Cupra Ateca on test: it's a carbon coppery of a Seat
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Cupra Ateca Lmited Edition
- Looks good
- Sounds raspy
- Ride on firm side
- Brand confusion
- It's sold out
Few cars win the popular vote by unanimous decision, but the Cupra Ateca is like few cars. Liked, loved and longed-for by all of the DRIVEN team, the five-seat medium SUV is a winner in looks, performance and equipment, plus it’s a little off-centre from mainstream, but with the added assurance of the VW Group building it.
Of course, we have to deal with the most common question: what’s a Cupra?
It’s a Seat, to overly simplify it. Seat builds the Ateca, and this is the performance version of it, like an HSV Commodore, or an AMG. Let’s just leave it there, as the more we explain, the more confusing it gets.
It doesn’t matter, because Cupra is the brand and Ateca is the model we all love, a five-seat SUV with extra sizzle, and a habanero pepper on top, in the form of “Limited” extras. Just five were offered in NZ, from the 1999 built globally, and quickly snapped up, but the good news is that these extras are available as options for the “regular” Cupra Ateca: like the titanium Akrapovic (a-crap-o-vitch) exhaust system, the carbon fibre mirrors, and the special wheels.
It blasts out a little extra sound but it’s nothing that would worry neighbours or the authorities, because it’s all noise-legal – which means even dialing up Race mode, there’s just a hint of extra raspy exhaust tune.
Blue Alcantara seats and door trims are, in our opinion, better than both cloth and leather, and give the Cupra its unique feel – literally.
The 20-inch wheels on the Limited have a copper finish, from certain angle, so they’re a mild version of a double-take to confirm that you did just need indeed see a flash of colour on the dark grey. Less discrete is the big set of Brembo brakes and 18-inch rotors: big, meaty and effective.
That carbon fibre is also intertwined with copper – sounds fancy, but it’s basically copper highlighting in the look of the carbon fibre finish, along with the functional roof spoiler.
Copper Cupra lettering on the hatch, and carbon effect dotted inside and out, from the badges to the steering wheel and rear seats are all capped off with an exclusive Graphene Grey paint colour that suits the nature of this Cupra perfectly: quite normal at a quick glance, but full of details the more you stop and study it.
As a whole, the Cupra Ateca – as opposed to the Seat Ateca (see?!) – is a wonderful, sonorous, involving and very individual machine. While it’s a five-seat SUV, it’s at the other spectrum of the RAV4, for the buyer who wants/likes an SUV, but likes doing it a little differently.
The underpinnings are all proven, from the VW automotive group: a 2.0-litre petrol turbo four-cylinder and all-wheel drive with seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox: so it shifts fast and offers launch control. It’s in this mode that we recorded a 0-100km/h time in 4.8 seconds, 0.1 quicker than the claim, on the way to a 13.1 quarter-mile at 165km/h. Even in “daily drive” mode, simply mashing the throttle from standstill, the Ateco rolled off a 5.5 second run, making it the fastest SUV this side of $100k.
Of course it comes at a price at the pump, though Cupra claims 6.5l/100km on the motorway and 7.4l/100km combined, we averaged mid-11s for our week with the Ateca LE. Naturally a lighter throttle would lower that figure, but where’s the fun in that?!
With adaptive cruise control and blind-spot monitoring, city emergency braking and a top-view reversing/parking camera, there isn’t much tech lacking in the Ateca. In fact it’s one of the most through, complete packages that ticks almost every box there is, at least for satisfying the DRIVEN team.
That notion is partly helped by the special “Cupra Drive Profile with Driving Experience” button! Sounds amazing and exciting, and while it’s simply a rotary dial that shifts between driving modes (which is also selectable less dramatically but more visibly on the touch screen), it adjusts the way the Cupra responds to the throttle, gearshifts and suspension. With six modes, including a custom Individual mode, we found it easiest to simply flick between the favoured Comfort mode for burbling around, to the Race mode, for bursts of acceleration.
And, when the time and location presents itself, there’s also a lap-timer – Cupra is a portmanteau of CUP RAcer, after all.
Excited by the Limited Edition, but it’s sold out? No need to fret, because Seat, er, sorry Cupra (you’ll find them at Seat dealerships, by the way), can offer most of the Limited parts as options on the regular Cupra Ateca. No, a titanium exhaust is not cheap, but maybe the Brembos would come in handy for the last-minute school run dash, or the carbon fibre mirror covers and roof spoiler would work for being… carbony.
Regardless, the Cupra Ateca is unanimously one of DRIVEN’s favourite SUVs, favourite performance cars and favourite drives of 2020. Not that we don’t like the Seat Ateca, either, but that’s just confusing the story.
CUPRA ATECA LIMITED EDITION
ENGINE: 2.0 turbo four-cylinder