Many have tried this business of launching sub brands. Yet neither Nissan (with Infiniti), nor Fiat (with its Abarth arm) really succeeded in the UK.
Then a couple of years ago Spanish firm Seat did the same and launched its Cupra brand.
The first car was the Ateca, a hot version of Seat’s excellent SUV. Now we have the Cupra Formentor, a sort of coupe/SUV.
Cupra is going to be the umbrella under which some of Seat’s electric cars sit and indeed the Formentor will soon be available with a plug-in hybrid powertrain. But the version we’re testing is rather more old school and exciting.
If we’d had this car a few weeks ago I’d have been very tempted to include it in our 10 best cars of 2020 list.
That’s a bit of a surprise because I’m not a massive fan of crossovers or SUVs.
For starters the view over the Formentor’s bonnet with its subtle power bulges is really cool.
Crank the electric seat to its lowest position and you sit quite close to the ground in SUV terms. The Formentor uses the same platform as the Ateca but is longer and lower.
Cupra’s signature colour is copper and that’s what its Marvel Comics-like logo is finished in, and there are flashes of this colour spread around what is otherwise a fairly dark cabin.
The quality is more than good enough even if the plastics are sub-Audi in texture.
The dashboard’s main features are borrowed from the Seat Leon and that includes a generous 12in infotainment screen and 10.25in digital instrument pack.
Unfortunately, just like the Leon (and Golf) you get irritating-to-use touch sensitive heating controls and too many other functions that have to be accessed via the touchscreen.
Our test car is fitted with Volkswagen’s familiar 2.0-litre TSI engine that’s used in the Golf GTI, R and many other hot VW Group products. Power output is 310ps with 400Nm of torque, capable of 0-62mph in 4.9sec and a top speed of 155mph.
There are several trim levels starting with V1 and running through V2 to VZ2 and VZ3.
Our car is a VZ2 and comes with plenty of goodies including black leather sports seats with copper stitching and the Cupra logo. The front seats are super supportive and comfortable.
The only piece of equipment that you get with the VZ3 that I’d covet are copper and black alloy wheels which look fantastic.
The Formentor is surprisingly sporty to drive. It’s very quick, as the numbers suggest, but also handles extremely well.
Four-wheel drive is standard with this more powerful engine (a 1.4-litre variant with 150bhp is also available) as is a DSG gearbox. There’s a lot of grip, not too much body roll and a comfortable ride, so long as you don’t start selecting the Sport and Cupra driving modes and stick with Comfort or Normal.
In Cupra mode the engine note is enhanced through the speaker system and sounds quite rorty, but it does get annoying after a while.
There’s a lot of rear legroom for adults and generous headroom too considering the coupe-like styling. Kids, however, might find the high-set window sills cut out too much of their view of the passing countryside.
The boot is generously sized and you’ll be able to fit in plenty of the adventurous lifestyle equipment that Seat/Cupra’s advertising people will assume you own.
If Seat’s Cupra brand continues to develop cars like this sporting SUV then there’s every chance that the offshoot will succeed.
Our test car costs £39,830 which is about right for this level of performance.
It might not be as fast as Lamborghini’s Urus SUV but to my eye it looks better and is £120,000 cheaper.
Cupra Formentor VZ2
Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder, 300bhp
0-62mph : 4.9sec
Fuel consumption: 31.4-33.2mpg
Co2 emissions: 193g/km
Volkswagen T-Roc R
Same powertrain but not as stylish or good to drive. And it costs more money too.
Audi Q3 Sportback Black Edition
No 300bhp version but others in the range rival the less powerful 150bhp Formentor.
Volvo XC40 B5 R-Design
Mild hybrid version packs 250bhp and lots of style, plus a classy cabin.