2023 Cupra Formentor VZx review (video)

Brett Davis

If you’re after a mid-size SUV with attitude, this is one of the angriest we’ve driven in a long while. Introducing the Cupra Formentor VZx. It is one of two high-performance little critters from the recently-introduced Cupra brand in Australia.

The Formentor is based on the same MQB platform that underpins the Cupra Ateca, the Volkswagen Tiguan, and Volkswagen Golf, but this sits somewhere near the sporty end in terms of size and profile. More specifically, it is based on the newer MQB Evo iteration of the platform like the Mk8 Golf, whereas the Tiguan (A2) and Ateca (A1) use older versions.

What that simply means is the Formentor is equipped with VW’s latest in terms of technology and safety. Even more confusingly, the Formentor is a bit more expensive than the Ateca VZx, even though this sits in the non-premium mid-size SUV class whereas the Ateca is classed as a premium mid-sizer (according to VFACTS), yet this is a touch more affordable than the Volkswagen Golf R wagon.

Speaking of prices, the VZx variant starts from $68,990, against $66,750 of the Ateca VZx. There’s also the VW Tiguan R to consider, which retails from $70,490 (all excluding on-roads). As you can see there are a lot of options under the VW umbrella and all are powered by essentially the exact-same 2.0-litre turbo engine.

2023 Cupra Formentor VZx – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Engine: 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder
Output: 228kW@6500rpm / 400Nm@2000-5450rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 19×8.0, 245/40
ANCAP: Five stars
Tare weight: 1647kg
Power-to-weight: 7.22:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 7.7L/100km
Economy during test: 9.3L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 55L/98 RON[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Power efficiency: 29.61kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.23 seconds*
0-100km/h: 4.72 seconds*
0-200km/h: 18.72 seconds*
60-110km/h: 3.27 seconds*
1/4 mile: 13.04 seconds at 174.1km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.037g*
100-0km/h braking: 2.93 seconds at 36.70 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.216g*
Decibel at idle (/Cupra mode): 47/51*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 86*
Priced from: $68,990[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2023 Cupra Formentor VZx – THE PACKAGE

Compared with those siblings and cousins we think the Formentor looks the best out of them all, and it has the best name – a character from that 1990s Aussie TV show, Gladiators? It looks racy and presents a lot of energy just standing still, with bulging wheel arches, multi-coloured details, razor-sharp angles and trimmings, quad-outlet exhausts, and some level of off-road inspiration.

Although it is an SUV, ground clearance is rated at 161mm, which is about the same as the ground clearance of a vacuum cleaner. But 161mm is enough to have some fun on a dirt road or a vacant grass field. And besides, most competitors aren’t much better in this department anyway – do customers actually go off road in these things?

You’ve gotta love these 19-inch five-spoke alloy wheels, with trademark copper/bronze highlights as per the Cupra theme. They’re wrapped in 245/40 tyres, which are wider than the 235s on the Golf R, and the same as those on the Ateca VZx. Peek through the chunky spokes and you’ll see the Brembo front brakes and perforated front discs.

Inside, we’re not a big fan of the blue leather package presented here. We do like the overall design though and appreciate its clean and edgy philosophy, making it look modern and fast. There’s a 12-inch touch-screen up on the dash, which, unfortunately suffered a few glitches during our test, with separate climate controls on a very thin panel below with flush buttons.

The touch-screen menu sequences are pretty easy to grasp and soon become second-nature with time, however, we did struggle to get used to the climate control panel. Yes, it is very thin and elegant, but it offers limited controls and we found it difficult to line up our finger properly on the desired ‘button’ during driving. Again though it does look very clean and uncluttered when the car is switched off.

This is a pretty tight and intimate cabin. It actually feels more like a sports car in here than a typical SUV. That can obviously be taken as a good thing or a bad thing. We like it. The driving position can be very low and sunken in if you prefer, or you can raise the seat up for a more typical SUV view. Practicality and storage is good enough for daily use, with spots to put your phone and other bits and pieces.

Rear seat space is a bit more confined than some rivals, especially as the roof slopes down in a coupe-like fashion. For what is intended, though, and for that pouncing exterior design, we think it is a minor sacrifice. Climate vents and temperature control, along with USB-C ports are a great touch.

Boot space is about average or slightly below, considering this competes with popular contenders such as the Kia Sportage, according to VFACTS figures. At 420L, it does fall behind the Ateca’s 485L capacity, and well behind the Tiguan R’s 615L rating. It is enough space to support daily duties, nonetheless. Some under-floor pockets are also available.

2023 Cupra Formentor VZx – THE DRIVE

The VZx is powered by a 228kW/400Nm version of the famous EA888 2.0-litre turbo engine from the Ateca VZx, Golf GTI and Golf R, and Audi S3. The Formentor is a smidge lighter in weight compared with the Ateca VZx, by just 8kg, and it is about 64kg heavier than the Golf R. Surprisingly, this recorded the quickest 0-100km/h result of them all during our Vbox tests.

We clocked a best time of 4.72 seconds while using the launch control system, and 5.89 seconds just nailing the throttle pedal off the line. You might think that is a big difference, but keep in mind this uses a dual-clutch gearbox which is basically an automated manual. As such, there is a moment where the clutch system engages with the drive unit, and that just takes time if you want it to be smooth.

Around town the seven-speed dual-clutch unit is pretty smooth and sets off from a dead stop quite well for this type of transmission. The part that we don’t enjoy is that moment of confusion if you’re in very slow traffic. It’s like the gearbox doesn’t know what to do; either remain in the same gear or shift down. It always seems to shift up into the higher gears, too, sometimes too early, in an effort to chase efficiency.

Our test over a distance of about 530km returned an average fuel consumption of 9.3L/100km. That’s not ideal for a 2.0L engine and a fair chunk more than the official claim of 7.7L/100km. However, we did spend a lot of our ‘testing’ time just having fun and darting about. You could expect to score a lower rate than ours after some regular commuting is thrown into the mix.

Fortunately, Cupra does offer a number of versatile driving modes which alter the characteristics of such interactions. The Sport mode seems to be a good balance for rushed or busy driving styles, and then there’s an S mode for the transmission itself. Leaving it in D and using Sport mode was our pick during zippy city/urban driving.

It might say 1647kg on the tin but it doesn’t feel like it. Through your hands it feels more like 1500kg or something, because this is one SUV you can really grab by the scruff of the neck and toss around. Lift-off oversteer is ever-present if you adopt that driving style. Approach a corner with a bit of speed, lift off the gas at the last minute and the rear will start to step around.

It’s all very controllable though, partly thanks to the all-wheel drive system. Nail the throttle again and the whole outfit tucks back in line and away you go. This, as you can probably imagine, is a lot of fun on a spirited road. Or better yet, head to a race track to really explore its limits.

To be honest we were not expecting this to feel any different to the Ateca VZx, or the Golf R wagon that we recently tested. But it really does. This offers a lively and reactive driving experience while the Ateca is more conservative. The Golf R is a great balance between the two, with a nice layer of extra refinement and sophistication added in, in our opinion. If fun is your main game, we’d check out this one first and last before signing up for any of the others.

2023 Cupra Formentor VZx – THE VIDEO

2023 Cupra Formentor VZx – THE VERDICT

Not another so-called performance SUV? That’s what we initially thought upon collecting this vehicle. But how wrong we were. It feels more like a sports car, both to look at and sit in. And then the driving character is almost worlds away from most conventional SUVs in this space. This actually wants to go sideways and fart from its exhaust.

We like it. We automatically respect any new vehicle for being a bit different, especially in the name of driving enjoyment and even more so when it competes in an otherwise boring and conservative segment. This is cool, fun and a bit naughty.

It might be named after a peaceful and secluded beachy peninsular in Majorca – Cap de Formentor – but unless that area is known for wild parties and crazy surf, we don’t see the resemblance. This is flamboyant, a bit crazy, and a lot of fun. Being a SUV means it is automatically practical and useful for daily use as well, so you should be able to convince your other half.

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Character-filled handling and engaging steering
– Super-hatch performance from the 228kW turbo engine
– Relatively clean and practical interior
– 5-year free servicing packages available
– Unique, sinister design theme
[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– Slow-speed dual-clutch transmission hesitations
– Some touch-screen glitches on test
– Blue leather interior is a bit 1980s obscure Italian supercar[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

Next Post

Premcar vehicle production hits 5000 units in Australia

Premcar is popping the champagne today after the 5000th vehicle rolled off its production line, four years after the company launched its local revision program for the Nissan Navara. After launching the Navara N-Trek Warrior way back in 2019, Premcar scored yet another deal with Nissan to create the almighty […]

Subscribe Us Now