Review: Cupra Ateca

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Author: | Updated: 22 Feb 2019 08:34

Is performance and a cool new badge all the Cupra Ateca has to offer? Far from it. The Cupra Ateca is a winning note to begin the sub-brand on.

There has been a strong buzz building around Cupra, the newly introduced performance sub-brand of Seat, and it’s not hard to see why.

An SUV with the heart of a sports car is a rare combination, and with the Ateca capturing the imagination since it arrived in 2016 it was deemed the ideal model to launch this brave new venture by the Spanish manufacturer.

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It offers a slightly different look to the traditional Ateca but also one of the best games of ‘spot the difference’ this side of the puzzle magazine section at WH Smith’s.

But is performance and a cool new badge all the Cupra Ateca has to offer?

Let’s talk about that performance a little bit. Only one engine is available, a 2.0 TSI with 4Drive 7-speed DSG offering 296bhp. No you didn’t misread that, I did say 296bhp. Depending on who you talk to, that figure may elicit a response of ‘why does an SUV need that much power’ to ‘how does it sound when revving?’

Throw 400Nm of torque into the mix and a 0-62 acceleration in just 5.2 seconds and you suddenly see why this vehicle can be accurately described as a wolf in sheep's clothing. Unfortunately, that also means it’s relatively thirsty, and can’t offer diesel-like fuel economy. We averaged around about 33mpg throughout the week which is a decent figure for a petrol performance SUV.

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Walking around the car, it offers a slightly different look to the traditional Ateca but also one of the best games of ‘spot the difference’ this side of the puzzle magazine section at WH Smith’s.

A car with split-personality. That’s what the Cupra Ateca offers drivers.

The Cupra model’s upper grille features a honeycomb effect with the new Cupra logo in the centre and letters in matt aluminium on the lower grille, just above the exclusively designed bumper.

At the rear, the four exhaust pipes on the edge of the diffuser really state Cupra’s intention while the 19in diamond cut alloy wheels further enhance this sportiness and elegance of this unique and dynamic SUV.

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Step inside and its equally upmarket. Door panels and seats are both upholstered in Alcantara, while the pedals are finished in aluminium and the climate control air vent frames and the central console are finished in glossy black. In comparison to the 1.0 TSI Ateca we reviewed, it’s not a fair fight between the two. There is enough there to remind you what this vehicle is based off, but it’s faint remembrance rather than in-your-face obnoxiousness.

For the uninitiated, Cupra mode is basically Sport mode without a little bit more oomph. It holds engine revs to give a mean grumble and all the body control and response you need.

The standard equipment in the Cupra Ateca further emphasises this point. Keyless entry and start system, wireless charger, GSM signal booster, 360 degree top view camera, 8in touchscreen navigation system, dynamic chassis control adaptive suspension, digital cockpit, and park assist all come as standard.

Close to hand is a drive mode dial too. Now, drive modes are no novelty and they’re nothing new. But it is rare that cycling through them shows off in no uncertain terms a car with split-personality. That’s what the Cupra Ateca offers drivers. Would you like it when it’s angry? I’m pretty sure you would.

Cupra drive profile

At this price, and with this level of spec, space and visual as-well-as driver appeal, the Cupra Ateca is one of those rare things in the automotive world at the moment: utterly unique.

There are six modes to select, depending on what frame of mind you or the roads are in when you’re travelling: Comfort, Sport, Cupra, Individual, Snow and Off-road. Chances are you’re familiar with most of them, so I won’t go into the fact Comfort is softest ride and smoothest drive or Sport offers something stiffer with less body roll.

For the uninitiated, Cupra mode is basically Sport mode without a little bit more oomph. It holds engine revs to give a mean grumble and all the body control and response you need, with the trade off being the adaptive suspension gets a little harsher and the fuel economy takes a bit of a dip. One thing it does really well though is it leaves everyone else in your rear view mirror when accelerating away at traffic lights, and it also turns heads when people hear you coming as they wonder how a car that big could make that noise. But with 296bhp it would wouldn’t it?

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On the whole, the Cupra Ateca is a thoroughly fun car to drive and by SUV standards adds a little flourish to the already impressive handling prowess of the regular Seat Ateca. Does it have the sublime cornering ability of a hot hatch? No, but did you honestly expect it to? It is high-riding rather than low-slung after all. That said, you can still carry a seriously impressive amount of pace through corners thanks to the aforementioned 4Drive AWD system.

So should you choose this over a conventional hot hatch or a regular Ateca? That’s a cautious yes from me depending on your budget and taste, as it offers superior practicality to a hot hatch and superior performance to the regular SUV. So not only do you get that 296hp and 400Nm of torque but you also get plenty of passenger leg and head room and a boot that can fit 485 litres of shopping in too. I’d even go so far as to say the Cupra Ateca is a sign of things to come, the future of the hot hatch as it were, with Skoda introducing the Kodiaq vRS performance model soon.

At this price, and with this level of spec, space and visual as-well-as driver appeal, the Cupra Ateca is one of those rare things in the automotive world at the moment: utterly unique.

The Cupra Ateca in brief:

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Exterior:

Slightly different to the traditional Ateca, the Cupra features various touches which enhance the sportiness and elegance of this unique and dynamic SUV.

Interior:

Door panels and seats are upholstered in Alcantara, while the pedals are finished in aluminium and the central console is finished in glossy black. It’s a nice place to be.

Driving:

Offers great handling thanks to 4Drive all-wheel drive. With 296bhp, 400Nm of torque and a 0-62 acceleration in just 5.2 seconds it’s a car that will surprise the public.

Space:

Front and rear passengers are given plenty of comfort and space. Boot offers an okay 485 litres.

Efficiency:

We averaged 33mpg throughout the week. This is a decent figure for a petrol performance SUV being put through its paces frequently.

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