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First Drive: Cupra’s Ateca adds some character to a no-nonsense SUV

Cupra has been gaining traction in the new car market, but what is its core SUV – the Ateca – like to live with? Jack Evans finds out.

What is it?

Cupra Ateca
Cupra Ateca The Ateca bodystyle has been designed for families

Cupra has started making some real progress here in the UK. While sister brand Seat has remained quite static in the market, Cupra has been injected with some real verve courtesy of a number of eye-catching concept cars that preview some very exciting future vehicles. But while electric vehicles which look straight out of science fiction might be thrilling to see, the present day calls for more, shall we say, traditional cars.

And for Cupra, traditional has always centred around the Ateca. It’s a car it shared with Seat just before it split away to become a brand in its own right in 2018 and has served as a core part of its line-up ever since. But is it still such a good option in what is a very busy segment? We’ve been finding out.

What’s new?

Cupra Ateca
Cupra Ateca The large wheels do disrupt the ride

The Ateca was given a facelift back in early 2020, adding a range of styling tweaks alongside a more tech-heavy cabin. The exterior ties in closer with some of Cupra’s other models – like the Formentor and Born – with a far more prominent use of the brand’s logos. And while it may closely resemble the Ateca which came before it, the sharpening of lights and edges has made it a little more dynamic than before.

And while the Ateca’s exterior might allude to a sportier engine setup underneath – which, in truth, it can be specified with – it’s this car’s more ‘everyday’ range of powertrains that’ll more likely fit the bill for most drivers.

What’s under the bonnet?

Cupra Ateca
Cupra Ateca The Ateca is available with 1.5- and 2.0-litre engines

Speaking of those ‘everyday’ engines, that’s just what we’ve got on ‘our’ test Ateca. Far from the fire-breathing 2.0-litre turbocharged unit which sits at the top of the Ateca’s list of powertrains, the one we have here is a more conventional 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol with 148bhp and 250Nm of torque, equating to a 0-60mph time of 9.1 seconds and a 124mph top speed.

Hooked up to a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox, this setup can deliver up to 41.5mpg and CO2 emissions of 153g/km, which are both pretty par for the course in this segment. If you’re after a little extra punch, then there is a ‘regular’ 2.0-litre version of the Ateca available, bringing 188bhp to the party alongside a 0-60mph time of seven seconds flat. It’s also got four-wheel-drive, whereas this entry 1.5-litre version only drives the front wheels.

What’s it like to drive?

Cupra Ateca
Cupra Ateca

The Ateca drives in a perfectly normal manner. Sitting up higher than you would in a traditional hatchback or estate gives you a lofty view of the road ahead, while the relatively light steering makes piloting it around town – which is where the vast majority of Atecas are likely to be living – a breeze.

The DSG gearbox does administer a bit of lag, however, and making a quick entrance into a roundabout, for example, requires some pre-planning to allow the car enough time to work out that you want to move forward. However, the 1.5-litre engine is flexible and feels more than powerful enough for daily driving. We would say, too, that the 19-inch alloy wheels on ‘our’ Ateca gave it a firmer ride than you’d really like, so it’s worth thinking about whether you want the best-possible ride quality or the more eye-catching alloy wheels.

How does it look?

Cupra Ateca
Cupra Ateca The intricate alloys do give the Ateca more character

Cupra didn’t go to town with the remodelling of the Ateca for this facelift and that’s just fine – it was always quite a good-looking car anyway. However, the tweaks which have been made give it a little extra impact, while the standard-fit LED headlights and LED rear lights both look great and provide excellent illumination at night.

The 19-inch machined alloys, as we’ve touched upon, do add a certain degree of drama to the overall look of the car with the trade-off being ride comfort.

What’s it like inside?

Cupra Ateca
Cupra Ateca The interior has plenty of good materials

The Ateca’s roots lie in a family-friendly focus and that’s evident even in this sportier Cupra version. Headroom is great all round and there’s plenty of space for those in the back to stretch out though quite a chunky transmission tunnel will mean that whoever is sitting in the middle seat is bound to feel a little cramped.

The 510-litre boot that you get in the Ateca is decent too, though it’s less than you’ll find in rival models like the Audi Q3 and Peugeot 3008, which offer 530 and 591 litres respectively. Of course, you can fold down the rear seats to extend the Ateca’s load area further should you need a little extra space.

What’s the spec like?

Cupra Ateca
Cupra Ateca The boot is deep, square and easy to access

Prices for the Cupra Ateca kick off from £36,045 in entry-level V1 trim with this 1.5-litre petrol engine. Standard equipment levels are good, with features such as a heated steering wheel, wireless smartphone integration and dual-zone climate control included from the off. Step up to V2 and you’ll find that the price increases – up to £37,830 – but adds features such as heated front seats, an electric tailgate and wireless phone charging.

There are a smattering of optional extras to choose from. Our test car, for instance, came with a panoramic sunroof (£1,210) and metallic paint (£630), which bumped the price for this V1-grade car up to £36,545. However, we’d say that there’s little need to go near the optional extras list given the impressive level of equipment that you get as standard. It’s worth adding that if you don’t want the stand-out looks of the Cupra and can manage with a little less equipment, you can get the standard Seat Ateca with the same 1.5-litre engine for £31,930, so a fair chunk less than an entry-level Cupra version.

Verdict

The Ateca follows a fairly usual format but, thanks to some Cupra-led touches, it doesn’t feel too mundane. The cabin is well made and has plenty of features while the level of standard equipment available across this car’s suite of trim levels ensures that you’re getting a good deal regardless of the particular model you choose.

If outright practicality is what you’re after then there are better – and more spacious – options out there, but if you’re after a family-focused SUV with a little extra style, then the Ateca makes for a very fine choice.

  • Model as tested: Cupra Ateca
  • Price as tested: £36,045
  • Engine: 1.5-litre turbocharged petrol
  • Power: 148bhp
  • Torque: 250Nm
  • Max speed: 124mph
  • 0-60mph: 9.1 seconds
  • MPG: 41.5mpg
  • Emissions: 153g/km