Cupra Ateca Review & Prices
The Cupra Ateca SUV is a brilliant family car that’s fast and great to drive, but you’ll have to accept a gloomy interior and a boy-racer exterior that’s at odds with what it does best
Find out more about the Cupra Ateca
It’s clearly based on a SEAT, but it’s called a Cupra Ateca because the more premium and sporty Cupra brand split from its SEAT parent in 2018, and the Ateca was the first car to transit across. You can easily spot one thanks to various copper (Cupra’s signature colour) accents and Cupra’s bizarre badge that looks like some sort of medieval torture device.
To help your mind separate a Seat Ateca from a Cupra Ateca, the latter also benefits from an array of go-faster treatments. As a result, it gets huge 19-inch alloy wheels, a body kit, a quad exhaust system and LED headlights. The result is a car with purposeful styling, although not one that looks as dramatic or head-turning as its newer, critically praised Cupra Formentor sibling.
The revisions for the 2020 Cupra Ateca weren’t huge, but included new LED light designs front and rear, aluminium detailing and puddle lights in the mirrors that project that weird Cupra logo onto the ground at night. As if you want to see more of it.
Inside, there are body hugging sports seats that can now be had in funkier blue leather, a sports steering wheel with an integrated starter button (like an Audi R8) and a more up-to-date infotainment system. However, despite the changes it remains a bit dark and gloomy inside, while the layout is more dated than the Formentor.
If you already think the Cupra Ateca’s body kit is a little bit OTT, then we probably shouldn’t mention that the badge is supposed to emulate a tribal tattoo. Hmm
Still, the new infotainment system is bigger and brighter, with a crisp 9.2-inch display replacing the old 8.0-inch item. It uses the latest software found in a host of VW Group models, which means it doesn’t have the slickest menus around, but there are plenty of features.
The Cupra Ateca is well equipped, the trim levels are easy to understand and there’s only a small number of options. The entry point is VZ1 trim, which gets kit including 19in alloys, Alcantara sports seats, a heated leather wheel, adaptive dampers, digital instruments and a top view camera to make parking easier.
VZ2 brings items such as an electric tailgate. electric front seats and adaptive cruise control, while plumping for flagship VZ3 brings the special, sportier steering wheel and Brembo brakes.
Getting four adults sitting comfortably should be simple. There’s loads of space up front and the Cupra Ateca’s upright body means it’s nearly as spacious in the airy back seats. Even the boot is very practical, being tall, square and full of handy features such as shopping hooks and tethering points.
It’s all so sensible that it’s easy to forget that the Cupra Ateca is a car capable of rocketing from 0-62mph in 4.9 seconds – more than a second quicker than a traditional hot hatch such as the VW Golf GTI. And you can do that consistently because the car’s four-wheel-drive system and standard seven-speed automatic gearbox gets you a perfect getaway time and time again.
Meanwhile, suspension that’s lowered by 11mm – and hooked up to adjustable dampers – cuts out body lean, making the Cupra feel safe and predictable even when you’re ‘on it’. Even so, it retains a level of body roll that means it doesn’t leap into corners with the eagerness of a truly sorted hot hatch, while the ride is a little less cosseting than a regular Seat Ateca. But it’s still pretty good.
And it’s this jack-of-all-trades character that makes the Ateca Cupra so appealing – it gets mighty close to being a hot hatch for fun while being a far more usable proposition in almost every other way. In terms of entertaining family cars, not many
The Cupra Ateca has a RRP range of £36,045 to £51,640. However, with carwow you can save on average £1,264. Prices start at £34,985 if paying cash. Monthly payments start at £298. The price of a used Cupra Ateca on carwow starts at £22,500.
Our most popular versions of the Cupra Ateca are:
|Model version||carwow price from|
|2.0 TSI VZ1 5dr DSG 4Drive||£42,729||Compare offers|
It’s a three-model range, from VZ1 to VZ2 to VZ3, all separated by less than £6000.
Hot hatches followed ordinary hatches, so hot crossovers followed ordinary crossovers. That means the Cupra Ateca doesn’t have the hot-crossover game to itself, with the Volkswagen T-Roc R, the Audi SQ2 and even its own brother, the Cupra Formentor, being credible alternatives.
It has the speed of a hot hatch, and theoretically the practicality and ride advantages of a crossover, but it doesn’t always work like that, and each part sometimes feels compromised for the other
The Cupra Ateca comes as standard with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The only downside to that is that there is no choice except this transmission.
You can also switch it to manual mode to shift ‘gears’ via flappy paddles mounted on the steering wheel. It’s not quite as smooth as a traditional torque converter automatic around town, but the flip-side is it’s super quick to change when you’re giving it the beans, accompanied by a fun “parping” noise from the exhaust with each change.
The Cupra Ateca can be comfortable, sort of, soaking up bumps with ease and going round corners with minimum fuss. Drive it like this and your passengers will never know they are in a car that can beat many a hot hatch away from the lights.
The standard SEAT Ateca already has a fairly firm ride, and the sportier Cupra model can be even a bit bumpy on really bad city roads. It’s far from harsh, but you’ll notice the worst potholes more than in a less racy SUV.
With all this power on tap, you’ll be glad to know the Cupra Ateca comes with a host of safety kit, including rear-cross traffic alert, blind spot detection, City Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Protection, Adaptive Cruise Control and Tiredness Protection.
On the motorway
The upside to the Cupra Ateca for highway use is that the extra mass of its crossover design should mean it rides better than a hatchback, but the downside is that it doesn’t.
The large wheels are harder to arrest when they start moving up and down, and there’s a certain senselessness to justifying the en masse move to crossovers by improved ride comfort, then tying the suspension down so tautly that you lose it all.
The Ateca always has performance on tap, especially on the back of a flap of the downshift paddle, and it is quiet and calm on the road. It’s just firm, bordering on hard.
You can also spec a Travel Assist package on certain versions, which is designed to ease the stress of long distance driving by gently steering you within your lane.
On a twisty road
The combination of a 300hp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and four-wheel drive in the Cupra Ateca is a potent one, but many other cars have this exact same engine in one form or another.
It’s the Volkswagen Group’s four-cylinder engine, and it’s found in everything from Volkswagens to Audis and Seats to Skodas. Good: parts will be plentiful. Bad: it’s not exactly exclusive.
The Cupra Ateca was already pretty fast, but the last wave of mild revisions saw the Ateca receive tweaks to the all-wheel drive system to make it even faster off the line.
It now runs to 0-60mph in just 4.9 seconds and has a top speed of 153mph. That’s quick however you swing it.
Yet if you set off at normal speeds you might not even realise this is the properly rapid version because it feels as docile and easy to drive as a standard Seat Ateca.
When you do choose to exploit the power, you can do so fully via a four-wheel drive system that ensures plenty of traction. It feels quick in all situations and weathers as a result. Granted, it’s not the most characterful sounding motor, but there’s no doubt how effective it is at sling-shotting this family SUV up the road.
The flipside of that performance however, is of course fuel economy. Officially, the Cupra Ateca averages 38mpg but if you use the car to its full potential you won’t get particularly close to that – our test drives averaged in the mid-20s and you can expect MPG in the low-to-mid thirties on a gentler motorway run.
But with a bit of pressure on the accelerator, the character of the car can completely change. It whooshes off at traffic lights, zooms around bends and, well, is quite a hoot to drive.
The change in character is highlighted by the various driving modes, which you can change via a dial on the centre console. Comfort is Bruce Banner – it tones down engine response and softens up the suspension.
Sport is when Hulk starts to turn angry, while Cupra mode is full-on green-man rage. There is an Individual setting to set the car up to your own tastes, as well as snow and off-road settings.
The DSG even has launch mode and the Digital Driver’s Display has a lap-timer so you’ve got the track day car that can take you home via the supermarket for a weekly shop.
The Cupra Ateca is about in line with the category standard for space and practicality, though it’s not quite as practical as its slower SEAT sibling
The Cupra Ateca is pretty much as spacious and versatile as the SEAT Ateca on which it’s based, but it loses out on some practicality features, like the storage tray beneath the front seats.
It’s an easy car to get comfortable in, and the seats (trimmed in either leather or Alcantara) have snug side bolsters to hug your body in place in corners.
The steering wheel moves for reach and rake (up and down) and the front seats come with lumbar adjustment.
Be aware, though, that the standard adjustment on base VZ1 cars is manual, whereas higher trims come with electric seats to make it easier to find the right driving position.
Passenger space in the back is good, however. There’s plenty of space for a couple of lanky teenagers, and kneeroom and headroom is fine for tall adults. You can fit three people in the back and you won’t hear many complaints from them, either. Shoulder room is ok and the footwells are spacious enough not to crush their feet either.
The only downside is a large hump in the middle of the floor so middle-seat passengers will need to have a foot in the footwells either side.
The Cupra Ateca has enough cubby holes, but it is not quite as storage friendly as the standard, cheaper SEAT Ateca.
It has big storage spaces in the front doors, smaller ones in the rear, but it doesn’t have a storage tray underneath the driver’s seat due to the sportier seats. It also lacks a sunglasses holder if it is fitted with the panoramic sunroof.
Still, there’s a shelf to store your phone underneath the infotainment system. And if your phone is compatible, it will charge it wirelessly too. There’s another storage bin between the driver and the passenger, but the glovebox isn’t the biggest around.
There is a pair of cupholders in the arm rest in the back, and a couple of USB ports for back seat passengers. And there’s a small shelf for at least one of their phones too, underneath the USBs.
The luggage area in the Cupra Ateca is big enough for most day-to-day jobs, but it’s not the biggest in the segment.
In fact, it’s not even the biggest in those called Ateca, because the SEAT on which it’s based will hold 25 litres more, which is about the size of a soft sports bag. That’s all due to the four-wheel drive system in the Cupra taking up space beneath the boot floor.
Still, at 485 litres, that’s enough for a couple of suitcases and is certainly a good deal bigger than in the Golf R that shares its powertrain.
Fold the rear seats down and you get a load space that is big enough to take a bicycle without having to take the wheels off. And you can flip those rear seats down by a lever in the boot, so you don’t have to walk round to the rear side doors to drop the seats flat.
There’s not much else to write home about the boot in terms of practicality – there are no nets or power sockets. You can carry long, thin items however, as there is a hatch behind the rear armrest which opens up into the main part of the cabin.
The front of the cabin in particular is smart and classy, although it’s a bit cheaper further back and the infotainment isn’t as up-to-date as newer Cupras
The Cupra Ateca interior looks classy, feels well made and has a few nice touches that mark it out from the SEAT range. It has all the good bits from a Volkswagen Group interior, it’s just a shame that they are bits from about five years ago.
Still, it’s better than in the standard SEAT Ateca. The black interior looks stylish and the piano black trim, copper effect details and body-hugging seats mark it out as something a bit more special. It’s a pity that the sporty wheel with integrated drive mode selector and starter button isn’t standard on every model.
There are Cupra logos on the illuminated door sills, and before you even get into the car, ‘welcome puddle lights’ shine the Cupra logo on the ground next to the front doors.
It’s a bit of a shame the quality in the front seats isn’t quite the same for the lesser-used versions in the back. The door bins are made of scratchy hard plastics that let the side down.
The latest Cupra Ateca brings an updated 9.2-inch infotainment system, featuring a piano-black surround flanked by touch-sensitive shortcut buttons for different menus.
It’s less basic looking and brighter than the old system. It also has a proximity sensor, so menus flash up larger when your hand approaches the screen and it responds to pinch and swipe gestures. One downside is that because the dashboard itself is an older design than the Cupra Formentor and Leon, it doesn’t get the screen mounted in the line of sight on its own plinth. But you might prefer the cleaner look of the integrated screen.
Latest versions also receive wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto if you don’t want to rely on the in-built sat nav, for example, while a wireless smartphone charging pad is also on the kit roster.
To complement the infotainment system, there is another digital screen behind the steering wheel that transforms into a huge map, making following sat nav directions a doddle (though not if you are using your phone’s apps).
The Cupra Ateca earned a five-star Euro NCAP rating when it was last tested in 2016, and the safety core of the machine is unchanged.
It ranked there after earning a highly commendable 93% score for adult occupant protection, 84% for child occupant protection, 71 for vulnerable person (also known as “pedestrian”) protection and 60% for safety assistance systems.
Every Cupra Ateca comes with seven airbags, front assist, autonomous emergency braking, a hill-holder and fatigue recognition.
Higher level versions pick up traffic-sign recognition as well as adaptive cruise control, high-beam assist and lane assist.
The Cupra Ateca, built from 2020 to 2022, was pulled into a broader SEAT recall for a potentially loose engine cover (it’s a purely cosmetic piece) that covered more than 30,000 cars, including the Formentor and the Leon.
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