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

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