For Seat, Cupra was always a fairly serious performance sub-brand. Judge the new Cupra by its product launches over the past couple of years, though, and you might wonder if that will continue to be the case.

The Formentor would certainly suggest that VW Group management is aiming to bridge a number of market niches with at least some of its Cupra offerings; to lure enthusiast drivers with pricier versions, yes, but also fans of luxury goods, of active lifestyles, of stylish and alternative design, and of the latest technology all at once.

Unusual design feature bisecting the rear quarter panel is half character line, half reverse wheel-arch blister (it adds volume to the upper surface). It could perhaps better align with the rear lights, but we like it anyway.

In the Formentor’s case, that approach has made for a car that’s as intriguing as it is appealing to behold. This long, wide-arched, unexpectedly svelte and swooping family hatchback-cum-wagon has a sporting stance and visual purpose that’s rare in a high-riding car.

Moreover, Cupra doesn’t seem to have allowed a brief for crossover versatility to corrupt the car’s skilfully crafted lines or proportions. Design-wise, this is quite the accomplished piece of work.

Size-wise, the car is just under 4.5m in length and a little over 1.5m in height. It rises higher than a Skoda Octavia Estate but is a nearly a foot shorter for overall length, while also being notably longer than an Audi A3 Sportback. And for anyone wondering how close a match the Formentor might be for Subaru’s boxier but equally left-field mid-noughties sporty crossover, the Forester STI? Apart from a longer wheelbase and wider body and tracks for the newbie, the dimensions of the two cars are almost identical.

The Formentor’s model line-up is broader than you might think, though. At the upper end of the spectrum, there may be the fire-breathing, 306bhp, equipment-heavy, four-wheel-drive versions with their £40,000-plus prices, but lower down you can have it with the VW Group’s 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI petrol engine, front-wheel drive and a sub-£30,000 price if you prefer. Two further 2.0-litre TSI derivatives will join the showroom range shortly, as will two 1.4-litre plug-in hybrid options badged eHybrid.

Unlike its MQB-platform relatives, the Formentor gets fully independent suspension and ‘progressive’ rising-rate steering irrespective of the engine fitted. Lowered sport suspension with adaptive damping is fitted from mid-level VZ1-trim cars and upwards, with four-wheel drive (coming in tandem with a dual-clutch gearbox) on 2.0-litre versions.

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Our test car was Cupra’s range-topping 2.0-litre TSI 4Drive version, developing 306bhp and 295lb ft: the same peak outputs made by the firm’s hottest Leon hatchback, of course, although slightly shy of those of the latest VW Golf R.

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