We're now a couple of months into our time with the Cupra Ateca - the slightly controversial, performance sub-division of SEAT's ordinary Ateca. And how are we getting on, I hear you ask? In short, very well, with a few niggles slightly blocking our path to entirely content pseudo-ownership...
Let's start with the performance. If you'd humour me for a moment, I'd like to compare it to our previous long-term Skoda Superb 280. Yes, yes, I know, they're different cars in different segments - but they are comparable by audience and by the architecture they share. The Skoda was fantastic; it was fast, super comfortable and spacious, reasonably economical, and looked great.
The Cupra though honestly feels a fair bit faster, which is surprising given the fact that it weighs about 70kg more. Of course the Spanish-brewed model does enjoy a 20-ish horsepower advantage over the Superb and has an additional gear ratio and (in the right mode) sports a far more aggressively tuned throttle pedal. Naturally the right-est mode is 'Cupra' where it rockets to 62mph in 5.2 seconds and stays incredibly persistent as it pulls through the gears; the gurgle pop on the overrun is appreciated, too.
Cornering ability, somehow, pips the Skoda, too. Again, the Skoda was clearly set up with a comfort bias, whereas the Cupra is a bit tauter and in-your-face, which helps massively with body roll and stability through bends. The result is a fairly firm ride, although never to the point of it being harsh. Personally I like firm, but if you're looking to wallow over bumps and humps as if they aren't there, the Cupra won't be the car for you. The grip though feels insurmountable on the road, and the big Brembo brakes seem very strong, even if they're a tad over servoed.
We put all this properly to the test recently by taking it along to Spa Classic; a seven-hour journey from my flat in London, down through Kent to pick up Ben, then on to Folkestone, Belgium and its lovely country roads. It gave the Cupra a good all-round going over on a variety of different roads and I must say it performed faultlessly. The roof length panoramic sunroof helps it feel open and airy in the cabin, so even if you are in the back trying to stop boxes of merchandise falling on you, it's not completely claustrophobic. The interior is familiar from other SEATs, which is no bad thing as it feels high quality and well located.
Exterior looks are obviously subjective. I'm a fan of the bronze wheels that are part of the Design Pack, for example, where some others aren't. I think it's a handsome looking car in general but, like many, I'm not a fan of the badges. It may just take a while to get used to them - change is big and scary, after all.
That leads us onto the not so good... Firstly is a small quality issue; the exhausts on the Cupra are experiencing a little surface corrosion. Has anyone with a Golf R experienced this on their tail pipes? Secondly, there's an odd, squeaky noise during low speed manoeuvres and going slowly over speed bumps; it's very strange, but we're told there is nothing wrong with it, and it isn't affecting the driving in any way. It just sounds weird. The third is that the Beats sound system that came as part of the Comfort and Sound Pack; quite simply, it doesn't live up to its £1930 option price. We've experienced superior sound in much cheaper systems.
With those smallish niggles aside though, we're really enjoying our time with the Cupra. We'll keep you abreast of the its toing and froing as the event season properly warms up (it'll be at Le Mans in a couple of weeks). And with any luck, we might squeeze a little more talent from it after that...
Car: 2018 Cupra Ateca
On fleet since: March 2019
Run by: Dafydd, or Jack when he needs it
List price new: £35,900 (as standard; £41,175 as tested comprising Comfort and Sound Pack - £1,930 and Design Pack - £3,345)
Last month at a glance: Predictably decent, unexpectedly likeable
SEAT's Cup Racing sub-brand goes it alone - is the Ateca good enough?