Cupra Ateca review
Don’t call it a SEAT. The Cupra Ateca is the first car to wear the name of SEAT’s new sporty sub-brand, and it taps into the increasing demand for SUVs with a little more grunt. The straight-line speed is excellent, giving the Cupra hot hatch aspirations, but while it can’t quite rival a hatchback in terms of dynamics and value for money, it’s much more fun to drive than you’d expect. It’s also loaded with standard kit and should offer a high level of exclusivity. You’ll just need to convince your friends that it’s so much more than a standard Ateca with some fancy badges and a bodykit.
5 Feb, 2019
The designers have worked hard to give the Cupra Ateca a bespoke, sporty feel, but there’s no disguising the fact that you’re sat inside a SEAT. Not even with a Cupra logo staring back at you from the centre of the steering wheel.
It’s not that the interior doesn’t impress. The cabin is loaded with soft-touch plastics, while the Alcantara seats are comfortable and supportive. Other nice touches include the Alcantara door cards, copper stitching, Cupra logo puddle lights and aluminium pedals.
Overall, the interior design stays just the right side of tasteful, but we’d hope for a more bespoke approach from future Cupra models. Not that there are any complaints concerning the level of specification.
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All cars come with keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, wireless phone charging and tinted rear windows, while heated seats are available as part of the Comfort & Sound pack.
Crucially, the Cupra is the only Ateca to feature a digital cockpit. Similar in style and using the same electronics as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, it features a 1280 x 480 pixel TFT display that replaces the analogue dials with full-colour dials that can be set to show maps, navigation and a host of other information.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
The 8-inch infotainment system found on higher-end SEAT Ateca models is standard on the Cupra, delivering the usual navigation and entertainment information, as well as performance-led data, such as oil temperature and G-forces.
The Cupra Ateca has no business being this good to drive. In fact, we reckon it’s the finest-handling car in its class, although there aren’t many performance SUV rivals.
There are six driving modes to choose from – Normal, Sport, Cupra, Snow, Off-Road and Individual – but Cupra is the setting you’ll require to enjoy the Ateca at its most impressive and aggressive. In this mode, the steering and throttle are sharper, the gear shifts are quicker and the exhaust note is enhanced, delivering a proper hot hatch feel.
Body lean is kept in check, while the 4Drive all-wheel drive system delivers a huge amount of grip, which serves to inspire even more confidence in the drive. There’s even an Off-Road mode, although the combination of 19-inch wheels and low profile tyres won’t allow you to venture too far off the beaten track.
Instead, revel in the Cupra Ateca’s on-road prowess, where only the non-communicative steering threatens to spoil the party. In every other respect, it’s terrific fun, with brilliant off-the-line pace, superb handling and a pleasingly firm ride. Even the seven-speed DSG gearbox, so often a party-pooper, feels at home in the Cupra, being both fluid at low speeds and decisive when you’re pressing on.
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It can’t mix it with the likes of the Honda Civic Type R or Hyundai i30 N – that was never the intention – but it bridges the gap between the MINI Countryman JCW and the Porsche Macan. And that’s high praise.
Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed
Any thoughts that the Cupra Ateca is little more than a tarted-up SEAT SUV are soon forgotten when you hit the accelerator. The 296bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine is lifted from the Volkswagen Golf R hot hatch, giving this SUV a real turn of pace.
The 0-62mph time is polished off in 5.2 seconds – quick enough to trouble most self-respecting hot hatches. In reality, it feels even quicker, especially if you keep the rev-counter between 3,500 and 6,000rpm.
In fact, the faster you go, the more exhilarating it becomes, especially in Cupra mode, when the quad exhaust tips produce a raucous soundtrack. What’s all the more remarkable is that the Cupra sounds so docile at lower speeds. The top speed is 153mph.
As it uses the same running gear as the SEAT Ateca, the Cupra version is covered by the same five-star Euro NCAP rating that car earned 2016. It scored 93 per cent for adult occupant safety, 84 per cent for child occupants, 71 per cent for pedestrian safety and 60 per cent for safety assist technology.
All Cupra Atecas are fitted with seven airbags, front assist, autonomous emergency braking, hill-hold control and tiredness recognition, while the Comfort & Sound model gains traffic sign recognition, lane assist, adaptive cruise control and high beam assist.
The car is too new to have appeared in our 2018 Driver Power survey, but the SEAT Ateca finished 37th out of 75 on the list of the best cars to own, with a score of 90.66 per cent. Meanwhile, SEAT was ranked 14th out of 26 in the best manufacturers survey.
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Although it’s badged Cupra, the performance SUV uses tried and tested Volkswagen technology, so we wouldn’t expect it to be any less reliable than the SEAT version. That said, it will be driven with more enthusiasm, so it might chew through serviceable items quicker than the standard cars.
SEAT will create dedicated Cupra areas within 277 specially selected dealerships across Europe, so buyers can expect to receive a bespoke and personalised service.
Cupra offers a two-year/unlimited mileage warranty for the Ateca, and up to three years and 60,000 miles. In common with the SEAT version, this can be extended to four or five years if required.
The Cupra Ateca will be sold via 25 specialist dealers in the UK, all of which will be in place by the end of 2019.
The first three manufacturer scheduled services are included as part of a Cupra Care package, which also offers three years’ European roadside assistance and the replacement of brake pads and wiper blades. This package is included in the list price.
The Cupra Ateca shares its five doors and five-seater body with the SEAT version, so there’s little change in terms of flexibility and practicality. However, it does feel like it’s a little less spacious than its SEAT sibling.
That’s partly thanks to the fact it sits 10mm lower to the ground, making it feel a little less like an SUV, while the combination of the dark headlining and standard-fit tinted rear windows make it feel more claustrophobic, especially in the back. Even more so if you equip the Cupra Ateca with the optional bucket seats.
At 4,376mm long, the Cupra Ateca is 13mm longer than the SEAT version, with the ‘sporty’ rear bumper the major contributor to this slight increase in length.
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The Ateca is based on the Leon hatchback, so space inside is good, if not remarkable. It’s roughly the same size as a Nissan Qashqai inside, but slightly smaller than the Renault Kadjar. Crucially, however, you cannot buy performance versions of these crossovers.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
The amount of legroom is adequate for a car of this size, but only slightly more than you’d get in a Leon hatchback. However, the taller crossover body means that headroom is improved, which is especially noticeable in the back. Only a child will appreciate sitting in the centre rear seat for a prolonged period, mind.
In most areas, the Cupra version of the Ateca remains as family-friendly as the SEAT versions, but you will have to put up with a slightly smaller boot. Thanks to the four-wheel drive system, the boot floor is slightly higher, bringing the luggage capacity down from 510 to 485 litres.
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A small penalty for the performance version, perhaps, and it remains more than you’d find in a front-wheel drive Nissan Qashqai (430 litres). The rear seats split 60:40 and can be released via a mechanism in the boot, but they leave a significant lip, so you’re not left with an entirely flat floor. There is a ski hatch, which might help with longer items, while an electric tailgate is part of the Comfort & Sound pack.
The Cupra Ateca offers a maximum braked towing weight of 2,100kg, or 750kg unbraked, and a towbar pre-installation kit with hook is available for around £700.
Unsurprisingly, the Cupra Ateca cannot claim to offer diesel-like fuel economy, but 38.2mpg is a reasonable figure for a performance SUV. With CO2 emissions of 168g/km, all Cupra Ateca models, regardless of option packs, attract a first-year VED rate of £515.
Add the Comfort & Sound and Design packs to the Ateca, and the list price is nudged over the £40,000 mark. This means the second year road tax rate is £450, rather than the standard £140. Over the course of five years, that’s an extra £1,550 to pay.
While the insurance groups for the SEAT Ateca start at 8 and rise to 21, the Cupra version falls into group 33, so you will pay more for your premium. For some context, the SEAT Leon ST Cupra estate sits in group 35, while the Leon Cupra hatchback is in group 33.
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It’s too early to predict how well the Cupra Ateca will hold its value, but the SEAT version offers strong residual values. Some models retain more than 54 per cent of their value after three years, which is more than most rivals.
The Cupra brand has next-to-zero equity, but proven mechanicals, the popularity of SUVs and a high level of standard specification should ensure secondhand values remain high.