Before we go any further we need to address this model’s name and provenance.
Yes, it might look like a Seat Ateca, might share part of its name with Seat’s SUV and might be sold exclusively by a select few Seat dealers, but this is a Cupra. Yes, that name used to belong on fast Seats but in recent times it has been spun off and now stands alone as a performance sub-brand rather than a just a high-end specification label.
Cupra has big plans for coming years, with models such as the Leon, Formentor and el-Born on their way and plans for an EV based on the all-electric Tavascan concept. However, at the moment the Ateca is the only model to bear the eye-catching Cupra badge.
Physically, it resembles the standard Seat Ateca from which it’s derived. It sits a couple centimetres lower and features various highlights in a copper finish. It’s also wearing diamond-cut 19-inch alloys, gloss black bodywork highlights and Cupra's distinctive badge.
Mechanically, there are more significant differences. This Ateca packs the same 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine that has made the VW Golf R and Seat Leon Cupra such potent hot hatches.
In the Ateca it offers 296bhp and 295lb/ft and is connected to an all-wheel-drive system via a seven-speed DSG gearbox. It’s good for 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds and feels suitably potent. It’s quick off the line and the mid-range urge is particularly impressive. Mated to the quick shifting gearbox and with plenty of grip it means you can make rapid progress. The engine’s biggest weakness is a dull and fairly subdued note. You’ll be grateful for it on motorway journeys but even in Cupra drive mode it doesn’t shout “performance”.
As well as lowering the car, the bespoke suspension features stiffer springs and anti-roll bars, and upgraded adaptive dampers to give this SUV its sporting edge. There’s certainly plenty of grip and the dynamic chassis control allows you to firm or soften the shocks along with altering the aggression of the throttle, transmission and steering. But while you can throw it down a country lane at an impressive lick without it feeling out of control there’s not a huge amount of engagement. The steering is fast but uncommunicative and there’s only so much clever electronics can do to disguise the car’s added height and weight compared with a hatchback.
The standard Ateca is one of the firmer riding SUVs and the Cupra cranks this up. Its comfort mode feels on a par with the standard car’s stiffness but it’s a welcome option given that the sportier modes verge on being too unforgiving.
As well as the firm approach to ride comfort, the Cupra shares much of its interior with the regular Seat model. That’s good news as, aside from the Alcantara sports seats, sports steering wheel and Cupra badging, it’s the same airy, comfortable and sensibly arranged space. As a halo model, the Cupra gets all the gadgets, including a feature-packed media/nav system with Beats audio and the full virtual cockpit digital instruments.
The Cupra Ateca has very few direct rivals. Apart from the VW T-Roc R and Audi SQ2 (both closely related to the Ateca), no other mainstream SUVs can match it for power or pace and it’s capable of covering ground confidently and quickly while providing plenty of space and practicality, if that's what you’re looking for.
Price: £38,140; Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Power: 296bhp; Torque: 295lb/ft; Transmission: Seven-speed automatic; Top speed: 152mph; 0-62mph: 5.2 seconds; Economy: 31.7-32.5mpg; CO2 emissions: 197g/km