Although a plug-in hybrid isn’t the best powertrain for me, I was keen to run the Formentor to see if my preconceptions were valid. After more than 5,000 miles in three months (which means I’m half-way through the loan), everything that I expected has come to pass. I’ve found that the UK’s charging network is inadequate, the Cupra is slow to charge up (4.5 hours from empty to full), and in the real world the battery is depleted pretty quickly, so the 1.4-litre turbocharged engine is doing the work most of the time, and I’m left lugging around an empty battery pack.
But enough of the bad news. What I’ve also discovered is that for a lot of people the Formentor PHEV could make a lot of sense. Indeed, unless you’re undertaking long-distance high-speed motorway runs, a plug-in hybrid can prove to be impressively frugal. The first thing I do when I get home is put the Cupra on charge, so its batteries are always full when I set off again. As such, I have about 28 miles of electric-only driving, even though Cupra claims a 37-mile range. I recently had to drive to Bristol from Droitwich, on a clogged-up M5. Over the 70-mile journey the Cupra averaged almost 80mpg, with the battery on 6% when I arrived in Bristol. But with nowhere to recharge, I left Bristol with the battery virtually flat, and by the time I got home my average had plummeted to 50mpg.
Within days I drove to my mum’s, which is a 32-mile round trip along quiet A- and B-roads, with some country lanes thrown in for good measure. I didn’t stay with her long enough to do any recharging; even two hours plugged in to a three-pin socket provides just 15 or so miles of range. On arrival at my mum’s the battery was down to 40%, and on the drive home this dropped to zero with four miles still to go, when the petrol engine cut in. On the drive there and back I’d been sitting at 40 to 50mph in general, with the odd burst at 60mph.
The Cupra has a 12.8kWh battery pack, which means that fully charging it costs about £2. So I managed 28 miles on two quids’ worth of electricity, which works out at 7.1p per mile. Overall, the car has averaged just over 50mpg, most of which has been running on petrol (although this figure is softened by some electric motor action), which works out at 12.3p per mile. The thing is, if you do mainly short or low-speed trips you’d be able to run on battery power for a much greater proportion of the time, and at that point the plug-in hybrid option can start to make a whole lot more sense.
Date arrived 24th May 2021
Economy (WLTP combined) 201.8-217.3mpg
Economy (On test) 51.2mmpg