Cupra Ateca | PH Fleet

Once upon a long time ago - or so it seems - I ran a Leon Cupra long-termer. Brilliant car it was too, even if few still seem to recognise it. By sacrificing a bit of Golf GTI completeness for a slightly raw dynamic edge, it offered a really desirable hot hatch package. Well, I thought so at least. Especially when fettled further with the Performance Packages.

Given so much is shared between Leon and Ateca, the prospect of spending more time with it - including the EnduroKA weekend - was one I was quite intrigued by. Honest.

Trouble is, for my money, so much of what proved endearing about the Leon has been lost in the transition to Ateca. Chiefly that's thanks to an enormous 240kg weight gain, the Leon officially 1,375kg and the Ateca 1,615kg. Which kind of spoils quite a bit. Where the hatch, even with 20hp and a ratio less, felt at times quite improperly potent - an Evo 6 had the same power and just 10kg less - the SUV only ever feels pleasantly brisk. Given the eminent tuneability of this engine, established over the past half a dozen years and highlighted with the recent Mountune visit it seems a shame that the racy sub-brand couldn't have been launched with a tangible performance advantage. Perhaps hands are tied in Barcelona, what with the T-Roc R imminent.

Whatever the case, that weight naturally has an impact beyond merely stymied acceleration. A 1,600kg car will never feel as lithe as a 1,400kg car, and so even ramping up the Ateca's drive modes to their most aggressive - though leaving the steering in its normal setting for the Individual configuration - never reintroduces the urgency and agility of a conventional hot hatch. But does add an edge to the ride. And throughout, even with a long journey up the A11 to Snetterton, it won't get close to 35mpg as an average reading. Even a very handy electric tailgate and a raised boot floor can't make up for that.

All things considered, the Ateca should be consigned to a position not far from irrelevance, as there's already much that we don't like about these MQB hatches - buzzy, fake engine noise, aloof control weights - without what redeems them. However...

However, I can't remember a conventional (i.e. with a roof, and doors) car at this money that garners so much attention from the buying public at large. Over the EnduroKa weekend it received attention on the motorway, at services and even in the Snetterton paddock, people curious about what it was, how fast it might go and what the badges were for. Many even liked the looks. Purists may guffaw and mock, but the Cupra Ateca sits perfectly in the middle of automotive desirability Venn diagrams: customers want SUVs, specifically performance SUVs, but they also want good value and familiarity. At present, nothing else exists like the Cupra. It's a Love Island gif on four wheels, so perfectly does it capture the zeitgeist of buying taste; you might not like the prospect, but there's no denying the popularity.

Hence one of the PH sales lads is really keen on one, despite being just 21 and with no family to cart around; his Leon FR is old and boring by now, after all. That it does pretty much everything a Golf R does only seals the deal - there's not much given up in terms of outright ability for being trendy. And it'll do 0-60mph in five seconds. Of course the drawbacks are there, but far greater sacrifices have been made for fashion and style on four wheels over the years.

And that's the paradox of the Cupra Ateca: there are a host of objective reasons as to why it's worse than a fast estate or hot hatch. But trends don't care much for objective realities; if it's desirable, then it's desirable, and you won't need to look far down any street to see a host of SUVs, some with more Sport than others. Or alluding to more Sport than others, at least. By being broadly capable and readily available - it's cheaper than an R-Line Tiguan which develops 70hp less - there seems little in the way to stopping the Ateca's success. And so long as hot hatches can continue as well, that shouldn't be anything to be too perturbed by...

Cupra Ateca
Run by: Dafydd, or Matt when there are racing requirements
Mileage: 6,222
List price new: Β£35,900 (as standard; price as tested Β£41,175, comprised of Comfort and Sound Pack for Β£1,930 and Design Pack for Β£3,345)
Last month at a glance: The customer is always right... right?

Previous reports:
SEAT's Cup Racing sub-brand goes it alone - is the Ateca good enough?
Spa doesn't seem too far with access to a Cupra
Inspired? Search for a Cupra Ateca here

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Comments (42) Join the discussion on the forum

  • Augustus Windsock 21 Jun 2019

    Getting up (fairly early) this morning I read the above article.
    At that point there were no comments attached.
    Revisiting the same article at around 11am I see that there were still no comments
    Does this suggest that there is an o stall apathy to the Cupar Ateca, despite the article suggesting it was a veritable magnet at its last outing at the EnduroKa meeting...?

  • wst 21 Jun 2019

    Market interest (actual purchases) are not the same as "interesting to talk about".

  • road hog 21 Jun 2019

    Have been considering one of these as a replacement for an Impeza wrx s , , even booked a test drive at a local dealer (who confirmed) gave 3 weeks notice , arrived at dealership at pre arranged time car available and not really interested I went and test drove an Audi SQ5 instead , ....

    strange how some dealerships go out of there way for you to help and others go out of there way not to sell anything .....

    still waiting to test drive the cupra ....

  • JackReacher 21 Jun 2019

    I think from previous threads on this the conclusion was that most people who want an SUV value a German badge and soft touch plastics over driving experience (including many on PH), and then in the other camp those who would always chose a dynamically superior estate car over a quick SUV where they can etch out that extra 10th of performance while carrying the kids and shopping....

    I'm not in the market for a fast family car, but I'd want to try this if I was, rather than just dismissing it due to the quality of plastics or Seat/cupra badge, which many seem to do.

  • Jon_S_Rally 21 Jun 2019

    I couldn't be less interested really. I have seen a couple and I suppose I did notice them, but I have zero interest in owning one. If I ever buy an SUV, it would be for practical reasons, such as towing or going off-road, so something like this has zero appeal, as it's purely style over substance.

    For road use, I would choose an estate every time. I just don't see the point in sacrificing fuel efficiency and driving dynamics, just for the sake of sitting a few inches higher. All that means is that you're looking at the top of the back window of the car in front, instead of the boot badge.

    Sooner or later, the eco mob will remember that SUVs are a bad thing, and the world will turn against them again. That day can't come soon enough to be honest.

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