2020 Cupra Ateca Review

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2020 Cupra Ateca Review

The newly independent Cupra performance brand, announced at the Geneva motor show last March, has finally borne fruit in order to begin addressing that question. And, rather intriguingly, the Cupra Ateca performance crossover SUV is the car with which the brand has chosen to introduce us to its new, founding values. 2020 Cupra Ateca Review

Those values are “performance, drivability, usability and sophistication,” as defined by Cupra’s own claims – an interesting combination that suggests Seat will no longer be in pursuit of cars with Ford RS, Renault Sport Cup or Honda Type-R badges but instead be using the performance engineering resources of its motorsport division to offer cars not unlike the GTIs made by its parent company, Volkswagen.

And, as if to underline, capitalise and highlight such a decisive change in tack, Cupra is opening for business with a high-rise, four-wheel-drive, go-faster family car with more power than any of its kind yet to be produced by any car maker outside of the premium-branded sphere. The Cupra Ateca might be a product marketing Venn diagram bullseye.

2020 Cupra Ateca Review

In principle, it combines the engine, gearbox and driveline of a popular and critically acclaimed hot hatchback (and hot hatchbacks like the VW Golf R are bigger business in Europe now than they have been in some time) with the fashionable, desirable, added-convenience bodystyle of a crossover hatchback. Cupra has now undocked from the Seat mothership and is now a brand in its own right, not just a boot badge for fast versions. So Cupra comes first, then the model name.

Of course, Cupra isn’t suddenly building cars from scratch. It may have swapped the Seat badge for one resembling a dubious tattoo, but underneath the brand veneer you will still find adrenalised versions of Seat’s regular showroom models, now sold in a ‘Cupra Corner’ of selected dealerships.

2020 Cupra Ateca Review

2020 Cupra Ateca Review

In this case it’s the Ateca, the company’s best-selling crossover. You might have hoped that Cupra – famous for its scorchio hatches – would celebrate its newfound independence with a wild Leon of some sort. We’re told that sort of thing will come around, but for now, even Cupra can’t resist a crossover. Having said that, the Ateca’s performance credentials are fairly promising.

It gets a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine – you know the one from any other fast VW Group thing – making 296bhp and 295lb ft. It does 0-62mph in 5.4 seconds and its top speed is 152mph. It also gets all-wheel drive, a DSG automatic gearbox, adaptive suspension, a bespoke exhaust and optional four-piston Brembo brakes.

You’ll also notice wider front intakes, glossy black grilles, quad exit pipes (real ones), a rear spoiler and Cupra wheels in copper or silver – 19s are the biggest the Ateca can accommodate, leaving a lot of fresh air between tyre and body. A fair-size cat could have a happy afternoon’s kip in the gap, which you notice more in real life than in pictures. Here’s the biggie: it costs £35,900 in basic form. On the one hand, that’s sub-£40k for a hot hatch with the appeal of an SUV. On the other, it’s nearly £40k for a Seat with an iffy new logo.

2020 Cupra Ateca Review

At first that may seem faintly ridiculous, but when you look at the Venn diagram of price, proportions and performance, the Ateca lives in a little world of its own. To get vaguely comparable speed and power from any other medium-sized SUV, you’re looking at spending around £50k+ on a Porsche Macan S or an Audi SQ5. But although it may be marooned in its own micro-sector, that doesn’t mean it has a free pass. A £40,000-ish Seat – sorry, Cupra – has a lot to prove, starting with how it drives…

2020 Cupra Ateca Review

All cars get adaptive suspension, all-wheel-drive and the latest DSG paddleshift gearbox. Options include bucket seats and bigger brakes, both of which are worth having. But however you look at it, the Ateca is basically a hoiked-up hot hatch, which is exactly what it’s like to drive. Imagine a Golf R with a little more roll, a little less pace and a touch more weight (at 1632kg it’s a very noticeable 130kg heavier than the 4WD Golf).

2020 Cupra Ateca Review

Yet it pelts around happily enough, and the Brembos certainly stop corners from filling your windscreen too quickly. It sounds mildly interesting – at least the exhaust noise is real – and even manages a few crackles when you really snap off the throttle, though you do have to encourage it.

You’d have to drive in a family-unfriendly manner to give the AWD a proper day’s work (in the dry it felt very front-wheel drive, almost all of the time), though the extra driven axle is probably more evident in the wet than on a sticky Spanish circuit. If anything, it could handle more power and a meaner, louder, more aggressively damped setup in the sportiest DCC mode. Isn’t that what you want from a Cupra? You could always dial it down again when the kids are on board.

2020 Cupra Ateca Review

The cabin layout is the same as a regular Ateca’s, though the Cupra gets TFT dials plus extra performance info on the central screen. There’s too much dark plastic on and around the dashboard, though you’ll be able to jazz things up with various trim options – both inside and out – including copper-weave carbon and other steampunky fabrics and colourways.

2020 Cupra Ateca Review

In fact, the press launch presentation included pictures of fortysomething hipsters in coffee shops modelling various levels of beards and sleeve tattoos. The message, it seems, is that today’s Cupra buyer – the one who drove a lime green Leon in 2004 – may have grown up and started a family, but still has a stylish, somewhat wild side. If that’s you, you’re in luck. If not, let’s all get together for a beer and figure out who these people are.

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