Cupra is slowly carving a niche in the local market as a brand that does things a little differently.
Here are five things you should know about its sporty Formentor SUV.
It’s genuinely different
Personality is an underrated quality in the car industry these days, where models and even brands tend to blend in with the crowd.
The Formentor is a welcome exception. It’s technically an SUV, but it’s low-slung, with a sloping, coupe-like roofline and massive black and copper wheels that fill up their arches. The range-topping VZx looks like a hot hatch at the rear, with a race-car style diffuser and quad exhaust pipes. Sharply creased panels create a muscular look, while clever use of LED lighting front and rear give it a modern, menacing aura at night.
As an added piece of theatre, the Cupra logo lights up the bitumen next to the car when you open the doors. And if you’re willing to spend another $2400, two tones of matt paint – blue and grey – are available.
Our test vehicle had a metallic grey that cost an extra $490.
The cabin is pretty posh
If you’re looking to impress your friends, the Cupra’s cabin does the job nicely. The “petrol blue” leather trim covering the one-piece sports bucket seats doesn’t sound too enticing but it works, as does the copper stitching and trim throughout.
The flat-bottomed, perforated leather steering wheel feels great in the hands and looks sporty, with shift paddles, a starter button and a “Cupra” selector that dials up the various drive modes.
The driver can toggle through six different screen designs for the digital instrument panel and the centre screen is large, with crisp graphics and i-phone like swipe functions for the menus.
At night you can choose from an array of ambient lighting options that bathe the interior in a selection of colours ranging from soothing teal to sporty red.
It’s fun to drive
The Formentor is more hot hatch than SUV. Its 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder pumps out 228kW and 440Nm, while the seven-speed dual-clutch auto delivers lightning quick gear changes, especially in “sport” or “Cupra” mode. It all adds up to a brisk 0-100km/h claim of just 4.9 seconds.
But the raw numbers don’t do justice to the overall performance package. Sharp steering, impressive grip and superb balance and control through corners add up to an intoxicating driving experience.
Our test car was fitted with an optional Akrapovic exhaust, which amps up the drama with a cacophony of pops, bangs and burbles when changing gears or lifting off the accelerator.
Is it worth $6300? Probably not, but it’s a blast to wind down the windows and soak up the sounds on a twisting mountain back road.
It’s not cheap
As anyone with a Louis Vuitton bag or Armani suit will tell you, standing out from the crowd doesn’t come cheap.
The VZx costs $70,790 drive-away before you start to accessorise. A panoramic sunroof is $2150 and a Brembo performance brake package is $4250. It has all the bells and whistles you’d expect at this price, though.
There’s wireless phone charging, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, digital radio, a nine-speaker Beats audio system, heated, programmable front seats and a heated steering wheel.
The safety tech is comprehensive and clever
The Cupra performed strongly in crash tests, scoring 93 per cent for adult occupant protection.
Better still, it has a bunch of clever crash avoidance tech that is slicker than most.
The adaptive cruise control and lane-assist works seamlessly – and more importantly, quietly – in the background, keeping you a safe distance from the car in front and stopping you from wandering out of its lane. Too many of these systems are becoming overbearing, incessantly beeping and tugging at the steering wheel, so it’s nice to come across one that works as a safety net rather than a straitjacket.