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SEAT Ateca review

The Cupra Ateca SUV is a brilliant family car that’s fast and great to drive, but you’ll have to accept its gloomy interior and boy racer exterior complete with Cupra’s, err, distinctive logo. 

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wowscore
7/10
This score is awarded by our team of
expert reviewers
With nearly 60 years of experience between them, carwow’s expert reviewers thoroughly test every car on sale on carwow, and so are perfectly placed to present you the facts and help you make that exciting decision
after extensive testing of the car

What's good

  • Surprisingly nimble
  • Potent performance
  • Still practical

What's not so good

  • Firm ride
  • Dark, gloomy interior
  • A VW Golf R costs less

SEAT Ateca: what would you like to read next?

Is the SEAT Ateca a good car?

The Cupra Ateca is a practical, sensible SUV, but one that’s quite a bit spicier than your average family-friendly alternatives thanks to 300hp and four-wheel drive.

Why isn’t it called a Seat Ateca Cupra? Well, the Cupra brand was split out from its Seat parent a couple of years back, and this Ateca was the first car to make the transition. You can easily spot one thanks to various copper accents and Cupra’s bizarre copper-coloured badged that looks like some sort of medieval torture device.

To help your mind separate Seat Ateca from Cupra Ateca, the latter has also benefitted from the typical go-faster treatment. As a result, you get 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 and head-turning as its newer Cupra Formentor sibling.

The revisions for the 2020 car aren’t huge, but include 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.

Inside, there’s 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 is a touch gloomy inside, while the layout is more dated than the newer 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.

Mat Watson
Mat Watson
carwow expert

Still, the new infotainment system is bigger and brighter, with a crisp 9.2in display replacing the old 8.0in item. It’s uses the latest software found in a host of VW Group models, which means it doesn’t have the slickest menus around, but there’s 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. It’s not cheap, but you can mitigate against this by taking advantage of the Cupra Ateca deals available on carwow.

Getting four adults sat comfortably should be equally 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’. Admittedly, the extra body roll means it doesn’t leap into corners with the eagerness of a truly sorted hot hatch, however, while the ride is a little less cossetting than a normal 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 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 strike the balance quite so well.

How practical is it?

The Cupra Ateca is pretty much as spacious and versatile as the Seat Ateca on which it’s based

The Cupra Ateca is so comfy and practical it’s easy to forget it can blow the likes of a Golf GTI away from the lights

Mat Watson
Mat Watson
carwow expert
Boot (seats up)
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Boot (seats down)
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You should find it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel of the Cupra Ateca. The Alcantara or leather (depending on trim) seats have snug side bolsters that hug your body. The steering wheel moves for reach and rake (up and down) and the front seats come with lumbar adjustment.

Be aware, though, that on base VZ1 cars you have to do all the adjustment manually, whereas higher trims come with electric seats to make it easier to find the right driving position. Before the latest update, all Cupra Atecas came with manual seats.

Passenger space in the back is good, however. There’s plenty of space for a couple of lanky teenagers – 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 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 not quite as storage friendly as the standard 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. There’s also no sunglasses holder on models 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 are a couple 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 Cupra Ateca is a tad smaller than the SEAT on which it’s based – it will hold 25 litres fewer than the standard car, that equates to about the size of a soft sports bag. That’s down to the four-wheel drive system in the Cupra.

Still, at 485 litres, that’s still enough for a couple of suitcases and is certainly a good deal bigger than in the Golf R.

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 – you don’t have to walk round to the rear side doors to fold 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.

What's it like to drive?

The Cupra Ateca drives like a hot hatch – it’s fast and fun. It’s not as comfortable or fuel efficient as the standard Ateca, however. 

Remember David Banner, the mild mannered doctor who turns into the Incredible Hulk? That’s your Cupra Ateca.

Mat Watson
Mat Watson
carwow expert

The combination of a 300hp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine and four-wheel drive in the Cupra Ateca is a potent one.

It was already pretty fast, but from last year the Cupra Ateca had some mild revisions including tweaks to the all-wheel drive system to make it even faster off the line. As a result, the car will go from 0-60mph in just 4.9 seconds and has a top speed of 153mph. That’s quick however you swing it.

Yet if you climb in and set off at normal speeds you might not even realise this is the properly rapid version. It feels pretty much as docile and easy to drive as a standard Seat Ateca, and the dual-clutch automatic gearbox blurs changes smoothly enough.

When you do choose to exploit the power, you can do so fully thanks to four-wheel drive ensuring 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 doubting how effective it is at slingshotting 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.

The Cupra Ateca comes as standard with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. 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 the old-style torque converter automatics around town, but the flip-side is super quick changes when you’re giving it the beans accompanied by a fun parping noise from the exhaust with each change.

The Cupra Ateca can be a comfortable (ish) cruiser, soaking up bumps with ease and going round corners with minimum of fuss. 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 ride that is a bit on the firm side, and the sportier Cupra model can be a little bit bumpy on really bad roads.  It’s far from harsh, but you’ll notice the worst potholes more than in a less racy SUV.

But in a moment (or 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 David 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 greenman 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 perfect track day car that can take you home via the supermarket for a weekly shop.

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. You can also spec Travel Assist on certain versions, a system designed to ease the stress of long distance driving by gently steering you within your lane. 

What's it like inside?

The Cupra Ateca interior is well made and easy to get along with, but feels a bit old-school next to newer Cupra models. 

Next Read full interior review