Review: Cupra Ateca (2019)


The fastest crossover SUV on sale for (vaguely) sensible money. Just as practical as the standard Ateca.

Not as fun as a hot hatch. Thirsty.

Cupra Ateca (2019): At A Glance

SEAT launched Cupra as a standalone sub-brand and for its first model it chose the Ateca. It's a strong strategy. Take an extremely popular (and deservedly so) SUV, stick in a 300PS 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine from the Volkswagen Golf R and cover it in racing spoilers, diffusers and quad exhaust pipes. That's how to get noticed.

Putting aside its sporting aspirations for a moment, the Cupra Ateca is just as easy to live with as the standard Ateca. The interior is typical Volkswagen Group quality, with a few sporting upgrades - including Cupra badges spread around the interior, Alcantara sports seats and aluminium pedals.

It's a very practical car, with plenty of space in the rear for growing teenagers and a generous 485-litre boot.

And like the standard Ateca, the Cupra offers good value for money. Sure, spending nearly £40,000 on an Ateca and calling it good value may raise eyebrows, but it's surprisingly easy to spend that kind of money on a crossover without the powerful engine and performance enhancements.

There's alse nothing else quite like it on the market. Just be careful you don't add too many options and take it over the £40,000 barrier - you'll pay for it in tax if you do.

Officially, the Cupra Ateca will complete the 0-62mph sprint in just 5.2 seconds. That's quicker than hot hatches like the Honda Civic Type R (although not the aforementioned Volkswagen Golf R), and even quicker than the much more expensive Porsche Macan S.

There's a myriad of driving modes on hand to tweak the Ateca's characteristics depending on your mood. It's in Cupra mode hat it's at its most sporty, with the steering weighted up and exhausts at their noisiest. It's fun in this mode, but it still doesn't feel as laugh-out-loud rewarding as an equivalent hot hatch.

It's still, fundamentally, a family crossover. And that means it will lean in the bends, soon run out of grip if you're clumsy with the accelerator and the standard DSG automatic gearbox can be a little hesitant at times. And no, you can't have a manual version.

As you'd expect from an SUV with this kind of performance, it will also have higher running costs than a standard Ateca. Officially it returns 36.4mpg.

The Cupra Ateca certainly represents a compromise. Hot hatches are more fun, while the standard Ateca is cheaper to run. But there's little else on the market like it.

What does a Cupra Ateca (2019) cost?

Cupra Ateca (2019): What's It Like Inside?

Length -
Width -
Height -
Wheelbase 2638 mm

Full specifications

If it wasn't for the odd-shaped steering wheel with copper stitching and the weird tribal Cupra logo, you'd struggle to differentiate the Cupra's interior from a standard Ateca.

There are a few highlights, such as carpet mats with Cupra logos and aluminium pedals, but it doesn't feel particularly sporty. While the standard Alcantara sports seats are comfortable, we'd recommend upgrading to the optional bucket seats if budget allows - they do a good job of making the cabin feel a bit more special.

The standard virtual cockpit in place of conventional dials also helps lift the slightly drab cabin. An eight-inch infotainment screen, also used in other high-spec Ateca models, is fitted as standard to the Cupra. This is ultra easy to use and fast to respond, plus works well with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

While there's nothing fundamentally wrong with the interior, it's based on the Ateca (which in turn was based on the third-generation Leon which has been on sale since 2012), so it already feels a little dated.

Not offensively so, but there are buttons which could easily have been incorporated into the media system and some of the plastic chrome effect trim looks a little tacky (choosing the Design pack with its black interior styling helps to an extent).

It's spacious enough, though, with electric seat adjustment making it really easy to find a comfortable driving position. Things are good in the back, too. There's a reasonable amount of headroom and legroom, although an annoying lump in the floor created by the transmission tunnel means the middle seat really is for occasional use only. Isofix points fitted to the outer rear seats makes for easy fitting of child seats.

The aforementioned bucket seats probably aren't worth speccing if you regularly carry children, as they do make the back feel a little more claustrophobic than it does with the standard seats. That said, the optional panoramic sunroof counters this to an extent.

The boot's a good size and access is easy, with an electric tailgate available as part of the Comfort and Sound pack. Dropping the rear seats is also a simple process, although they don't leave an entirely flat floor. There's also a ski hatch allowing you to feed longer items between the rear seats, if required.

Specifications (June 2019):

The Cupra Ateca features 19-inch alloy wheels, metallic paint, door mirrors with Cupra light silhouette, dual exhaust pipes, electrically adjustable folding heated door mirrors, full LED headlights with LED daytime running lights and taillights, dark tinted rear windows, black brake calipers with Cupra logo, Navigation Plus (with 3D maps, 10GB hard disk drive, FB radio, DAB radio, eight speakers and Bluetooth), smartphone integration (including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto), digital cockpit, ambient spot lighting, park assist, Cupra sport suspension, electric parking brake with auto hold function, wireless phone charger, keyless enter and go, cruise control, convenience pack (with auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto headlights and rain-sensing wipers), dual zone climate control, steering wheel mounted gearshift paddles, top view camera, rear view camera, Cupra drive profiles, dynamic chassis control, progressive steering, front assist with city emergency braking and pedestrian protection, hill hold control, tiredness recognition, front and rear seatbelt reminders and an alarm.

Design pack adds 19-inch copper alloy wheels, Cupra Brembo brakes and black interior styling.

Comfort and Sound features traffic sign recognition, lane assist, adaptive cruise control, high beam assist, Beats sound system, heated front seats, space-saving spare wheel and an electric tailgate.

Child seats that fit a Cupra Ateca (2019)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

Which car seat will suit you?

What's the Cupra Ateca (2019) like to drive?

There's no denying the Cupra Ateca is fast. Its standard four-wheel-drive system ensures there's a huge amount of traction available, meaning it will surge forward eagerly if you mash the throttle off the line.

There is a 'but' though. The standard DSG automatic gearbox means there's a frustrating lull between you hitting the accelerator and the engine responding. Once it's got the message that you're seeking quick acceleration, it's fine, but that split-second pause can be really annoying if you're trying to judge a gap in traffic.

Selecting Sport or Cupra mode on the drive profile dial does counter this to an extent, although it still isn't seamless. Doing so firms things up unnecessarily if you're only after a gentle drive to the office and causes the gearbox to cling onto lower gears, hampering fuel economy.

But one of the biggest compliments we can pay the Cupra Ateca is that it's easy to forget it's a Cupra when left in normal mode. The ride's on the firm side (not helped by the standard-fit 19-inch alloy wheels) but it's not uncomfortable and there's not much in the way of noise from the road, engine or wind when you're travelling at a steady 70mph.

Switching to Cupra mode does make things firmer, to the point that your passengers might complain if you're travelling along a bumpy road. But the harsh ride translates to an eager-handling SUV. It's not as willing to turn in as a Honda Civic Type R and it's noticeably more top heavy than a Volkswagen Golf R, but it's still impressive for an SUV.

It stops short of being exciting, though. While there's a huge amount of grip, the four-wheel-drive system is front-biased, meaning it will soon understeer if you're overly optimistic with your cornering entry speed.

And while it sounds throatier in Cupra mode, it still feels a little too civilised. It won't pop and bang, and we'd like it to be just a little noisier under hard acceleration. The Akrapoviç exhaust fitted on the Special Edition might fix that, but that's only going to be sold in limited numbers.

Engine MPG 0-62 CO2
2.0 TSI 300 DSG - - 168 g/km