occupants clashing heads in a side impact, a driver’s knee airbag, and an airbag in each rear door panel to protect the chests of outboard rear passengers (in addition to the head protection given by the curtain airbags).
While many cars can quote a long list of safety features – but suffer from poor calibration on the road – the crash-avoidance systems in the Formentor are well calibrated.
There were no false activations from the autonomous emergency braking system, the lane-keep assist was never intrusive when it didn’t need to be, the lane-centring function is one of the best in the car industry, the adaptive cruise control generally works well, and the rear-view camera is of high resolution.
Our complaints are limited to cautious parking sensors that beep too early when trying to fit into tight car parks.
How much does the Cupra Formentor cost to maintain?
The Cupra Formentor is covered by a five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Services are scheduled every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first. Buyers can choose to pay for services as they go, which costs $1950 over three years/45,000km, or $3593 for five years/75,000km.
On a prepaid service pack, these prices drop to $990 and $1990 respectively.
For context, five years/75,000km servicing costs are quoted as $3200 for a Volkswagen Tiguan 162TSI (on a prepaid plan, or $3986 if paid as you go), $1850 for a Skoda Karoq (on a prepaid plan, or $3400 if paid as you go), or $2505 for a Mazda CX-5 G35 GT SP (paid as you go).
A year of comprehensive insurance coverage with a leading provider is quoted at $1579, based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.
For reference, the same insurance quote calculator returns $1448 for a VW Tiguan 162TSI Elegance, $1418 for a Skoda Karoq 140TSI Sportline, and $1753 for a Mazda CX-5 G35 GT SP.
|At a glance
|2024 Cupra Formentor V
|Five years, unlimited km
|12 months or 15,000km
|$1950 (3 years)
$3593 (5 years)
$990 (3 years, prepaid)
$1990 (5 years, prepaid)
Is the Cupra Formentor fuel-efficient?
Cupra claims combined cycle fuel consumption of 7.0 litres per 100 kilometres – or 8.9L/100km in urban driving, and 5.9L/100km in extra-urban or highway conditions.
Over 500km of testing – skewed towards urban motoring, and spirited driving on winding forest roads that didn’t do the fuel use any favours – the trip computer returned 9.6L/100km. In the city we saw consumption of 9.5 to 11L/100km – which rises further in stop-start traffic – while on the highway at 100km/h we were able to match the extra-urban consumption claim.
As with most European cars in Australia, the Formentor V requires 95 or 98-octane premium unleaded petrol. Its 55-litre fuel tank translates to 785km of driving range based on the claimed fuel-consumption figure.
|Fuel cons. (claimed)
|Fuel cons. (on test)
|95-octane premium unleaded
|Fuel tank size
What is the Cupra Formentor like to drive?
Powering the Cupra Formentor V is a 140kW/320Nm version of the Volkswagen Group’s familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine, matched with a seven-speed (wet-type) dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
The outputs look modest in a 1.6-tonne SUV marketed as sporty, but performance on the move is brisk and zingy, aided by quick shifts at the dual-clutch transmission.
It is not always the most intuitive partner in city traffic. The auto engine stop-start system is not as quick to restart the engine at the traffic lights as it should be, and as with most gearboxes of this type, there is some hesitation from standstill as the transmission’s clutches engage and the car pulls away.
The net result is it can feel laggy when accelerating from rest, particularly when trying to dash into a gap in traffic. Buyers will likely adapt to it, and turning off the auto start-stop feature – as well as the auto brake hold function, which we disabled almost immediately – helps, but it’s not quite as smooth as a car with a torque-converter automatic transmission.
The programming of the gearbox is smart, and it’s quick to change down if the driver asks for rapid acceleration. There are shift paddles behind the steering wheel, but they are small and positioned too far inboard to be comfortable, even for drivers with long fingers.
The Formentor V’s suspension strikes a nice balance between comfort and control around town. It is on the firmer side of comfortable for the category, but with the adaptive dampers set to the softest of their 15 settings, it absorbs speed bumps and road imperfections well.
In the suspension’s plushest mode – and at high speeds on an undulating road – it can even border on being too soft, taking a touch too long to settle over repeated bumps. But the customisation on offer will see keen drivers enjoy playing around to find their favourite settings.
On a winding road, the Formentor handles more like a larger hatchback than a tall SUV, with little body roll and a sure-footed feel aided by the relatively low driving position.
As the least powerful model in the range, the Formentor V arguably doesn’t need all-wheel drive, but it adds to the handling confidence – and gives the traction-control system an easier time.
Enthusiast drivers will want for more power, and better tyres than the 245/45 R18 Continental ContiEcoContact 5 rubber fitted, which can run out of grip if you enter a corner too quickly. But there are more powerful models in the Formentor range that will better serve those customers.
The steering is light around town – possibly too light for some tastes – and quick, with just over two turns from lock to lock. It becomes heavier in Sport mode, though it doesn’t transmit much of what is happening on the road surface to the driver.
The brake pedal is confident, with good bite – though the pedal feel can start to soften on a spirited country drive – and tyre and wind noise are reasonably well insulated.
Visibility is compromised by the low driving position and sleek shape. The aggressive bonnet bulges mean it is hard to judge where the front of the car ends, the side mirrors are small, and even with the mirrors lowered, the sporty rear haunches make it harder to see how far the rear wheels are from the kerb when parking.
The LED headlights are bright under low beams, but the high beams mainly seem to just move the illumination higher, rather than increase the brightness.
|2024 Cupra Formentor V
|2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
|140kW @ 4200–6000rpm
|320Nm @ 1500–4100rpm
|7-speed dual-clutch automatic
|Power to weight ratio
|Spare tyre type
Should I buy a Cupra Formentor?
The Cupra Formentor V may be the entry point into the eye-catching Formentor range, but it doesn’t skimp on design, space, equipment or handling.
The 2.0-litre engine is perky, it’s enjoyable to drive on the open road, the cabin is roomy given the exterior dimensions, there is plenty of equipment as standard, and the safety systems are well calibrated.
There is room for improvement, namely in the infotainment system – which moves far too many controls into the touchscreen – and some hesitation from the transmission around town. It would also be nice to see some of the features in option packs – including heated seats or a premium stereo – included in the base price.
Overall, the Formentor is a great choice for buyers in the market for a compact SUV that stands out from its Japanese, South Korean and German peers.
How do I buy a Cupra Formentor – next steps?
Each member of the Cupra Formentor range presents its own case: the V is a solid all-rounder, the VZ delivers better performance, the VZe provides the flexibility of a plug-in hybrid and may be cheaper to run if it is recharged regularly, and the VZx is the fastest and best equipped of the bunch.
The Formentor V is a commendable choice if your budget only stretches this far, but with options its price gets close to the VZ, which is only front-wheel drive but is quicker and, on paper, fractionally more fuel-efficient.
At the time of writing in January 2024, the Cupra website (click here) lists nearly 600 Formentors available for purchase – including 33 V variants – with estimated delivery times ranging from three to eight weeks.
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