In a world of humdrum SUVs and a shrinking market for exciting coupes, the new 2023 Cupra Formentor VZx looks set to merge the gap and offer the best of both worlds.
2023 Cupra Formentor VZx: What is it?
It’s a strange one, that’s for sure. And we won’t criticise you if you’ve never heard of it. Basically, Cupra was or still is a performance sub-brand for VW’s Spanish SEAT division, but it’s now spun-off into a separate brand (still owned by VW). At least in Australia. Where things get even more confusing is the fact that Cupra offers four models, and two of them compete in the same segment. There’s the Ateca which is categorised as a premium mid-size SUV, and this, which slots into the non-premium mid-size SUV market.
We guess the main difference that matters most to you is that this is more of a sporty model featuring a fashionable coupe-like roofline, while the Ateca takes on more of a traditional and upright wagon format. Unlike the Ateca, though, the Formentor is available in four different trim levels – V, VZ, VZe and VZx – including a hybrid, whereas the Ateca is available in flagship VZx form only in Australia.
Anything with the VZx badge in Australia comes with the same 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder engine, in this case developing a heart-racing 228kW and 400Nm. This is the same engine you’ll find in the VW Golf R and Audi S3. The Ateca and Formentor in VZx form are all-wheel drive, whereas the Leon VZx hatchback is front-wheel drive, and tuned to 221kW like the Ateca.
Prices start from $68,990 for this Formentor VZx (it’s such a heroic and mythological name, isn’t it?), whereas the Ateca VZx, sitting in the premium segment according to VFACTS, starts from a lower $66,750 (both drive-away prices). Confused yet? Good. We are too.
2023 Cupra Formentor VZx: What does it come with?
Well, being the top VZx, it basically comes with everything available from Cupra. Twin digital screens across the dash, consisting of a 10.25-inch configurable gauge cluster and comprehensive 12-inch multimedia touch-screen. These support wired and wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and connect to an awesome nine-speaker sound system by Beats.
A wireless phone charger, twin USB-C ports front and rear, three-zone climate control, and a set of ‘petrol blue’ sports bucket seats are also included. The front seats are perfect in size and offer just the right amount of lateral support to hold you still during hard cornering, but the big side bolsters are not so large you need climbing equipment just to get in.
It is a fairly intimate cabin, but in a nice, sporty way. Visibility out the front is quite good, despite its coupe-like profile, but the vista out the back is a bit more confined than a regular SUV. There is a good spread of storage and pockets around the cabin to maintain optimal practicality, and the rear seats are accommodating enough to facilitate helping work mates during the commute, or kids during big road trips. The middle rear seat is especially tight, remembering there is an all-wheel drive system running under there.
The boot size is listed at 420L. That’s a bit smaller than the aforementioned Ateca (485L), but, more importantly, the volume is slightly below average for its specific vehicle segment. You can fold down the rear seats, flat, for more space. And you can do this by either using the tabs on the boot wall or from the top of the seat-backs.
2023 Cupra Formentor VZx: Fun factor
Well even just looking at it, it seems like it’s going to be a fun vehicle. The fact that it is quite unique in today’s market, being a new badge and brand and all that, means there is some level of fun in its exclusivity; you will have some of the general public come up and talk to you to ask about the car. And that’s always nice.
If the powertrain is good enough for the Audi S3 and the now-legendary Volkswagen Golf R, we’re pretty certain it is more than good enough for an SUV. Using the standard launch control system it’ll propel you from 0-100km/h in a claimed 4.9 seconds. We tested it, using a Vbox on a private road, and it came up in 4.88 seconds. Whatever way you look at it, that is seriously quick, let alone for a friendly SUV.
Through the bends is where you’ll have the most fun. The Formentor VZx features sports suspension that presents a balanced compromise between comfort and handling, so there is some minor body lean and cornering attitude to taunt. It can be tossed down a series of tight S-bends with such joy, you’ll want to go back up and do it all again. It’s right on the edge of feeling like a bonafide hot hatch.
The tare weight is 1647kg, but it feels lighter. Even so, that figure is commendable for a modern all-wheel drive. Push on hard and apply the old lift-off method and you will see the back end step out playfully. Fortunately, the stability control program is right on it, although not overly intrusive. There is a ‘sport ESC’ mode, too, which allows more play and slip. You can also switch it off completely for more adventure.
2023 Cupra Formentor VZx: Should you buy one?
Cupra is a new brand to Australia but think of it as like an intriguing Volkswagen with some Audi qualities. The brand, so far, is mainly offering highly-specced models and premium offerings in Australia, which means it could look like a more exclusive package alongside its parent company’s counterparts.
What we think you’ll love most about the Formentor VZx is its exciting and unique character, exceptional performance and decent fuel economy (7.7L/100km on the official average). With a drive-away price of $68,990, which is exactly $2000 more than the Golf R hatch’s before on-road price, it is pretty good value in our eyes. Considering the Cupra offers more boot space and takes the shape of a fashionable SUV, it should appeal to a wide audience.
Head over to the Cupra Australia website for more info.
How does it rate against its rivals?
For the otherwise pretty bland and unexciting mid-size SUV market where this sits, this is a cracking effort. We love the sinister and almost rat-rod design theme, with brass highlights and matte paint finish. And then to have a 228kW 2.0L turbo with AWD, it is a dream come true. Not many competitors are daring enough to push their offerings to this level. It’s cool.