The modern crossover hatchback has become something of a statement in 2023: a car bought by those who don’t want what everyone else has got. Not quite hatchbacks, not quite estate cars, and not quite compact SUVs either, they combine elements of all three breeds within a fairly compact footprint, and are presented at a fairly affordable price. And, typically, they chuck in a dose of alternative style for good measure. In some quarters, they’re known as sports utility coupes; in others, even as ‘fastbacks’.
The increasing popularity of cars like these is beginning to undermine their status as alternative choices just a little. But for now, and for as long as other market segments continue outstrip them for sales, a good crossover hatchback will remain an equally appealing left field option for what it is, as well as for what it does.
What they do, of course, varies a little depending on precisely how they are defined. Within this list, then, you’ll find responsible economy-biased options with hybrid powertrains, but also performance-tuned derivatives, and cars explicitly intended for off-road use. All are roughly C-segment-sized, however (we rank supermini-based compact crossovers here); and, while little here need cost much more than £30,000, some options can be snapped up for even less.
For years, Cupra was the sporting division of Seat – much like ‘R’ now is to Volkswagen – but today it stands as an independent brand of its own, with unique model designs and an altogether more athletic calibre than that of the old Seat mothership.
The Formentor wasn’t the first product of the reborn Cupra operation (that was the 306bhp Cupra Ateca, introduced in 2019), but it is by far the most convincing, being rakishly handsome, surprisingly spacious, rounded, refined and pleasant to drive, appealingly versatile, and enduringly alternative. We like it rather a lot.
The engine line-up is quite broad, taking in smaller and more economical petrols, a couple of plug-in hybrids, and a choice of 2.0 TSI petrols, one of which uses the same four-wheel drive system and 2.0-litre TSI engine as the new Volkswagen Golf R. In other markets, Cupra even went as far as shoehorning Audi’s thumping five-cylinder RS engine into the Formentor VZ5, though it was never offered for UK sale.
Being well priced in relation to premium-brand rivals, and with an inviting, rich and well-executed interior (the VW Group’s oft-criticised infotainment system notwithstanding), the Formentor sits pretty at the top our list of crossovers hatchbacks.