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Driven: 2021 Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid 1.4TSI VZ1 245 DSG. Image by Cupra.

Driven: 2021 Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid 1.4TSI VZ1 245 DSG
We test the stylish SUV with plug-in hybrid power.


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2021 Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid 1.4TSI VZ1 245 DSG

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5

Cupra is well on the way to acceptance, and itís cars such as this that will make the brandís name in the UK. The Formentor has already impressed as a sporty, stylish compact SUV, but itís plug-in hybrid versions such as this that will really make the Cupraís name among tax-conscious company car drivers. We tried it out in VZ1 trim to find out whether the plug-in powertrain makes sense.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid 1.4TSI VZ1 245 DSG
Pricing: £39,700 (as tested)
Engine: 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol plus 12.8kWh lithium-ion battery and electric motor
Transmission: six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 33g/km
Combined economy: 176.6-188.3mpg
Top speed: 130mph
0-62mph: 7.0 seconds
Power: 245hp
Torque: 330Nm
Boot space: 345-1,191 litres

What's this?

It is not easy to tell the Formentor hybrid from its more conventionally powered siblings, but there's nothing wrong with that. From any angle, the Formentor is a striking piece of design, with lots of angles and creases that manage to look modern and interesting without being fussy. The design manages to hide the Formentor's size, too. Essentially a lifted Seat Leon under the skin, the Formentor is very much a family car, but the squat, sporty look makes it appear a little smaller.

All of which means the interior is a pleasant surprise - at least in terms of space. There are family hatchback-rivalling levels of cabin space, so seating four adults is no hardship, with ample legroom and adequate headroom, despite the slightly low roofline. Darkness is a bit of an issue, though, and some customers might want to solve that with the panoramic glass roof.

Although passenger space is more than sufficient, luggage space is at more of a premium. A basic, petrol-powered Formentor has a unremarkable but perfectly adequate 450-litre boot, but the plug-in hybrid car's battery means it only offers 345 litres of carrying capacity with the rear seats upright. That's less than you get in a Seat Ibiza, and it's something of a disappointment.

Cabin quality, on the other hand, is excellent. As a part of the Volkswagen Group (and one that borrows heavily from Seat, the company that spawned it), Cupra's interiors are generally first-rate. Yes, some of the plastics feel a bit cheap compared with an Audi Q3, but that's to be expected. After all, VW couldn't have the supposedly inferior brand showing up its big brother.

Even so, the way in which all those materials have been bolted together is excellent. Everything feels well engineered and robust, with no sense that buttons are about to break or anything will fall off. Although that might be partly down to the lack of conventional buttons. Although the steering wheel is festooned with switches, the dashboard is largely button-free, with touch-sensitive controls for the heating and ventilation system. They look good in pictures, but the plastic surface doesn't feel great and it quickly gets grubby. Worse still, the functionality is clunky. Proper buttons would have been a better bet.

Then thereís the touchscreen, and thatís where it all falls apart. Like the rest of the Formentor, the screen looks great, with plenty of resolution and some snazzy graphics, but the functionality is less impressive. Behind the jazzy fonts and funky menus, the whole set-up is a bit of a mess, really, with complicated menis and awkward controls for the heating and on-board safety systems. Itís a worryingly familiar story for Volkswagen Group vehicles, with the Golf, Leon and Octavia all suffering similar issues. At least on our nine-day test, the system didnít crash once, which is more than can be said for some of the Cupraís cousins.

Oh, and if you do want to spot a hybrid Formentor, the main giveaway is the charging port on the front wing. One for the nerds, right there.

How does it drive?

The big difference between the Formentor e-Hybrid and other versions of the Spanish SUV is, of course, the plug-in hybrid powertrain. Lifted from the Volkswagen Golf GTE and Skoda Octavia vRS iV, itís a 245hp system that combines a 1.4-litre petrol engine with an electric motor and a 12.8kWh lithium-ion battery. As with its hot hatch cousins, the Cupraís power is sent through a six-speed automatic gearbox to the front wheels alone. No all-wheel-drive option to be seen here.

On paper, that offers a 0-62mph time of seven seconds flat, and a top speed of 130mph. For a powertrain supposedly rolling in hot hatch pedigree, that isn't quite as fast as we were hoping. In fact, it isn't fast at all; 'brisk' is perhaps a better word to describe the way the e-Hybrid feels.

There's no great shame in that, particularly when a car can claim to cover more than 175 miles on a single gallon of petrol Ė particularly at a time of insane fuel price rises. Of course, achieving such a feat in the Formentor will require a very particular lifestyle that involves lots of very short journeys. But if you want a family SUV for the school run and commuting, the Formentor should do the job nicely. And cheaply.

That battery gives the car a zero-emission range of up to 34 miles, and that should cover trips to the supermarket and the school run for a day or two. If you can charge on your drive, you need barely use a drop of petrol, but on the odd occasion you need to go long distances, you still have the flexibility offered by internal combustion. That's the theory, anyway.

In the real world, the range is more like 20-something miles on a charge, and you find the petrol engine cutting in more regularly than you might have hoped. That's no great issue from a refinement or practicality point of view Ė it is still fairly quiet and we're guessing your school run is probably still under 20 miles Ė but it does dent your chances of matching the claimed economy figure.

Not that we suspect most customers will care too much about that. No, the e-Hybrid is really aimed at company car drivers who want the sporty, 300-and-whatever-horsepower, all-wheel-drive petrol model but canít justify the tax bill. With CO2 emissions of just 33g/km itíll keep drivers in the 12% company car tax bracket, which shouldnít damage the family finances too dramatically.

And itíll be good to drive, too. Weíve already explored the capabilities of the Formentorís chassis, and though the e-Hybrid does nothing to improve that state of affairs, it doesnít do it much harm either. Despite the height, you sit low down in the car and the body doesnít roll very much in corners, giving it a sense of stability, while rapid steering responses make it feel eager and agile. On a good road, itís surprisingly enjoyable.

Itís less pleasant around town, where the weight of the batteries and slightly firm suspension combine to make it less cushioned than you might hope. It clatters over potholes a little and bumps arenít soaked up especially well, but it isnít terrible by any stretch of the imagination. It just feels a little less supple than some of its rivals, including the similarly enjoyable Mazda CX-30.


This hybrid system isnít perfect, and private Formentor buyers will need a very specific set of circumstances to make the e-Hybrid work for them, but company car drivers will find this car ideal. Low tax rates and the potential for low fuel bills play into its hands, as does the performance afforded by the 245hp output. Mix that with the Formentorís well-documented talents and this becomes a really convincing choice for those seeking company-funded wheels.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

5 5 5 5 5 Safety

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

3.5 3.5 3.5 4.5 3.5 Powertrain

James Fossdyke - 7 Apr 2022

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2021 Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid. Image by Cupra.2021 Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid. Image by Cupra.2021 Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid. Image by Cupra.2021 Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid. Image by Cupra.


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