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Cupra Trooper: Cupra Formentor VZ Review

“What kind of car is that?” That would always be the question passers-by would ask once they clapped eyes on the Cupra Formentor VZ. When I told them what it was, the response was always the same, “what is a Cupra?” It was at this point I delved into the fact the Cupra’s parent company SEAT hails from Spain and has been part of the New Zealand new car marketplace since late 2017. The response to this mostly went like this. The eyebrows would raise, the eyes grew wider, and they would say, “never knew that, but it looks awesome.”

While the secret of Cupra, and SEAT for that matter, being sold New Zealand is well and truly out, you could say the Spanish brand had initially been somewhat under the radar in the eyes of buyers. Now things are different, and a lot of it is down to its Cupra performance arm. While Cupra have given the go-faster goodies to the SEAT Ateca and Leon, the Cupra name is now its own thing and its models like this Formentor VZ which are spearheading the brand’s recent success. Plus, as those onlookers noted, it does look awesome.

A mix of sharp angles, and flowing lines from front to rear give a look which is totally unique. I especially love that full-width LED light bar at the rear and those 19-inch alloys with copper accents. Also, that copper badge with carbon-esque weave looks the business too. With twin blasting pipes, rear diffuser, black trim, a chiselled front spoiler and angry looking LED headlights, the Formentor makes no bones about its sporting intentions. While marketed as an SUV/Crossover, the Formentor seems to be more high riding hot hatch. Either way, it does look really good.

The Cupra Formentor is split into two models. The V 4Drive kicks things off at $54,900 plus ORC. This entry point into Formentor-ship gets a 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine with 140kW and 320Nm of torque. Fork out an extra $14k and you get my test car, the flagship VZ at $68,900 plus ORC. Thanks to a bigger turbo and other performance additives, power is rated at 228kW and 400Nm of torque.

Both models come standard with a seven-speed dual clutch automatic transmission and drive is sent to all four wheels. Put all this together and you get a premium SUV come Crossover come hatch which will reach 100km/h in a claimed 4.9 seconds. This is nothing to be sniffed at, especially when you factor in it costs less than $70k. Cupra also claim combined fuel consumption figures of 7.7L/100km and carbon emissions of 177g/km. If you want more economy with your Formentor, then you will be happy to know there is a plug-in version coming mid next year.

While there are tell-tale signs Cupra have raided the Volkswagen group parts bin for some of the switchgear, it still feels somewhat bespoke. The leather seats are very supportive and I love the lashings of copper surrounding the air vents and steering wheel. Said wheel is also a marvel to behold. The engine start button is also fixed there and not on the centre conscole, which is nice.

You get plenty of fruit with the Formentor VZ. Stuff like a 360-degree rear camera, rear parking sensors, blind spot monitoring, adaptive cruise, lane assist, Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, ambient lighting, 10 airbags and hands-free tailgate. My test car came with the optional $2500 Agile pack with niceties like heated leather seats and steering wheel, wireless charging and park assist with front parking sensors. There was also a panoramic sunroof too which is a $2500 cost option.

You get a very clear 12-inch infotainment system. You can cycle through plenty of menus but newcomers to the brand may find it some what difficult to get your head around. There are plenty of touch buttons similar to what you would find in the new Golf. They require a firm push from your index finger which can be annoying at times if you need to access something in a hurry. The Formentor’s 10.2-inch instrument cluster is very good and you can select from a plethora of different layout styles.

Boot space is a snip over 400L but I do wish there was more width to it. This grows to 1475L with the rear seats folded flat. Despite the Formentor’s low slung appearance, entry and exit for rear passengers isn’t too strenuous and there is good head and legroom in the rear.

There are multiple drive modes which can be altered by the button opposite to the engine start button on the steering wheel. Starting off in Comfort mode and the Cupra Formentor is just that, comfortable. There is a more than adequate delivery of power from 1500rpm and despite those sporty underpinnings and 19-inch sports alloys, the level of ride comfort is more than commendable. You do still notice the odd change in road surface, but there is just enough softness to make it a very pleasant way to getting around an urban setting.

Apply a bit of your right shoe when leaving suburbia and the Formentor can shift really well. That seven speed DSG box provides crisp changes on the way up and down while the steering quite light, still manages to be direct. Change up to Sport you can start to have some fun, but if you want to go whole hog and devour some bendy bitumen, then you need Cupra mode for that.

Cupra mode firms everything up and you even get some artificial V8 bellowing through the stereo speakers. While some might see this as technology for technology’s sake, I couldn’t help but have a wee giggle, especially as it even crackles and booms like a far-off battlefield when you lift off. Give it stick and you can cover serious ground in a brief amount of time. From 2000pm to 4000 rpm, the Formentor darts forward with that turbo four pot providing some solid pulling power. Lets not beat around the bush, it is a very brisk machine.

The Formentor is a delight when you decide some driving exuberance is required. There is plenty of grip from the AWD system and understeer is kept to a minimum. At speed it feels less like a crossover and more like a hot hatch. You don’t corner flat but things still feel quite planted and you have that confidence to push just that bit harder. The Formentor is a very well sorted handling package.

You also have the option of tailoring the suspension, dampers, steering and engine settings with Individual mode. If you wanted the engine and transmission in Cupra but the suspension in Comfort, then you can. There is also Off-Road mode. While I didn’t get a chance to leave the asphalt in the Formentor, I don’t think it will be high on the list of buyer’s priorities.

There is so much to like about the new Cupra Formentor VZ. If you overlook some ergonomic issues surrounding those touch buttons and an average carrying capacity, what you are left with is a hot crossover with plenty going for it. It looks awesome, is quick enough for most of us and is very well priced. If this is the standard for how Cupra products will be over the coming years, then bring it on.

RATING: 8.5/10

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