Plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) continue to divide opinion – some will tell you they’re the best of both worlds, others say they’re the worst of both.

But that hasn’t stopped Spanish performance upstart Cupra, which has seen decent take up of its two PHEV offerings since launching the brand some 18 months ago, though not quite to the same level as its Born electric hatchback.

What you may not know is that the 2024 Cupra Formentor VZe, as well as the related Leon VZe, are something of a test bed for the Volkswagen Group in Australia.

So far the Volkswagen and Skoda brands have been unable to bring their PHEVs with the same drivetrain to Australia due to overwhelming demand in Europe and the UK, and thus haven’t been able to introduce their local customer base to the plug-in tech which in Australia hasn’t quite taken off like conventional hybrids and EVs to date.

But things could be changing. With Federal tax incentives for PHEVs on novated leases, plug-in hybrids have slowly been gaining ground. In March 2024 there were 1412 PHEVs sold in Australia, representing 148.2 per cent growth on the same month in 2023, and the drivetrain type is up 134.5 per cent so far this year.

WATCH: Paul’s video review of the Formentor VZx

The Formentor VZe registered 485 units (admittedly not big numbers) throughout the 2023 calendar year, representing nearly 1 in 4 Formentor sales in Australia last year. So, Cupra might be onto something.

Should it be on your shopping list if you’re looking for an electrified SUV? Read on to find out.

How does the Cupra Formentor compare?

View a detailed breakdown of the Cupra Formentor against similarly sized vehicles.

Cupra Formentor cutout image



How much does the Cupra Formentor cost?

The 2024 Cupra Formentor VZe is priced from $64,990 plus on-road costs – the bottom line can differ depending on the State or Territory you’re registering the vehicle in.

For the 2024 model year, the local Formentor lineup underwent a price adjustment with raises of $1800-$2000 depending on variant.

The price rises were offset somewhat by added equipment, including DAB+ radio and a power tailgate. New options and option packages are now available too – read the details here.

2024 Cupra Formentor pricing:

  • 2024 Cupra Formentor V: $56,490
  • 2024 Cupra Formentor VZ: $61,490
  • 2024 Cupra Formentor VZe
    • $67,990 (ACT)
    • $68,990 (QLD)
    • $69,990 (NSW)
    • $69,990 (SA)
    • $70,490 (VIC)
    • $70,990 (WA)
  • 2024 Cupra Formentor VZx: $70,790

Prices are drive-away

To see how the Formentor lines up against its rivals, check out our comparison tool.

What is the Cupra Formentor like on the inside?

The Formentor PHEV features an almost identical cabin to other models, with some extra menus in the digital displays for hybrid-specific content.

There’s an air of familiarity about the Formentor’s cabin if you’ve sat in any of the VW Group’s latest compact products, given a lot of it’s a mix of VW Golf, Skoda Octavia and Audi A3 – and Cupra/SEAT Leon.

You get the stubby little shift-by-wire selector, the free-standing 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system, and 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit that’s common to some extent across all MQB evo products, and it’s almost identical to the cabin of the Leon hatchback bar some added width.

While the interior is something of a Frankenstein of parts – Golf shifter and headlight controls, Octavia electric park brake, Audi-esque digital cluster – it doesn’t feel like a parts bin collaboration. In fact, it comes together quite well and has its own distinct personality.

The brand’s signature copper theme is reflected in the cabin, with the brand’s bull-shaped logo proudly stamped on the steering wheel in copper, while the air vent surrounds and various trim accents also don the Spanish brand’s hero colour. There’s copper stitching for the seats, steering wheel, doors and dashboard as well.

Build quality feels typical VW Group solid, with soft-touch materials adorning the upper and middle tiers of the cabin, and all the switchgear (though limited) feels well-damped and high quality. I’ll note the brushed metal-look bits are plastic, and the transmission tunnel is lined with harder, scratchier plastics.

The driver is faced with a slick steering wheel, complete with a thin, perforated leather-trimmed rim. I personally would appreciate a bit more girth (size matters, right?), but myself and colleagues were impressed with the look and feel, as well as the ergonomics of the multifunction controls – no touch-capacitive stuff here.

What isn’t so great are the steering-mounted paddle shifters, which are small, stubby, and a bit plasticky. Volkswagen has larger paddles fitted to its R products, and even those units would have been a welcome improvement.

I was more impressed by the Digital Cockpit display behind said steering wheel, which is closer to Audi’s virtual cockpit in look and feel rather than the Volkswagen or Skoda equivalents. There’s an available central tacho layout which is very previous-gen Audi S and RS, and there are a couple more different configurations than you get in a T-Roc or Tiguan R, for example. It just feels a little bit more high end.

The link to Audi isn’t a coincidence – Cupra’s parent SEAT was owned by the four-ringed marque during the 2000s, and has a history of offering Audi-based products.

While the front sports seats are comfortable and supportive, it’s a shame the VZe requires the $2800 Leather and Camera Package that adds Nappa leather trim with power driver’s seat adjustment and surround cameras, especially because the VZx gets this stuff as standard.

The driving position is surprisingly low for a crossover, in fact it genuinely feels like a regular hatchback from behind the wheel. I would have loved to see an extendable base cushion, but that’s a nit-pick really as that sort of feature is usually reserved for the premium marques.

The large touchscreen unit is almost identical to the VW Golf on first impression, though the Cupra/SEAT interface is little more intuitive – at least in my opinion.

Yes, it’s still entirely touch-based, and the volume and temperature sliders beneath the displays aren’t backlit (groan). But the array of shortcuts and widgets dotted around the place mean it’s much easier to find what you’re looking for, particularly on the move.

The iPhone-like tile icons are always there and allow you to toggle between native system functions and smartphone mirroring quicker and easier, and the Cupra-specific menus and layout are refreshingly different from other VW Group brands – though some sub-menus require a bit of digging to toggle certain settings.

The rear seat looks a little snug because of the dark colours and the fat front seats, but being based on the Leon (as well as the Golf and A3) there’s ample room for two adults to sit behind adults. I’m 6’1 and I fit behind my own seating position fine.

Like the Golf, the Formentor gets a standard third zone of climate control with directional air vents, as well as two USB-C charging points for mobile devices.

Other amenities include a fold-down centre armrest with cupholders, ISOFIX and top-tether anchors for your child seat, as well as rear map pockets and bottle holders in the doors.

With the high-voltage lithium-ion battery mounted under the boot floor, the Formentor VZe quotes 345 litres of cargo volume compared to the 420 litres quoted by the V and VZx. Cupra doesn’t quote a seats-down figure, either.

The placement of said battery also means there’s no space saver spare wheel, rather a tyre repair kit.

What’s under the bonnet?

The Formentor VZe features the highest tune of the Volkswagen Group’s 1.4 TSI e-Hybrid drivetrain.

Model Cupra Formentor VZe
Engine 1.4L 4cyl turbo
Power 110kW (5000-6000rpm)
Torque 250Nm (1550-3500rpm)
Electric motor 85kW
System outputs 180kW
Transmission 6-speed DSG
Driven wheels Front-wheel drive
Weight 1712kg (tare)
0-100km/h 7.0 seconds
Fuel economy (claim) 1.9L/100km
Fuel economy (as tested) 2.4L/100km
Emissions 43g/km
EV battery 10.9kWh li-ion (usable)
EV driving range 58km
Fuel tank size 40L
Fuel requirement 95 RON

Our real-world fuel consumption figure was achieved over 380km of mixed driving, including charging most nights to start the day with a full battery – though this wasn’t done every night.

All our charging was done via a conventional three-pin home socket as well, the equivalent of around 2kW AC charging which should make for around 5-6 hours from empty to full battery.

To see how the Formentor lines up against its rivals, check out our comparison tool.

How does the Cupra Formentor drive?

Much like the plug-in hybrid Leon, just slightly bigger.

Volkswagen’s PHEV tech is some of the best on the market. It’s neatly integrated and you can really just set and forget it and reap the efficiency rewards if you charge nightly. It’ll also run as a normal hybrid when the usable EV range runs out.

I managed to consistently achieve 50-55 kilometres of EV range throughout my week with the Formentor, charging overnight and then doing my usual commute which is a combination of suburban, freeway and inner city driving.

When in E-Mode – which the Formentor will start in by default provided you have the required level of charge – the electric motor has ample shove to get things moving at reasonable pace. Don’t let the modest 85kW power output fool you, that 330Nm of torque is almost as much as you get from a Golf GTI.

It gets up and going pretty briskly and because the electric motor is hooked up to the six-speed DSG transmission you’ll occasionally feel it snap through ratios even when the petrol motor isn’t running. Some may like how this feels, others may not.

Only if you pin the throttle to the firewall or flick out of E-Mode into Hybrid mode will the 1.4 TSI join the party if you haven’t run out of battery. Together the two power sources develop 180kW and 400Nm, which is more than enough to make this electrified crossover feel quite sprightly.

The on-paper 0-100km/h time of 7.0 seconds doesn’t sound particularly quick, but the healthy reserves of torque and quick-shifting DSG make it feel brisker than you might think. If you bury the go pedal it’ll light up the power meter in blue and enter Boost Mode, which just means you’re calling on the Formentor VZe’s full outputs.

It’ll also play a meatier engine sound through the cabin, especially if you flick the drive mode select to Cupra mode (accessed via the touchscreen, annoyingly). You can’t get the PHEV with the VZx’s satellite button on the steering wheel to change drive modes, which seems like an oversight given the brand’s more sporting vibe.

While the engine note under load is quite obviously fake, the higher pitched growl from the 1.4 TSI when accelerating hard isn’t all that bad either.

Being FWD only, the Formentor PHEV isn’t going to be the all out corner carver like the VZx. However, its hot hatch underpinnings and relatively light weight (compared to other PHEVs) means this is still a chuckable thing.

It has that classic front-drive balance but the rear remains pretty settled as that li-ion battery adds some extra weight over the back axle. The quoted tare weight of 1712kg isn’t even 100kg more than the base V, and just over 60kg more than the VZx.

You will get some wheelspin if you gun it too early, however, and the lack of a proper electromechanical front differential means it can’t shuffle power to the front wheel with the most grip as effectively as a Leon VZ or VZx might – the Leon VZe’s lower ride height and smaller body also make it the driver’s pick of the two hybrids.

It still offers quick steering and tight body control though, even with the added weight, and if you time it right it’ll reward you with a torquey blast out of corners. You can also use the paddle shifters to manually take control.

The various drive modes tailor powertrain response, steering feel and the dampers to your tastes, and there’s even an individual mode with a wider range of settings so you can make this more comfortable than Comfort and sportier than Sport.

Cupra’s suite of driver assists operate much like any VW Group equivalent’s, and they’re accessed via proper buttons on the steering wheel here.

Travel Assist remains a favourite, with its seamless adaptive cruise and Adaptive Lane Guidance functions coming together for user friendly semi autonomy on the freeway.

In Comfort or Eco modes it’s a little conservative with distances though, which can be a pain in low-etiquette jurisdictions like Victoria where people are prone to cutting you off.

Blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are also handy, as is the additional Exit Warning function that will alert of you of an approaching vehicle if you’re about to open the door.

What do you get?

The Formentor VZe is similarly equipped to the VZ, despite costing the same as the flagship VZx.

Formentor V highlights:

  • 140kW/320Nm 2.0 TSI 4Drive
  • 18-inch black-silver alloy wheels
  • Heated, power-folding exterior mirrors
  • LED headlights, daytime running lights
  • Auto headlights
  • Auto high-beam
  • Fog lights with cornering function
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Rear privacy glass
  • Adaptive dampers
  • 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster
  • 12-inch touchscreen infotainment system
  • Satellite navigation
  • Wireless Apple CarPlay, Android Auto
  • Wireless phone charging
  • 2 x front, 2 x rear USB-C ports
  • Cloth upholstery
  • 3-zone climate control
  • Leather-wrapped heated steering wheel
  • Paddle shifters
  • Keyless entry, start
  • DAB+ radio
  • Hands-free power tailgate

Formentor VZ adds:

Formentor VZe adds:

  • 180kW/400Nm 1.4 TSI PHEV FWD
  • Mode 3 charging cable
  • Tyre repair kit

Is the Cupra Formentor safe?

The Formentor wears a five-star ANCAP safety rating, based on Euro NCAP tests conducted in 2021.

It scored 93 per cent for adult occupant protection, 88 per cent for child occupant protection, 68 per cent for vulnerable road user protection, and 80 per cent for safety assist.

Standard safety features include:

  • AEB with Pedestrian, Cyclist detection
  • Adaptive cruise control incl. stop/go
  • Driver fatigue monitoring
  • Emergency Assist
  • Lane departure warning
  • Lane keep assist
  • Parking sensors front, rear
  • Reversing camera
  • Side Assist
    • Blind-spot monitoring
    • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Safe exit warning
  • Travel Assist
    • Adaptive cruise control
    • Adaptive Lane Guidance

Formentor VZx adds:

You can also add the surround-view camera system as part of the optional Leather and Camera Package on the V, VZ and VZe.

How much does the Cupra Formentor cost to run?

Cupra covers its line-up with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Models with high-voltage battery components get an additional eight years or 160,000 kilometres cover against manufacturing defects or “excessive loss of net battery energy”.

The brand no longer offers three years of free servicing with purchase, instead buyers can choose from three- and five-year service packs. The three-year pack is priced at $990, while the five-year pack is $1990.

If you opt for the five-year package, you also get access to Cupra’s Concierge Service benefits, which covers pick-up and drop-off of your vehicle for the five scheduled services provided your address is within 10km of an authorised Cupra Service Partner.

We also managed a very impressive indicated consumption readout of 2.4L/100km and 12.6kWh/100km, the latter beating the advertised claim.

It’s not bad given we didn’t charge the Formentor every night, and there were a number of days where we exceeded the hybrid battery’s EV range and the Formentor’s drivetrain still delivered impressive economy in Hybrid mode.

CarExpert’s Take on the Cupra Formentor

It may not go quite as hard as the VZx, but there’s plenty to like about the Formentor VZe.

For those wanting an electrified SUV or crossover there’s pretty limited choice if you want a more performance-oriented option. The list further shortens if you want a plug-in hybrid with usable EV range.

The plug-in Formentor looks and feels pretty special, offers realistic zero emissions driving range and still retains a solid level of performance and dynamism relative to its stablemates. Get one on a novated lease and you’ll reap the rewards of Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) exemptions in addition to the ongoing fuel savings.

It’s getting pretty pricey though, matching the sticker price of a Mitsubishi Outlander Plug-in Hybrid EV Aspire which is a much bigger car with more driving range – though trails the Cupra in terms of dynamics and performance.

And, like all PHEVs, you need to make sure you educate yourself on how to get the most out of it. While efficient in its conventional hybrid mode, there’s no point in spending all that extra money on the Formentor VZe if you’re not going to regularly charge it and spend most of your time driving in EV mode – otherwise, save $10,000 and get the V.

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