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First drive: Cupra Ateca. Image by Cupra UK.

First drive: Cupra Ateca
SEAT launches its Cupra sub-brand with an SUV. Cue lots of critical hatred... for reasons we canít quite fathom.


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Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

SEAT hives Cupra off from the herd to create a new sporting sub-marque, with the first thing down the production pipeline being a hotted-up Ateca. While it's clear some people will never accept a 300hp SUV as anything other than a cynical marketing exercise, we happen to think the Cupra Ateca is an incredibly likeable and talented creation.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound
Pricing: SEAT Ateca from £21,940, Cupra Ateca from £35,900; Comfort and Sound as tested £37,830
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: 4Drive all-wheel drive, seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic
Body style: five-door performance SUV
CO2 emissions: 168g/km (VED Band 151-170: £515 first 12 months, then £140 annually thereafter)
Combined economy: 38.2mpg
Top speed: 153mph
0-62mph: 5.2 seconds
Power: 300hp at 5,30-6,500rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 2,000-5,200rpm
Boot space: 485-1,579 litres

What's this?

Whether you're going to get on board with the SUV you're looking at in the pictures here seems to depend on three things: one, in what esteem you hold the Spanish company SEAT's Cupra performance badging; two, whether you love or loathe performance SUVs; and three, what you think of that weird, tribal badge that Cupra has foisted on this, its first product as a standalone brand. The Cupra Ateca sits above its regular SEAT-badged brother in the range but it's also a vehicle apart, the start of Cupra going it alone as a performance-machine house under Martorell's Iberian wing.

The process of creating the Cupra Ateca is a reasonably simple one, of course. Take the excellent Ateca C-segment SUV and give it the 300hp iteration of the EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, which has served so many Volkswagen Group performance products so well, and then also the mechanical gubbins to grapple with said power uplift. So there's a seven-speed DSG in the mix, a '4Drive'-branded Haldex AWD system, Dynamic Chassis Control adjustable dampers, sports-tuned Progressive Steering, big 19-inch alloys on grippy tyres and all the various styling accoutrements you'd expect of one of these things.

Four models will make up the Cupra Ateca line-up, beginning with the base car at £35,900. From here, you can choose one of two 'Packs' to enhance the experience: the Cupra Ateca Design (£39,245) has uprated Brembo brakes, a Copper finish for the 19-inch wheels and Black interior styling; meanwhile, the Comfort and Sound (£37,830) model loads in extra kit such as the Advance Comfort and Driving Pack Plus and a Winter Pack, along with a Beats Audio Sound System, electric tailgate and a space-saver spare wheel. To expand on precisely what the ACDP and Winter Packs mean, we're talking Traffic Sign Recognition, Lane Assist, Adaptive Cruise Control, High-Beam Assist and heated front seats. And then, for £41,175, you can combine both of the above into the Cupra Ateca Comfort, Sound and Design, although this one will be subject to the £310 'rich tax' levy on VED for years two to six of ownership because it's in excess of 40 grand.

Strong prices, granted, but for the money you're getting a performance machine that promises to drive something like a hot hatch while offering all the interior quality, cabin space, boot capacity and exterior handsomeness of the regular Ateca, only beefed up with slotted bumpers and bigger grilles and vents and a quad exhaust and so on. Throw in a sharp example of the first digital dash used by the SEAT/Cupra brands and you've got a seriously tempting proposition. Haven't you?

How does it drive?

To put our appraisal of the Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound into some kind of context, we'd better answer our own three questions, which we posed above, for you. So, number one: Cupra only came into being in 1996 and while it is a portmanteau of 'Cup' and 'Race', what SEAT has done here is hardly like Porsche has slapped the RS badge onto the backside of a Cayenne, for instance - there have been some so-so Cupra hot hatches in the intervening 22 years since the nameplate arrived and, truth be told, we were always expecting a SEAT Ateca Cupra from the minute the regular flavours of the SUV arrived. It's just the Cupra bit of its name isn't where we expected it to be.

Two, as an outlet (and in this particular road tester's eyes), we simply do not abhor performance SUVs as a matter of principle. So many people seem to get their panties in a bunch about the mere thought of such a thing, as if it's the most horrific idea in the world, but with some notable, ghastly exceptions (*cough* BMW X6 M *cough*) we have found plenty of performance SUVs, of all shapes and sizes, that we like - such as the Audi SQ7, the Bentley Bentayga W12 and the Porsche Macan. With their great visibility out thanks to their high driving positions, longer-travel and typically more supple suspension, and AWD systems to maximise torque delivery, they actually make for decently engaging, brutally rapid road cars that can breathe with a bumpy surface, instead of skittering all over it in demented fashion.

And three... well, accepted, the badge is awful. OK, we see what SEAT was trying to do, what with all the tribal mentions and the fact the logo is supposed to be two angular renditions of the letter 'C', intertwined, but it does look cheap and like the sort of graphic you'd see on a made-up car company in a computer game or shonky B-movie. We're also not massively happy with some of the exterior 'carbon fibre' that's fitted to the Cupra Ateca, which is questionable in the extreme, but at least SEAT was true to its word about not putting any slashed 'S' badges on the SUV anywhere... just don't look too closely at its light clusters, though.

Aaaand... that's pretty much it on the criticism score. Because, aside from steering that lacks the crucial degrees of nuance and feel that would have us raving about this thing, the Cupra Ateca drives absolutely brilliantly. Indeed, it comfortably saw off a pre-facelift Macan S during our three weeks in its company, showing just how potent and capable this new fast SUV is. Part of the key to this is that the Cupra Ateca uses a variation of the EA888 that's 20Nm up for torque on other key applications of this engine - such as the Leon Cupra R, the Volkswagen Golf R and, pertinently, the very car which the Ateca's main naysayers will cite as the more sensible and discerning option, the Leon ST Cupra 300 4Drive.

With that 300hp/400Nm turbo lump coupled up to a slick-shifting seven-speed DSG and the 4Drive system, it means the Ateca has explosive any-time pace because it has masses of traction and little in the way of turbo lag to report. It even sounds decent, although we would say the exhaust could make a bit more noise when the SUV is in its more focused Sport and Cupra drive modes. However, with that thumping four-pot up front and Cupra's brilliance at sorting out damping - the ride quality is exceptional for a performance-focused vehicle rolling on 19s - all to the fore, you can't possibly complain about the ride and handling the Ateca serves up. Oh, and the steering, our main bugbear, is at least direct and accurate, to make up for its lack of feedback.

Thankfully, as you're not going to be driving the Cupra Ateca on the redline/lock stops/door handles all the time, it functions just as well as you'd expect an SUV should in the daily grind of 21st-century traffic. That sublime digital instrument cluster and the lovely Cupra front seats elevate the Ateca's otherwise humdrum (if well-made) cabin from 'meh' to 'ooh', although there could still be more in the way of visual pizzazz to reinforce the idea that you're in something a bit more special than an Ateca FR Sport with the 150hp TSI engine. Other than the fake carbon, we love the exterior appearance and the general air of refinement the Cupra can summon up on a long cruise is most welcome - there's a little too much tyre noise on rougher roads, but in the main it's very quiet, very comfortable and very easy-to-use. We did almost 450 miles in it at an average of 27.4mpg (erm, we might have been... driving it quite enthusiastically for some of that distance) and a best average of almost 32mpg on a motorway run is more than commendable for a big, heavy, 4WD SUV with 300hp.


While choosing the Ateca as the model with which to launch Cupra might have the purists frothing at the mouth about SEAT's sincerity (or otherwise) towards the sub-marque, we're convinced by what the Cupra Ateca represents. Save for the mechanically similar and yet badly packaged Audi SQ2, there's nothing with the same sort of performance and practicality available at this price point. And performance SUVs really are here to stay, no matter how irate they make some folk.

It might well be disappointing that the next confirmed Cupra, a bespoke product that won't be sold as a SEAT, is another SUV by the name of the Formentor. But we're confident that a Cupra Ibiza can't be too far off, which should shake up the B-segment hot hatch sector, and when SEAT gets around to making the new Leon, we'll have a racy version of that from the Cupra sub-brand to get our teeth into. Sure, we're going to have to take in a Cupra Arona and Tarraco, too, but maybe after that, we'll get further bespoke Cupras in the shape of coupes and saloons.

Here's hoping - and here's hoping that they're all as dynamically well-sorted and rewarding as the pioneer, the Cupra Ateca, because aside from its hieroglyphic logos, there's really little to dislike about this excellent newcomer.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Interior Ambience

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Passenger Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Luggage Space

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain

Matt Robinson - 3 Jan 2019

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2019 Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound. Image by Cupra UK.2019 Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound. Image by Cupra UK.2019 Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound. Image by Cupra UK.2019 Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound. Image by Cupra UK.2019 Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound. Image by Cupra UK.

2019 Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound. Image by Cupra UK.2019 Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound. Image by Cupra UK.2019 Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound. Image by Cupra UK.2019 Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound. Image by Cupra UK.2019 Cupra Ateca Comfort and Sound. Image by Cupra UK.


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