Super Cupra road test: can Spain's rapid SUV scare the establishment?
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It has a badge like a Marvel superhero — and car company SEAT is hoping its new sub-brand Cupra will perform like one in the New Zealand market.
SEAT is well known in Europe and was previously called the “Spanish Fiat” before Volkswagen Group bought it in 1986. In New Zealand, it joins European Motor Distributors' VW Group brands, such as Audi, VW, Porsche, Bentley and Skoda.
SEAT is an acronym for Sociedad Espanola de Automoviles de Turismo; which translates as Society of Spanish Automobile Tourism.
Cupra is a portmanteau, derived from the words Cup and Racer, and was created thanks to the SEAT’s motorsport background.
Cupra has been the carmarker’s moniker for its hot hatches and performance vehicles, including the SEAT Leon Cupra and Cupra R that were launched in New Zealand in 2017.
Now SEAT NZ has followed suit from its European markets and added the Cupra sub-brand to its lineup, with the Cupra Ateca SUV the first to get the new badging.
And as for that badging: I loved the copper-toned insignia dominating the front grille and boot. It certainly turned heads and had neighbours asking what brand it was, especially as SEAT suffers from an identity crisis with Kiwis mistaking the “S” badge for Suzuki’s emblem.
The Ateca is the Spanish sister to the Skoda Karoq and Volkswagen Tiguan, built on the same popular VW Group MQB platform.
The top-spec SEAT Ateca is the FR 4Drive ($51,900) with a 2-litre turbo petrol engine producing 140kW of power and 320Nm of torque.
The Cupra Ateca starts at $63,900 and earns its sports badge thanks to a stonking 221kW of power and 400Nm of torque produced.
It’s the same engine found in the VW Golf R and SEAT’s Leon Cupra, making this a hot hatch performer with SUV styling and practicality.
The Cupra gets a deeper front spoiler and blacked out side-skirt and diffuser compared with the SEAT’s Ateca, and 19in alloys.
The Cupra Ateca has all-wheel drive plus a seven-speed DSG transmission and gets adaptive suspension, a bespoke exhaust and optional four-piston Brembo brakes. It also gains a crackling exhaust noise that’s fiery when you step off the throttle. Bring it on!
Inside the Cupra Ateca is a D-shaped steering wheel, copper-coloured contrast stitching, sport pedals and faux-carbon highlights.
There is also a gloss black and chrome control dial on the centre console where you can control the Cupra’s unique drive-modes; comfort, sport, individual, offroad and snow, and Cupra.
So, what’s it like to drive?
Thanks to that Marvel-style superhero badge are you suddenly the motoring equivalent of Spider-man, Thor or my favourite, Deadpool? It definitely has more finesse than Deadpool, but with the power of Thor and nimbleness of Spidey, while it stands out more than the Invisible Woman.
Around town you have the instant power from that torqued up engine, but still the practicality of a SUV for shopping and daily family duties. But head out to country roads and you feel like a superhero.
It gets its nose down when cornering uphill at speed and it felt agile for a SUV of this size.
I used the steering wheel paddles to flick through the gears to get more performance out of the Cupra when gaining speed on the straights, while the suspension set-up and AWD system kept it stable.
So what are its competitors performance and pedigree wise? There’s the Audi SQ2 Quattro S tronic ($81,900), BMW’s X2 M35i ($89,900) and Mercedes-Benz’s GLA 250 4MATIC ($81,300) while the Jaguar’s E-Pace S P200 ($69,900) comes close to in both price and power.
When it comes to sibling rivalry then it’s Skoda Kodiaq Sportline TSI ($62,990) and VW Tiguan TSI R-Line 4WD ($68,990).
The Cupra Ateca gives you plenty of performance but the only downside is that conservative Kiwi buyers may not want to take a gamble on a lesser known badge, which would be a shame as it a great emblem. Make that super emblem.
Price: From $63,900
2-litre petrol turbo (221kW/400Nm)
Pros: Performance SUV
Cons: Lesser known brand
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