Cupra Formentor V1 Review: How’s The Entry Version?

The engine sounds promising on idle, with a gruff burble that quickly turns into a thrash under revs. It’s not the soundtrack to the drive of your life – while the top-spec Formentor aims to rival hot hatches like the Golf R, this V1 model barely qualifies as tepid. We did get 40mpg or so out of it, which is nice, but such sensible thinking is unbefitting of the copper badge. It definitely feels like a car that’s had performance taken out, rather than something with potential that deserves more thrown at it.

Two things we didn’t like – the steering is curiously wobbly around the straight ahead, but firms up as you turn, making the initially movement feel a bit uncertain. Second is the fact that the curve of the bonnet peaks close to the driver, which makes the front end hard to place. No front parking sensors on this entry model…

Where are all the buttons?

It’s a very good question – of all the many complaints we might have about day-to-day motoring life, the constant grind of being forced to press things has never been top of the list. Or even the top 10.

We don’t want to be Luddites about the whole thing – if changing the way things are done means that things get done better then marvellous, bring on the tech. Sadly, Volkswagen’s glorious vision of a buttonless future is not the rollicking revolution they perhaps thought during the many planning meetings at Wolfsburg HQ.

So too in the Formentor – the ‘floating’ 12in touchscreen lags, was under-sensitive to our grizzled digits and basic functions lay hidden behind layers of sub-menus.

There’s voice control, if you want to avoid having to touch anything (very sensible these days). Of course, to avoid pressing anything you have to say “hola hola” to activate the system. There's also a steering wheel button that tells the car you’ve got something important to say.

Do I want the poverty spec model?

Actually, you’re not missing out too much in this car, it’s still pretty well specced – there’s wireless Apple CarPlay/Android Auto and phone charging, you get fancy 18in alloys, auto wipers, rear parking sensors, three-zone climate control, keyless go, adaptive cruise and a raft of safety features. No one goes home empty handed here, it’ll just take you longer to get there.

It could be because the touchscreen has taken all the buttons, but the Formentor is really channelling that Marie Kondo minimalism. The stubby gear tab is familiar from other VW Group products and immediately moves the cabin up a notch, but there’s not much else to play with in here. One good thing about the touchscreen’s newfound importance is the disappearance of the rows of blanked off buttons that remind you you’re in an entry level car.

Spend some time with a Formentor and it becomes apparent that it’s essentially aimed at people who aren’t ready to admit they want an SUV. But where do you go when your life wants more from you than an Ibiza hatch? Seat has tried to create something for those ageing scamps who are looking to trade in their sangria for something a little richer and fuller bodied.

Looking at the monthly contract cost, this 1.5-litre V1 with DSG will you set you back around £400, upgrading to a 2.0-litre engine means £420, the plug-in version closer to £490 and the raging 306bhp car takes you over £500 a month. Just bear in mind that even the top-spec Seat Ateca (the Formentor’s closest genetic match) just scrapes over £400 a month on a monthly contract.

There are better, more sensible SUVs out there – and you don’t have to look further than your Seat or Skoda dealership – but none that offer the same grown up, dark-chocolate-on-a-Friday-evening, cheeky red sort of fun that’ll allow you to channel your vaguely misspent youth in the safest possible way. Go crazy, get all the power you can afford.

Score: 6/10

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