Launching a new, sporty car marque with a crossover is an interesting proposition. It’s either genius, due to the fact that everyone loves crossovers at the moment, or it’s just totally wrong because no crossover should be ‘sporty’…or should it?
We took the Cupra Ateca for a week to see if they’d pulled off a masterstroke.
Moody colours and copper accents are the order of the day when it comes to Cupra, that jagged, evil-looking badge featuring prominently up front.
Yes, it’s still a SEAT, there’s no denying that, but any and all traces of the large ‘S’ have been removed.
19” alloys hide four-piston Brembo brakes measuring a hefty 370mm in diameter. They’re truly massive stoppers to find on a car of this ilk.
Low down at the front is a large ‘CUPRA’ emblazoned on the grille, reminiscent of what Audi do with their Quattro cars.
A body kit all round helps lower the Atenca’s appearance even more so than the drop in ride height, and at the back there’s another Cupra badge mounted in faux carbon fibre.
Beneath the number plate, there’s blacked-out central Cupra text, and then right at the bottom, you’ll find quad exhausts.
This is no ordinary crossover.
In this day and age, it’s incredibly hard to beat the time a satnav tells you a journey will take. Well, a drive from Milton Keynes to Bracknell early one Sunday morning was completed in a whole 30 mins less than it should have according to Google.
Waking up an hour late for my CBT motorbike course with Honda, I was suddenly at the mercy of the clock with only the Ateca to save me from not being allowed on the course. Turning up late meant they’d start without me.
Now while I can’t condone speeding, there’s a time and a place for ‘making progress’, and early on a Sunday morning across B roads is the place to do it if need be.
With a 2.0-litre turbocharged engine making 296 BHP and 400 Nm of torque the pace of the Cupra is unrelenting. 0-62 comes up in 5.4 seconds; it will go on to a top speed of 152.
All of that power is fed through the ubiquitous DSG gearbox then on to an all-wheel-drive system. It’s basically a Golf R underneath that crossover body.
Cornering is as flat as you’d expect in the rapid VW hatch, there’s a tiny amount of body roll, but it’s nothing for a car of this stature.
Bends are taken with confidence-inspiring grip, and when you overcook it the Brembos reign you in with ease.
Paddle shifting through the DSG is precisely what you want in a rapid SUV, no farting about with a gearstick, it’s all on the forward motion, eyes glued to the road on stalks.
I think pretty much everything I came across was overtaken with ease that morning, the Cupra is an animal in terms of acceleration.
Keeping it manual on the paddles a flick down, then a hard right foot despatched every lane blocker.
It’s the type of car, much like the Golf R, or a Polestar Volvo, that just eggs you on to be a hooligan.
It can take it, and it wants you to push on. You end up in a game of one-upmanship when it comes to overtaking gaps – just don’t get too cocky.
Adaptive dampers are standard, and in their fiercest mode the ride is firm, but I wouldn’t say crashy. There’s still a good amount of give.
Oh, and it has a real exhaust, one that sounds just as good as any roarty hot hatch of late. Back off the throttle and you’re met with burbles and even a few crackles if you’ve really been on it.
And yet back off the loud pedal, put the gearbox in manual, set everything to its default and the Cupra Ateca can be a sedate family lugger.
Agreed, the suspension, as adaptive as it is, can still be on the firm side when compared to the wallowy likes of a Citroen C5 Aircross, but you can’t have it all.
Gorgeous Alcantara lines the door cards, while the seats get soft middles and faux carbon fibre edges with matching copper stitching.
You’ll find more of the stuff on the steering wheel airbag, it’s smart, but could be seen as a little OTT.
Gloss black highlights some dash elements, but overall the interior feels on the cheaper side, definitely not worthy of the price tag the Cupra Ateca commands.
Granted, you get digital dials as standard, but it just feels a bit lacklustre, there’s a waft of budget VAG about it, like an entry-level Polo that it can’t shake.
Rear seat leg and headroom remain unchanged compared to the Ateca – decent enough for average-sized adults, perfect for kids. While the boot space measures in at 510 litres.
Have they done it then? Is this a genius first car for the sporting Cupra brand?
Well, sadly, Yes.
I say sadly as every other car on our roads is a crossover these days, but in terms of ones with true outright pace and handling, £37,365 isn’t all that expensive.
The nearest competition comes in the form of the SQ2 at £37,370 – arguably a tad smaller than the Ateca and dare we say a little less focussed. Then you’ve got the likes of the Porsche Macan S which has 40 odd horses more but a 5.3 0-62 time yet costs £49,300.
So the Cupra Ateca is the most affordable, rapid crossovers out there. And a damn good one at that.