This is Seat getting serious. The Spanish car maker has always been the sporty sibling in the Volkswagen family and its new Cupra brand has taken it to another level.
Formentor, named after a bay on the Spanish island of Majorca, is Cupra’s first exclusive model and is meant to make a big statement.
If this was a Seat it would be the Ateca SUV, yet it looks nothing like a Seat, and nothing like a bulky SUV, not that the neat Ateca falls into that class. The designers have been given the freedom to express and have come up with a futuristic coupe crossover that looks as if it has landed from another planet. All we need if for Martians to jump out to complete the fantasy.
It has that ‘ready to pounce’ look with a long dipping bonnet, sloping roof and body panels with so many slashes and creases it looks as if it has been in a scrap with a wild animal. Exaggeration aside it looks great and has got everyone talking. I lost count of the number who asked what it was and gave the thumbs up.
So this is a crossover or SUV, whatever’s your naming preference, that sits lower than the majority, the only real clue to its status is the wide gap between tyres and wheel arches, you don’t even sit particularly high which makes it even more appealing.
Formentor is a good drive too and has the engines to back up its aggressive looks yet I am going to make a bold statement: Look no further than the entry level 1.5 litre petrol!
I’ve been a fan of this VW family engine since it was launched a few years ago because it is an engine that keeps on giving, punchy, refined and good for 40 miles to the gallon. Two of its four cylinders shut down when coasting to reduce engine emissions and give a boost to economy. That’s clever stuff.
Those seeking something more racey can look to the 1.4 litre turbo hybrid or the outrageous 304hp 2-litre turbo that will reach sixty in under five seconds but you will be looking to spend 40 grand plus for the pleasure.
Which bring us to another good reason to stick with the entry 1.5 called V1. This is the best equipped starter model I have come across with keyless entry, navigation, LED headlights, and adaptive cruise control highlights of a generous spec sheet.
As expected inside is digital dreamland with a treat for the driver who can choose from six excellent binnacle displays, easily selected from switches on the steering wheel. The display side bars are information overload but are easy to find and easy to close.
Then we have the 12in ‘floating’ central touchscreen. I am not so sure it needs to be this big and is a bit like putting a 56in flat screen tele in a box room. What’s worse is I found the system over complicated and most of the time used voice control, and a very nice lady she is too ending commands with ‘OK’ or ‘sure’.
She was a bit puzzled when I asked for more fan speed because she calls it the blower but we were all friends again after sorting that out.
There are touch sensitive switches for heating temperature but they have no feel or sound so you are never sure if anything has happened which means more time looking at the switch and not the road.
Not enough though to put me off Formentor which is a great driver’s car with pedals perfectly positioned and plenty of adjustment to get the perfect seating position. Handling is solid even at V1 level but there is plenty more to come moving up the grades.
It is not all about performance either, the quality of trim is good with some neat touches while the seats are comfortable and supportive. Rear legroom is also generous although if feels claustrophobic sitting fairly low behind the big front seats.
So a good first effort for the Cupra brand, certainly offering something a bit different from the norm with its coupe looks and good value for money to boot.
Formentor V1 6sp manual
1.5 TSI petrol; 148bhp
0-62mph 8.9secs; 127mph
143g/km. 1st VED £215
Insurance group 19
Boot 450 – 1475 litres