There’s something of the night about the new Cupra Formentor. The VW Group sub-brand Cupra, spun-off from its parent company SEAT at the turn of the decade, has created a compact crossover that successfully blends the best qualities of hatchback and SUV without breaking any size barriers. 

Cupra Formentor

The Cupra badge was originally applied to high-end SEATs, signifying the Spanish company’s sportier offerings. In addition to the Formentor, there are also Cupra versions of SEAT’s Ateca and Leon, both of which deliver more power and better-quality trim.

As a result, the current Cupra line-up is rather confusing, reflecting the auto industry’s ongoing struggles with communicating new technologies through new brands amidst shifting perceptions of what a car should be. 

Cupra Formentor

What Cupra wants is to somehow represent more, along the lines of the relationship DS has to Citroën, or Polestar to Volvo. More sporting, more characterful, more individual.

The first step on that journey is this car, the Formentor, for now, the only model that’s exclusively available as a Cupra. 

Cupra Formentor car

Cupra (which usually prints its name in all upper case) bills itself as expressing the more emotional side to SEAT’s already rather contrived Latin feistiness. The cars themselves place an emphasis on performance, with the Formentor offering up to 310PS and a very sprightly sub-five-second sprint to 62mph. The hybrid version (which we didn’t test) is good for well over 200 mpg, albeit by the rather misleading calculation method used by the industry. 

Although it slips under the brand radar, the Formentor’s design is sufficiently different to invite intrigue. The proportions are spot on and the detail design – enhanced by splashes of bronze trim, inside and out – is tasteful, not garish. In fact, there’s something rather gothic about the Formentor.

Cupra Formentor interior

The interior is also rather dark and moody, but controls are well placed (apart from VW’s current, perverse insistence on tucking a volume slider away beneath the touch screen). The steering wheel is well equipped with functional buttons, however, so you can save the futile screen dabbing for when you’re stationary. 

Compact, swift, and fun to drive – is the Formentor the complete package? One of the advantages of the Cupra brand is its relatively obscure and esoteric nature. The arrival of electrification is seeing more new brands entering the market than at any point in the past three decades, and Cupra sounds sufficiently different to escape any ingrained badge snobbery (although it is, of course, just another one of the VW Group’s many subsidiaries). 

The next generation of Cupras
The next generation. From left to right, Cupra Tavascan (2024), Cupra Terramar (2024), Cupra UrbanRebel (2025)

Within a few months, the Cupra Born will go on sale, the sub-brand’s first pure EV. The Born is essentially an upscale, reworked version of the Volkswagen ID.3; it’ll be joined by the Cupra Terramar, a plug-in hybrid, in 2024 and then the Tavascan EV later that year.

Finally, there’ll be the 2025 UrbanRebel, an electric city car that aims to hit the notoriously tricky sweet spot between compact size and usable range. 

UrbanRebel all-electric city car
The 2025 Cupra UrbanRebel is an all-electric city car

The Cupra might appear a bit smoky and sinister, but it’s more Sagrada Familia than Sisters of Mercy.

It’s certainly not a car for those of a sunny disposition, but if you don’t want your car to be a statement of the bleeding obvious, then Cupra could be your low-key brand of choice. §