New kid on the medium SUV block, Cupra, has a rival to the Ford Escape and Mitsubishi Outlander PHEVs that really sparks the emotions.
- Funky styling outside and in
- Fun to drive on the right roads
- Extremely economical – if you commit
- Firm ride makes life difficult at times
- Small boot compared to others in its class
- Sound system lacks polish
How much does the Cupra Formentor VZe cost in Australia?
Cupra is one of a handful of international brands introduced to Australia in 2022. Unlike BYD, another 2022 newcomer, Cupra is not riding the EV revolution wave. Instead, it’s a brand that’s determined to inject more spark in your daily drive.
Cupra is a part of the Volkswagen group of brands, and actually started life as a performance sub-brand for the Seat brand which we don’t get. Cupra’s launch range is detailed here. For now, it’s sufficient to know that the Formentor is the largest of the Spanish carmarker’s offerings, sitting above the smaller Ateca SUV and the Leon hot hatchback.
There are four Formentor variants on offer (V, VZ, VZx and VZe) priced from $54,990 up to $66,490 drive-away.
On first glance, the 2022 Cupra Formentor VZe appears to be the performance baby of the range even though it’s the most expensive. This mid-size SUV has a smaller petrol engine than other Formentor variants: 110kW and 250Nm is nobody’s idea of a powerhouse, even though it is an impressive output from a small 1.4-litre turbocharged engine.
The Formentor VZe pairs this with an 85kW electric motor and a sizeable 13kWh battery to raise total outputs to a far more respectable 180kW and 400Nm.
For those hellbent on getting from A to B fast, the Formentor VZx is the weapon of choice. It has a 228kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine (shared with the Audi S3) that hustles the car from 0–100km/h in a properly impressive 4.9 seconds.
The Formentor VZe we’re driving doesn’t get anywhere near that time. The best you can hope for, says Cupra, is seven seconds flat. The VZe’s appeal is much more to do with hybrid fuel efficiency, and the fact that it’s a plug-in, which means it’s possible to drive all week without using a single drop of petrol.
How much space does the Cupra Formentor VZe have inside?
The Cupra Formentor has what I’d describe as a funky, edgy interior theme, which is fitting because it’s positioned as a more sporty and more spirited alternative in the VW Group.
Because it is part of the VW Group, anyone familiar with the Golf or Tiguan will spot commonalities (such as a the gear selector), but there’s enough of a difference overall for the Formentor to have its own vibe, and I like it.
Copper trim embellishments on the seats, the dashboard and vents, the steering wheel and the door skins add to the Cupra vibe. The sports bucket seats are heavily bolstered to keep you in place through sharp corners, and because they’re a combination of leather (bolsters) and fabric (centres) they aren’t as slippery as all-leather seats.
It’s unusual to have fabric seats for starters, and no electrical adjustment, on a car asking close to $70,000 on-road. If those things are important to you, then Cupra offers an option pack with these two features and seat heating.
Passengers are well catered for space-wise in the back seats, with ample headroom and kneeroom.
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The Formentor’s 345L boot is well short of other mid-size SUVs, and it has a high floor even though there’s no spare tyre underneath. The back seats can be folded in a 60/40 split to liberate more carrying capacity.
As is typical of the medium SUV set, there are ISOFIX points in both outboard seats and top tether points in all three.
|2022 Cupra Formentor VZe PHEV
|345L seats up
1475L seats folded
Does the Cupra Formentor VZe have Apple CarPlay?
Yes, the Cupra Formentor offers wired and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. The Android Auto connectivity is glitchy and unreliable, sometimes freezing and sometimes booting my Pixel phone off the system. At times it would not connect on start-up, and ignored manual attempts to pair. I’ve had problems like these with a few different brands, but VW Group’s products seem to have more bugs than most.
The Formentor has a 10.25-inch digital screen in the driver’s instrument binnacle, and a 12.0-inch infotainment touchscreen in the centre of the dashboard. This screen has a predictive nature that ‘pops’ virtual buttons on screen when it senses your finger coming near.
The 12.0-inch screen’s digital skin is unique to Cupra. Using the screen is intuitive but not always easy thanks to the Formentor’s firm, sporty ride.
The screen incorporates satellite navigation controls as well as climate controls, media controls, smartphone mirroring and car settings. It also has a prominent ‘Battery Manager’ section via which the driver can choose from hybrid mode or e-mode for pure-electric driving.
There is a wireless charging pad up front and two USB-C ports, plus another two in the back seat.
The Formentor’s sound system is nothing to write home about in terms of sound quality. If you binge podcasts maybe you won’t care, but if music drives you, then the lack of clarity and crispness is noticeable.
The 10.25-inch driver’s instrument cluster has a number of skins that vary the mood between environmentally conscious or Sunday strop.
The Formentor VZe also has voice controls for basic functions, and you don’t need to know Spanish to use it.
One area in which the Formentor beats its Volkswagen cousins is in the steering wheel controls. Whereas some VW Group vehicles have newer but hard to use capacitive pads that respond to finger brushes, the Formentor has old-school buttons that just work.
Is the Cupra Formentor VZe a safe car?
The Cupra Formentor was crash-tested in 2021 by Euro NCAP and all variants were awarded a five-star safety rating. That rating carries across, with ANCAP also awarding a five-star safety score.
The Cupra Formentor range received a score of 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 80 per cent for safety assist systems, but a lower 68 per cent rating for vulnerable road user (pedestrian and cyclist) protection.
What safety technology does the Cupra Formentor VZe have?
The suite of advanced safety technology includes autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, traffic-jam assist, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-zone warning, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, door exit warning, a rear camera, and front and rear parking sensors.
How much does the Cupra Formentor VZe cost to maintain?
Cupra offers a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty with 12-month/15,000km service intervals.
Vehicles ordered before December 31, 2022 will also get their first three services free. Customers can pay $1200 to take that coverage out to five years.
We received an online comprehensive insurance quote of $1493 per year for the $67,690 Formentor VZe, which compares favourably to the $54,440 Ford Escape PHEV’s $1419 quote, but is more than the $64,990 Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed PHEV’s $1214.
These quotes are 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.
|At a glance
|2022 Cupra Formentor VZe PHEV
|Five years, unlimited km
|12 months or 15,000km
|Free (3 years)
$1200 (5 years)
Is the Cupra Formentor VZe fuel-efficient?
Getting a read on fuel economy in a plug-in hybrid is not straightforward, because it all comes down to whether you plug it in at every opportunity or not.
For example, I covered three full days of commuting and family errands without consuming any petrol by plugging it in overnight at home and during the day at the office. This helped me make the most of the Formentor VZe’s 12.8kWh battery’s range of 50km.
But for another three days I only plugged it in overnight. So the 200km covered on those days consumed 6.6L on top of two battery charges. Reverse calculating to assume 90km of pure electric, that suggests a 6.0L/100km fuel consumption average, which is respectable, albeit not quite a match for the 5s we’ve achieved in a couple of RAV4 hybrids.
|Fuel cons. (claimed)
|Fuel cons. (on test)
|98-octane premium unleaded
|Fuel tank size
What is the Cupra Formentor VZe like to drive?
The Cupra Formentor VZe is a friendly everyday driver with a sporty edge. It is happy to lope along in commuter traffic and has the chassis dynamism to dance when the opportunity arises.
On paper, the engine’s 180kW/400Nm outputs point to a six-second 0–100km/h time. But Cupra’s claim of seven seconds feels on the money even though the hybrid’s electrical assistance gives this car an initial punch that feels faster.
Torque steer – tugging at the wheel – is tangible during faster acceleration, particularly from low speeds. But there’s also a noticeable hesitation if you do so while already moving as the six-speed dual-clutch transmission hurriedly shuffles through the gears to find the right one. It’s a lot like the car is sucking in a breath before shouting.
The Formentor VZe’s hybrid mode is how we’d imagine most owners will drive, and the car does a good job pairing petrol power and electrical power to respond to driver inputs. The Formentor is commendably quiet in EV mode, so it’s easy to hear the petrol engine when it’s called on to assist. It’s not noisy or uncouth, just noticeable after the EV serenity of before.
I found the Formentor’s suspension to be too firmly tuned for real-world driving, but perhaps that’s in tune with its sporting pretensions. Still, I can’t help thinking that while this type of ride quality is fine of the VZx (and its true hot-hatch capabilities), the hybrid deserves a more compliant tune.
|2022 Cupra Formentor VZe PHEV
|1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol hybrid
|110kW @ 5000rpm petrol
|Six-speed dual-clutch automatic
|Power to weight ratio
|Spare tyre type
|Tyre repair kit
Should I buy a Cupra Formentor VZe?
The Cupra Formentor VZe is a capable mid-size SUV with a sporty edge. It’s not the biggest inside, nor is it the most comfortable commuter, but if you enjoy country drives or Sunday drives – or just driving in general – then the Formentor VZe offers enjoyment beyond the mainstream.
The Formentor’s unique styling outside and in makes it stand out from the crowd, and it has the potential to make every drive special. Just don’t buy it for the fuel savings if you’re not going to plug it in as often as possible.