Skip advert
Advertisement
In-depth reviews

Cupra Ateca SUV

The Cupra Ateca is an accomplished performance SUV at a tempting price but it's a little short on character

Carbuyer Rating

3.8 out of 5

Owners Rating
Be the first to review

Pros

  • Athletic looks
  • Broad engine range
  • Impressive handling

Cons

  • No electrified models
  • High fuel consumption
  • SEAT Ateca more sensible

Verdict - Is the Cupra Ateca a good car?

We’ve yet to drive the full range of engines, but we approve of Cupra’s decision to offer all the styling and character of the range flagships with less power and a more affordable entry price. It’s a shame there’s no hybrid or electric model, but regardless, we’ve always liked the way the Ateca drives – despite being based on an ageing SEAT setup, the Cupra branding gives it a fresher, more youthful feel.

Cupra Ateca models, specs and alternatives

The emergence of the performance SUV speaks volumes about the increasing popularity of high-riding models among UK buyers, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Cupra, the performance sub-brand of SEAT, chose to launch a sporty version of the Ateca as its first car.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Since the Cupra Ateca launched a few years back, the brand has gained traction both here in the UK and elsewhere. Its range is now spearheaded by the slick Cupra Born electric car, but also includes the petrol and hybrid-powered Cupra Formentor coupe-SUV, as well as a sporty, Cupra-badged version of the SEAT Leon

The Ateca once stood in a class of one, but rivals now span far and wide. There’s the Volkswagen T-Roc R and the Audi SQ2, for example – both of which the Cupra shares its parts and platform with – as well as forthcoming fast versions of the BMW X1 and X2. Traditional hot hatchbacks like the Ford Focus ST and Volkswagen Golf GTI may also be on the radar of potential Cupra customers.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

Initially available with just one engine option: a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo with 296bhp and all-wheel drive, the Cupra Ateca range has recently been bolstered by a pair of less powerful versions. We’ve not yet had a chance to drive either of these, but the lower list price combined with the same, sporty, under-the-radar styling means they’re not without appeal. It’s a shame there’s no hybrid, plug-in hybrid or EV version of the Cupra Ateca hybrid, however.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Those new engine options mean that – at the time of writing – the Cupra Ateca range starts from under £35,000. This gets you a model with the 148bhp 1.5-litre TSI engine, plus a seven-speed DSG gearbox. V1 trim gets 19-inch wheels, LED lights, wireless phone charging and a touchscreen infotainment system. We think this is the best value specification.

Above this sits the 2.0-litre TSI with 187bhp and 4Drive all-wheel drive – again, with the DSG automatic gearbox. You’ll pay almost £4k more all in. Finally, there’s the same 2.0-litre engine, tuned to 296bhp for maximum performance – this model can do 0-62mph in just 5.2 seconds and is a worthy range flagship.

Its 152mph top speed is perhaps less relevant but indicates the considerable potential that lurks under what is quite a discreet and slightly understated appearance. Only a sporty bodykit, model-specific bronze alloy wheels and Cupra badges distinguish it from how the standard SEAT Ateca looks.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

The 148bhp and 187bhp engines also come in V2 trim, which brings an automatic tailgate, heated front seats and other luxuries. The 296bhp car comes in VZ1, VZ2, VZ3 and new VZN specs, which each adds progressively more kit. Beware, however, as the flagship model – with its luscious green ‘Dark Camouflage’ paint costs more than £50,000.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Of course, at this point, some people may question Cupra’s image. While many will appreciate the history of the badge, it remains to be seen whether Cupra can garner the prestige of AMG, Audi's S or BMW's M divisions, or whether it'll always be perceived as merely a faster SEAT.

The Cupra Ateca is a very tempting package, as the higher price and slightly increased running costs over the standard model will be justifiable for most given the extra performance and handling prowess. It’s also a far more entertaining car to drive than the diesel-powered Skoda Kodiaq vRS SUV, which is also more expensive.

MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions

Cupra Ateca's fuel economy can be reasonable if you drive calmly but consumables are pricey

Thankfully, new, less powerful engines have given the Cupra Ateca fresh appeal – though a lack of any kind of hybrid or electric options does limit the car’s far-reaching potential. Company car drivers will likely turn a blind eye, for example; top-rate Benefit-in-Kind tax makes it tough to justify when there are so many talented EVs on the market.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

The most efficient Cupra Ateca is the 1.5-litre TSI with 148bhp. We’ve not yet driven this version, but the maker claims 41.8mpg and CO2 emissions of 153g/km. Stepping up to the 2.0-litre with its punchier 187bhp engine sees economy fall to 35.2mpg, with CO2 emission of 183g/km. In V1 spec, both of these can be had for less than £40,000, thereby avoiding the luxury car road tax premium, which can bump annual VED to more than £500.

Advertisement - Article continues below

At the top of the range is the turbocharged 296bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine, which has been offered since launch. It's clear that fuel economy wasn't the top priority when the Cupra Ateca was designed. A potential 31.7mpg is claimed but during our time with the car, fuel economy was stuck in the high twenties. CO2 emissions aren’t super relevant here, but many buyers would associate the lofty 202g/km figure with sports cars rather than family SUVs. 

Routine maintenance for the Cupra Ateca should cost little more than the SEAT version, with service intervals that follow the same fixed or variable pattern depending on how many miles you expect to cover per year. Annual servicing is recommended if you cover fewer than 12,000 miles annually, while those who cover a lot of motorway miles and expect to rack up more than that figure in a year's driving might find variable servicing more suitable.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

All Cupra Ateca owners can cover their cars under the Cupra Care Premium servicing monthly subscription program. This covers all normal services costs, including technical inspections. Do be aware, though, that the Cupra's high performance tyres and bigger brakes are not covered by this plan, and will be more expensive to replace when worn than those of any other Ateca.

Engines, drive & performance

A beefy 296bhp gives the flagship Cupra Ateca impressive performance, and it's no slouch through the corners

The real headline story, and something that sets the Cupra apart from the more humdrum SEAT Ateca on which it’s based, is the way it accelerates. That is, if you go for the flagship 2.0-litre petrol – closely related to the unit you’ll find in a Volkswagen Golf R – which gets 296bhp and 400Nm of torque.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Equipped as such, the Cupra Ateca is capable of blistering pace, with a 0-62mph time of just 4.9 seconds. This makes it quick enough to outpace popular hot hatchbacks like the Hyundai i30N and the Ford Focus ST.

Keeping the revs between 3,000 and 6,000rpm makes the Cupra feel even quicker than its official figures suggest. Between 40 and 70mph, the explosive pace from the turbocharged engine feels seriously quick. At higher speeds, the engine sounds better thanks to a clever sports exhaust that keeps the car quieter at lower speeds.

The Cupra proves more than capable of handling a typically twisty British B-road at pace, despite its relatively hefty weight of 1,628kg. Here, you'll enjoy choosing your driving mode from the five on offer, with 'Cupra' the most aggressive. Select it and the suspension dampers become stiffer, the accelerator responds more crisply and the gearbox and steering react more sharply.

Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

You can individually manage all the parameters that the Cupra mode takes to the max, and can ally the most responsive engine and gearbox modes with a softer ride should you wish to. Meanwhile, the 4Drive four-wheel drive system lends reassurance on damp, greasy or loose surfaces with plenty of usable grip. A dedicated off-road mode is also available for occasional use on moderately rough terrain.

While the Ateca is capable of holding its own on back roads, thanks in part to hugely powerful brakes, it’s not as engaging as a traditional hot hatch such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI. The Cupra Ateca feels cumbersome by comparison, with a lack of feel in both the steering and brakes making you feel a little removed from the driving experience.

Advertisement - Article continues below

But if you want all the style of the standard car but aren’t as fussed when it comes to straight-line speed, Cupra has you covered. It recently added a pair of less powerful engines: a 1.5-litre TSI petrol with 148bhp, and a 2.0-litre TSI petrol with 187bhp – the latter using the flagship car’s 4Drive all-wheel drive system. All cars come with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox.

We’ve not driven these cars just yet; Cupra says both will be available to order from July 2023.

Interior & comfort

Subtle changes bring Cupra Ateca a suitably sporty interior

While the Cupra Ateca is sufficiently pumped up on the outside to distance itself from its SEAT-badged stablemates, the relationship is more starkly obvious inside. The architecture is unchanged from the SEAT Ateca, and that's no bad thing in itself – the dashboard is smart, up-to-date and tidily arranged, while the materials in its construction have all the quality we've come to expect from the Volkswagen Group.

Where the Cupra differs is in its detailing, with contrasting copper stitching and bold Cupra logos on the Alcantara suede sports seats, and a Cupra logo on the boss of the leather steering wheel. As a flagship model, the Cupra Ateca has a long list of standard equipment, including the VW Group's active info display; a driver-configurable digital instrument panel that lets you choose from five different dial displays. There's a simple-to-use 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Despite being largely a styling exercise on the standard Ateca interior, the Cupra really does manage to feel genuinely sporty inside, and that speaks volumes about how well SEAT's mid-size SUV is designed.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Skip advert
Advertisement
Skip advert
Advertisement - Article continues below

There aren’t many options to add; the cheapest V1 comes well equipped, and the list of extras is proof of that. Probably the biggest item of interest is a panoramic roof (£1,175) – otherwise it’s small things like a space-saver wheel, a boot divider, or a tow bar.

Practicality & boot space

Cupra Ateca SUV is barely any less versatile than SEAT-badged sister

Sharing as they do a five-door, five-seater body, there's little change from the standard Ateca where the Cupra's versatility is concerned. As mentioned above, the two cars are somehow very different in feel, and a lot of that comes down to the height difference.

The Cupra's suspension is lowered by 10mm - it's a small amount but it makes a world of difference. Elsewhere, there's little to split the two breeds of Ateca. There's the same generous amount of interior space that allows four to travel in comfort without complaint about legroom or headroom. A child will sit quite comfortably in the centre rear seat, and even adults sitting three abreast won't have their shoulders too badly squashed.

The only area in which the Cupra is compromised as a family workhorse is in boot space, but its slight drop from 510 to 485 litres of luggage room is hardly the end of the world. Four-wheel drive is the reason for this, as the boot floor is slightly higher to make space for a rear differential. Many will say that's a compromise well worth making, as the '4Drive' system is billed as key to the Cupra Ateca driving experience.

Reliability & safety

Cupra will build on SEAT's reputation for owner satisfaction, while safety seems assured

As a brand that exists in its own right, Cupra is still in its infancy, which makes it tricky to predict how its cars will fare in our annual Driver Power owner satisfaction surveys. Indeed, the brand still doesn’t feature in our annual Driver Power owner satisfaction survey; too few customers responded for us to publish any worthwhile data on the manufacturer.

While it seems obvious to draw comparisons to SEAT – Cupra's parent company – differences in owner expectations between the two brands could make such a judgement irrelevant. SEAT finished 23rd in the 2023 manufacturer list, slipping from 17th the year before. Furthermore, a 63rd-place finish for the mechanically similar SEAT Ateca in the model rundown is certainly nothing to write home about.

That said, Ateca owners were happy with their cars’ rear legroom, as well as the climate control system and overall value for money – though the last of those may be less appropriate here given the Cupra’s higher prices. 

Particularly low scores for ride and handling will be a surprise for Cupra and parent company SEAT. We like the way the Ateca drives – especially in Cupra guise, given its sportier billing. 

There should be few concerns over safety, however. The Ateca holds a EuroNCAP five-star rating after crash testing, including an impressive 93% score for adult occupant protection and 84% for child occupant protection. Autonomous emergency braking (AEB) is standard, and additional crash mitigation technology such as lane keeping assistance is available.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Richard is a former editor of Carbuyer, as well as sister site DrivingElectric.com, and he's now Deputy Editor at Auto Express. Having spent a decade working in the automotive industry, he understands exactly what makes new car buyers tick.

Skip advert
Advertisement

Recommended

Hot car deal: racy Cupra Ateca SUV for just £234 a month
cupra ateca
Deals
16 Feb 2024

Hot car deal: racy Cupra Ateca SUV for just £234 a month

Most Popular

Engine management light: top 5 causes of amber engine warning light
Engine warning light
Tips and advice
17 Apr 2024

Engine management light: top 5 causes of amber engine warning light

All-new Citroen C3 Aircross squeezes 7 seats into small SUV body
Citroen C3 Aircross front quarter
News
18 Apr 2024

All-new Citroen C3 Aircross squeezes 7 seats into small SUV body

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers
Carbuyer best new car deals hero
Deals
19 Apr 2024

Best new car deals 2024: this week’s top car offers

More on Ateca

Show me:
Hot car deal: racy Cupra Ateca SUV for just £234 a month
cupra ateca
Deals
16 Feb 2024

Hot car deal: racy Cupra Ateca SUV for just £234 a month

Our hot car deal for February 16th is the characterful Cupra Ateca SUV for less than the price of a standard SEAT Ateca
Facelifted 2020 Cupra Ateca does 0-62mph in under 5 seconds
News
22 Jun 2020

Facelifted 2020 Cupra Ateca does 0-62mph in under 5 seconds

New Cupra Ateca follows on from SEAT’s updated Ateca, with new styling and a bigger touchscreen
Exclusive 2020 Cupra Ateca Limited Edition launched
News
7 Feb 2020

Exclusive 2020 Cupra Ateca Limited Edition launched

A limited-run model of the Cupra Ateca SUV gets styling pack, new exhaust and option of more power
Skip advert
Advertisement
£42,870 starting price for Skoda's sporty seven-seat SUV
News
3 Jan 2019

£42,870 starting price for Skoda's sporty seven-seat SUV

£42,870 starting price for Skoda's sporty seven-seat SUV

Tips & advice

View All
Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide
Car dashboard symbols and meanings
Tips and advice
26 Mar 2024

Car dashboard warning lights: the complete guide

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide
Public EV charge point
Tips and advice
11 Jan 2023

Electric car charging stations: a complete guide

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?
PCP vs HP
Tips and advice
17 May 2022

PCP vs HP – which type of car finance is right for you?

Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Average speed cameras: how do they work?
Tips and advice
21 Mar 2024

Average speed cameras: how do they work?

Best cars

View All
Top 10 best car interiors
Peugeot 208 hatchback
Best cars
25 Jun 2021

Top 10 best car interiors

Top 10 best electric cars 2024
best electric cars
Best cars
28 Mar 2024

Top 10 best electric cars 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024
The best cheap-to-run cars 2023
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

Top 10 best cheap-to-run cars 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024
Fastest hot hatchbacks hero
Best cars
2 Jan 2024

The UK's top 10 fastest hot hatchbacks 2024