For a while now, high-performance SUVs have been a thing. They merge the practicality of a family sized vehicle with the feeling of high-riding safety and then to top it all off, add in a powerful drive train to satisfy our hunger to go quickly. However, it seems that traditionally, performance SUVs have been the rite of high-outlay European marques – that is until now, introducing the CUPRA Ateca.
CUPRA or ‘Cup Racing’ is the performance and lifestyle arm of Spanish car giant SEAT. I won’t scold you for not knowing too much about them as up until recently, they didn’t quite exist, well not in a stand-alone way at least. But now, stand-alone it does and for very good reason. For although racing performance is in their DNA, calling CUPRA a sports brand is like calling GUCCI a handbag company, sure they do it and do it well, however, it’s much more than that. CUPRA is about individualisation, self-confidence, forging your own path so to speak, but most of all it’s about sophistication, having that air of savoir-faire – all of which can be found in the CUPRA Ateca.
My model came dressed in ‘Energy Blue’, it’s the press colour and boy does it announce CUPRA’s arrival. It’s not shouty (although it does stand-out), it’s an inviting colour, attractive, especially in the sun and contrasts brilliantly with the warm copper-toned accents and badging of the CUPRA brand itself. Apparently, there are six colour options available, including Velvet Red and Magic Black but the Blue would be my choice.
Up front, the CUPRA logo and name are proudly plain to see. High-gloss blacks make up the grille and lower valances while LEDs are there to light your way in both the headlights and DRL’s. This high-gloss theme runs along the Ateca’s profile via the sills and window surrounds and encompasses the quad exhaust tips at the rear. The SUV sits on 19-inch alloys and P-Zero rubber which is grippy underfoot when truly required but surprisingly soft when not.
The cabin is a plethora of sports refinement. Leather, Alcantara and copper contrast stitching merged with bucket seats, a D-shaped steering wheel and piano black inlays – it’s business meets pleasure. Infotainment comes via an 8-inch colour touchscreen and includes Apple and Android connectivity, while the supercool sounds are supplied by ‘Beats’, oh yeah. The instrument cluster is digital with information that can be personalised to suit and can be styled to match the SUV’s drive modes for which I’m told there are six, Comfort, Sport, Individual, Offroad, Snow and the one that I stayed in – CUPRA.
Of course, all drive modes connect you to the Ateca’s finely tuned 2L turbo powered engine with its 221kW and 400Nm but CUPRA mode seems to bring it all to life. The throttle and 7-speed DSG gear changes are more responsive, the steering seems quicker, the ride seems firmer and your smile is most certainly wider.
There’s a particular road I like to utilise during reviews and the CUPRA welcomed it with open baffles. Launch control avoids any turbo lag and had me surging from 0-100km/h in a reported 5.2 seconds (but I get the feeling that sub 5s is more realistic). Both the gear changing and power distribution are remarkably smooth, however, it’s the way the CUPRA handled the rest of the road that impressed me most. It danced around the tight corners at speeds that an SUV shouldn’t and seemed to race into blue-light flashing territory on the straights effortlessly well. The turn in is precise and the confidence it gives you as the speedo heads north is joyous – this is one serious performance vehicle.
Aside from giving the SUV as much stick as possible (legally of course), its capacity as a refined, mild-mannered family wagon was tested too. A large football tournament marquee had one of the rear split seats down and yet still no complaints about room from the family. Heated seats warmed post-match tired legs (of parents not player) and that Energy blue attracted more than its fair share of green gazes from the opposition.
With its racing DNA and lifestyle approach, the CUPRA Ateca brings premium performance motoring to within ‘touching distance’. Watch out High-Performance Euro SUVs, there’s a new High-Performance Euro SUV in town and it’s called the CUPRA Ateca!