Cupra Ateca Not a Seat any more
Think SUVs have illed every market gap? Apparently not. Cupra’s new Ateca corners the previously deserted ‘fast and £36k’ crevice. By Tom Goodlad
IT’S TELLING THAT the first car launched by Seat’s newly formed spinoff brand is a family SUV transformed into a hot hatch on stilts.
With a £35,900 price tag, the Cupra Ateca occupies a space all of its own with no direct rivals to be seen, and thereby fulfils one of Cupra’s main aims – uniqueness. The other two buzzwords are sophistication and performance, so let’s see how that pans out.
First impressions are good. In murdered-out all-black it looks the business and shows off the curious new logo. We’re not sure what it’s supposed to be, but there’s a whiff of unknown-superhero or unbranded-car-from-a-violent-drivinggame-you-might-play-at-the-weekend about it, and a lot of Dainese.
The Ateca is already one of the sharper-looking SUVs, so unsurprisingly not much has changed besides the addition of a snarling and rather Halfords bodykit. The dark colour you see here tones it down and makes it look suitably aggressive, but we’re not sure if all those copper bits are necessary, nor especially appealing parked on a UK high street.
It drives exactly how you’d expect a powerful SUV with all-wheel drive to. It’s very capable, but not especially thrilling – the ride is secure and composed but feels disappointingly non-threatening. That’s partly down to the aggressive bodykit promising more thrills than you actually get, but it’s mainly because the Cupra Ateca is just a very capable and predictable machine. It’s accomplished in the same way a Seat Leon ST Cupra or VW Golf R is. Who would have thought?
There’s no faulting the way it builds pace, though – sometimes quicker than you realise. Aural drama comes via ferocious upshifts from the seven-speed DSG and exhaust parps and bangs, but overall it feels strangely tame, like the car is doing it all for you. That may well be how a potential buyer wants it – fast
in a straight line and without feeling like it’s going to throw you into a ditch at the next bend.
Body control is good and it manages its size well – let’s not forget this is a high-riding crossover – while traction and grip levels are very impressive and the optional Brembo brakes reassuringly effective. But all of this capability can’t distract you from the fact that it feels like it’s lacking something. It’s missing the fizz that every decent GTi should deliver by the lorry-load.
The feeling isn’t helped by the interior, which is really just a Seat Ateca with a different steering wheel and fancy (and very good) alcantara-clad bucket seats. Disappointingly, we won’t be getting these seats in UK Cupra Atecas.
But you’ve got to remind yourself that this started life as a sensible family car, and it retains all of the regular Ateca’s abilities. It’s still spacious, it’s still high quality and you can still fit the family and their luggage in. The difference is that you’ll get to your destination a lot quicker than in a 1.6 TDI.
So does it work? Sort of. If you want a fast SUV in this price bracket, there really isn’t really anything else out there. You have to spend an extra £15,000 to get yourself a slightly faster Audi SQ5, for example. And does it make sense as a Cupra? Again, sort of, though it could just as easily have had a Seat badge on the front with a Cupra trim level badge on the back. But Cupra had to start somewhere, and an empty space is as good a place as any.
Copper for logo and wheels tells you it’s a Cupra, not a Seat
Cupra logo, latbottomed wheel and seats are new. Everything else is Seat