A good start is half the battle
Cupra seems to have chosen the most awkward time to introduce itself as a sports car work. Share cars are replacing car ownership, so fewer and fewer people are investing in a dream car anymore. At the same time, electric cars are conquering the market and a smoking, roaring sports car is obsolete. On top of that, the first Cupra is not a low, streamlined sports car, but an SUV.
And that's exactly Cupra's point! Precisely to show that things can be different, Cupra chooses an SUV as its first model. A more practical point: the Seat Leon will soon be replaced by a new model and the Ateca was simply the first new model waiting for a Cupra variant. As for the powertrain, the first Cupra prototypes (for track use) were electric cars. It is for practical reasons that this first Cupra is still powered by a combustion engine. Cupra is waiting for electric technology from parent company Volkswagen, but in order not to unnecessarily delay the brand's introduction, the first Cupras will be powered by a petrol engine.
And what an engine! Under the bonnet is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder that develops no less than 300 hp / 400 Nm. That power is transmitted over all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The power unit exhales through four exhaust pipes. In short: Cupra offers everything Seat's motorsport division has to offer.
In so-called "comfort mode", the Cupra Ateca drives like a very ordinary SUV. It is noticeable that the engine always has a considerable reserve, as plenty of torque is at hand almost regardless of revs. Yet the car is never aggressive or challenging, even the driving noises are modest. The Cupra Ateca can therefore be used on a daily basis as an ordinary, comfortable family car.
The character changes when choosing Sport mode, or one step further: Cupra mode. Then the response to the throttle becomes more direct, pops from the exhaust pipes sound during gear changes and it takes a lot of self-control not to use every free bit of tarmac to accelerate to the max. By using "launch control" (choose Cupra mode, put anti-slip control in sport mode, apply the brake firmly, step on the gas full throttle, feel the power build up and release the brake), anyone can enjoy the 0-100 km/h sprint in 5.2 seconds. Thanks to all-wheel drive, this exercise is done without wheel spin and the car accelerates dead straight. However, 100 km/h is only the beginning of the fun and even far above that, the Ateca continues to accelerate eagerly, sometimes approaching the horizon frighteningly fast.
Because of the high seat, the experience is different from that in a fast hatchback. The high seat gives a great sense of power on the one hand, but at the same time makes for a less intense sensation of speed. This makes the Cupra Ateca no better or worse than a fast hatchback, but simply different. Because of its high build, the Ateca's fuel consumption does exceed that of a traditional low car: count on 10 litres per 100 km with normal use.
Because of its tall build and high seat, the ride is also different from usual. Compared to a Seat Ateca, the Cupra Ateca has a 10 mm lowered body. Thanks to variable damping, the Cupra Ateca is comfortable or sometimes snappy. Even when the suspension and steering are on edge, the Ateca tilts slightly in fast corners. For an SUV, however, the handling is first-rate. When the Ateca is steered with a firm hand, the car is eager and it is very rewarding to drive fast.
It is always clearly perceptible what is going on under the wheels. Even the all-wheel drive does its job deliberately less subtly than in a luxury car to provide the best possible communication between car and driver. Those who are less confident can therefore simply "listen" to the mechanics and gradually build up the pace.
Optionally, the Ateca can be fitted with brakes from Brembo. With these, feel in the brake pedal is moderate, but when braking firmly, braking power is excellent. Moreover, Brembo brakes are less likely to suffer from "fading"; they can be used intensively without reducing braking power. The optional sports seats provide much-needed extra lateral support, but at the same time are comfortable enough to cover long distances. Since the bucket seats have no hard shell at the back (as is usually the case), legroom in the rear is maintained.
Thanks to its huge engine power and excellent road handling, the Cupra Ateca convinces as a sporty model. To make the car exclusive as well, Cupra provides unique "dressing". The Ateca is more daring than a sporty German, has more flair than a fast Japanese and is more extravagant than the Seats it replaces.
Naturally, it comes with all the luxury and safety systems available on the Seat Ateca. Think 360-degree cameras, a power tailgate, a modern infotainment system and a display screen instead of traditional dials (speedometer and tachometer). As befits a sports car, a tachometer can be displayed centrally, with a digital speed display at its heart. The on-board computer is enhanced with information on turbo pressure, oil temperature and even a g-force gauge; the latter in particular strongly invites wanton driving...
Of course, safety has not been forgotten. The Cupra Ateca offers all the usual semi-self-driving functions, so the driver can count on computer assistance when really needed. In addition, the Ateca offers the necessary functions to make off-road driving easier, as this all-rounder also manages very well off-road.
Is the new Cupra brand an asset? After an intensive test drive with the Ateca, the answer to that question is a resounding "yes". The Cupra Ateca is different by opting for an SUV instead of a hatchback and that gives a different experience. In the process, the trim is uniquely Spanish. In the future, Cupra plans to offer electrically powered sports cars, but this first model still features an internal combustion engine. That internal combustion engine leaves little to be desired: the Ateca is thrillingly fast when it's allowed and otherwise always as comfortable as an average SUV.
The unique concept also ensures that the Cupra Ateca has no real competition for now. Other fast SUVs are much more expensive, while "hot hatches" offer less functionality. In short: the Ateca made a good impression as Cupra's first model, as its motorsport division provided an excellent starting point for this new brand.
- Lots of driving pleasure
- As comfortable and functional as a regular SUV
- High consumption
- No gas springs under bonnet
- Engineering almost identical to Seat Cupra models