My wife reckons the name sounds like something to do with kombucha or sourdough bread.
My daughter just reckons I shouldn’t drive it around the roundabouts quite so fast.
If you’ve not heard of Cupra, it is another brand that the all-powerful Giltrap Group is bringing into the country. Cupra is the performance brand of Spain’s Seat, which in turn is part of Volkswagen. VW reckons it is an “unconventional and emotionally charged brand”.
Cupra now has six dealerships around New Zealand and a full range of models. The Ateca SUV gets a lot of buzz as a great vehicle, but it is the new Formentor that is the first purpose-made Cupra. All previous models have been reworked versions of Seats.
I’ve seen a lot of them around Auckland. They stand out because many of them have matt paint exteriors.
The Formentor has a physical stance a bit like a cheetah ready to pounce. Designwise, it sits somewhere between a Mercedes and a modern angular Lexus.
The rear end just has a tattoo-like logo and the word “Cupra”; there’s no Formentor or VZ badge to show off what you are driving.
The Formentor, including the super-quick VZ model I got to drive for a week, is in the same class as the Mercedes GLA, but comes in quite a bit cheaper. Cupra says the crossover SUV will double its sales internationally. It is probably right on that. It drives more like a hot hatch than an SUV.
The VZ is a two-litre petrol turbo that generates 228kW of power and 400Nm of torque. It is all-wheel-drive, with a Volkswagen seven-speed direct-shift gearbox. (I googled this for you: effectively, it is two separate manual gearboxes and clutches in one unit working together to create faster gear-shift times.)
It does 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds, with a top speed of 250km/h.
In short, it is a lot of fun. In its beast-like Cupra mode (which is a step above sports mode), the exhaust deepens into the grunting rumble full of the crack and pop you’d expect of a V8. It is quick off the mark, and tight steering makes it corner like it’s on glue.
The design, both inside and out, is distinct. It feels like a vehicle from the land of Gaudi, which is welcome. The homogeneous design of German or Japanese cars can be just boring if you drive too many of them. Having said that, at least you know what you are getting and how to work one of the higher-selling marques.
Standard price for the VZ is $69,990, plus there will be a $460 extra fee under the government’s clean car programme when that kicks in.
The interior layout is desperately calling out for a few extra buttons, particularly for the climate control, which is run through a large touch screen. The on/off button is a circle with a diameter of about 1cm and is a distraction while driving. The temperature can be controlled via a haptic slider, but all else is hidden on the screen.
Likewise, the buttons on the steering wheel are oddly thought out. The left-hand side has a stereo volume control, the right-hand side has the stereo station-changing buttons. It would have made more sense to keep these together, and swap the buttons used for controlling the dashboard screen options out for something useful, like the climate on/off button or fan control.
Like many high-priced cars now, it has a wireless phone charger. And like every other one I’ve used, it works about half the time.
The steering wheel has two buttons hanging off its centre – one to start and stop the car and the other to swap driving modes. This latter one is in absolutely the right place: a quick flick of the thumb shifts the vehicle from standard driving mode into sport, Cupra or off-road mode.
Need to overtake? Extra power is just a button press away, and you don’t even need to move your hand. Everything is just better in Cupra mode, other than petrol consumption.
One notable feature is that the car is comfortable. I know that sounds odd, but wherever you sit in it, you have enough legroom, the seat quality is great and the ride is superb. My family are world-class whingers when it comes to comfort, and they loved it.
As for the name, Formentor is a cape on the Spanish island of Mallorca. Nothing to do with fermentation at all.