Cupra Ateca review

Category: Sports SUV

Sports SUV offers huge performance and impressive practicality for a reasonable price

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  • Cupra Ateca interior dashboard
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  • Cupra Ateca interior infotainment
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  • White Cupra Ateca front cornering
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  • Cupra Ateca interior dashboard
  • White Cupra Ateca boot open
  • Cupra Ateca interior infotainment
  • White Cupra Ateca right driving
  • White Cupra Ateca front cornering
  • White Cupra Ateca front cornering
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  • White Cupra Ateca headlights detail
  • White Cupra Ateca alloy wheel detail
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  • White Cupra Ateca interior front seats
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  • Cupra Ateca interior steering wheel
  • Cupra Ateca interior steering wheel detail
  • Cupra Ateca interior seat detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

If you've seen photos of the Cupra Ateca and wondered why it looks like a Seat Ateca with a badge like a superhero logo, we can explain.

The Ateca was the first model to get the Cupra treatment after Seat followed the example of Fiat (with Abarth) by creating a performance sub-brand. In other words, the Cupra Ateca is the rowdier and more performance-focused twin of the Seat Ateca.

Actually, it's not always rowdier these days. When this sports SUV first arrived, there was only one version available, with four-wheel drive and a hefty 296bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine. Now, though, there are two other less-powerful petrol engines, with a much more modest 148bhp and 187bhp. 

So, as well as being in competition with the obvious sports SUV rivals – the Ford Puma ST and the VW T-Roc R for example – the Cupra Ateca is now competing with regular family SUVs, such as the Audi Q3 and the Peugeot 3008.

Read on to find out how we rate it in all the important areas, from performance and practicality to running costs and comfort...

Overview

The Cupra Ateca delivers huge performance and impressive practicality for a competitive price, but the Ford Puma ST will deliver even bigger thrills for less money. If you want a sports SUV with an upmarket interior and a cosseting ride, we recommend trying the Cupra Formentor.

  • Cheap by all-wheel-drive sports SUV standards
  • Just as practical as a regular Seat Ateca
  • Very well equipped with a user-friendly dash
  • Interior starting to look dated
  • So-so interior quality
  • Engine could sound fruitier
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

The Cupra Ateca's entry-level 148bhp 1.5-litre petrol (called the 1.5 Eco TSI 150) has an official 0-62mph time of 9.3 seconds. That's a perfectly respectable figure for a family SUV, but with peak power coming at 5000rpm you really have to rev it hard if you want to make decent progress.

The middle-of-the-range 187bhp 2.0-litre engine (2.0 Eco TSI 190) trims the 0-62mph time down to 7.2 seconds, and needs less revving to make progress. That said, to get the full sports SUV effect you'll want the flagship engine, called the 300, with 296bhp and 295lb ft of torque on tap.

If you select a mode called Cupra and activate the launch control function, it will rocket to 60mph from rest in just 4.7 seconds – as quick as the BMW X2 M35i, the Cupra Formentor and the VW T-Roc R.

That's despite the slightly laggy seven-speed automatic gearbox (unlike with the Seat Ateca, you can't buy a manual version). There's a Sport mode that improves the auto gear changes slightly, but it remains a source of frustration.

It’s also a pity that it doesn’t sound a bit more exciting. The 300’s standard quad-tailpipe exhaust produces a rather flat one-dimensional note, and there's not much in the way of popping or crackling when you lift off the accelerator. If that matters to you, we recommend the range-topping VZN trim, which comes with a more characterful sounding Akrapovic sports exhaust system.

Cupra Ateca image
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The 1.5 Eco TSI 150 and the 2.0 Eco TSI 190 handle almost identically to the Seat Ateca FR. That is to say, there's plenty of grip, minimal body lean and precise steering, making it easy to place the nose where you want it. We’d stop short of calling it fun, but it’s more involving than a Nissan Qashqai or Peugeot 3008.

The 300 feels even sharper. It has a lower and stiffer suspension set-up that controls the car’s body even more effectively through fast corners. You can carry some serious speed across country, but it is worth bearing in mind that the Formentor and T-Roc have even neater body control, while the Ford Puma ST is far more playful and entertaining in bends. 

The Cupra Ateca is surprisingly supple for a sports SUV. You never find yourself cursing expansion joints or avoiding roads you know to be littered with potholes. It’s smoother than the firm Puma ST and jittery X2 M35i and doesn’t feel much firmer than a Seat Ateca on big wheels. That said, the Formentor is even plusher.

There’s some road noise when you get up to motorway speeds, but all the engines are pleasingly muted at a cruise. In our tests, the 300 generated less road noise than the T-Roc R.

Driving overview

Strengths Punchy engines; grippy handling; supple ride comfort 

Weaknesses Some road noise; could sound more exciting

White Cupra Ateca rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

If the Cupra Ateca didn't have a copper-coloured Cupra emblem on its steering wheel, anyone in the driving seat could be forgiven for mistaking it for a regular Seat Ateca. And in many ways, that’s no bad thing.

The driving position is excellent, the standard digital instrument dials are clear and the dashboard’s mix of physical controls and digital displays is user-friendly.

The VZ3 and VZN trims – which are only available with the range-topping 300 engine – add a bit more flair by introducing two extra circular buttons on the steering wheel for drive modes and engine start/stop.

Visibility is reasonably good in all directions, and is boosted by standard-fit front and rear parking sensors. V2 trim and above includes a rear-view camera, and 300 models get a 360-degree bird’s eye view camera. 

The standard-fit bucket seats deserve a special mention because they hold you in place really well through tight twists and turns while still proving comfortable on longer jaunts.

Some might wish for a little more colour and visual stimulation inside. The quality of the interior, while perfectly acceptable in a regular family SUV, is a little underwhelming when you factor in the 300’s much higher price. 

In fact, when you compare it with the Formentor, the Cupra Ateca looks a little dated. The Formentor's interior features a more eclectic mix of materials, but having fewer buttons lends it a tidier look. However, because the Formentor’s functions are all buried in the touchscreen, it’s a bit more fiddly to use.

Like the posher versions of the Seat Ateca, the Cupra Ateca gets a 9.2in infotainment system as standard.

It features sat-nav, online traffic information, voice control and a wireless phone-charger as standard, but like so many new touchscreen-based systems, its small on-screen icons can be hard to use on the move.

At least there are some touch-sensitive shortcuts on the side of the screen to help, but we still prefer the X2 M35i’s iDrive system, with its brilliantly intuitive software and rotary controller.

You can bypass the Cupra system entirely by using the standard Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring instead.

Interior overview

Strengths User-friendly interior; good driving position; comfortable standard-fit sports seats

Weaknesses Looks a little dated; doesn’t feel as plush as similarly priced rivals

Cupra Ateca interior dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

The Cupra Ateca isn't as spacious as the VW Tiguan R, but it’s still pretty roomy compared with the BMW X2 M35i, the Cupra Formentor and the VW T-Roc R.

There’s absolutely loads of head room in the front and its seats slide back a long way. Indeed, we can confidently say that, unless you’re a basketball player, you’ll fit just fine. You’ll also find an array of storage spots for all your kit.

It’s a similar story in the back. You don't get the sliding and reclining rear seats you'll find in pricier sports SUVs such as the Audi SQ5 and the Skoda Kodiaq vRS but a couple of six-footers will fit quite comfortably. Plus, it’s easier to squeeze three people across the Ateca’s rear bench than in the SQ2 and T-Roc R.

With a 485-litre boot, the Cupra Ateca has more luggage space than the SQ2 and the T-Roc R, and should hold enough luggage for a family of four on a week’s holiday. We managed to fit six carry-on suitcases below the parcel shelf, compared with five each in those two rivals.

Practicality overview

Strengths Spacious for all occupants; useful boot capacity

Weaknesses Rear seats could be more versatile

White Cupra Ateca boot open

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The Cupra Ateca’s entry-level price is about 10% higher than for a Seat Ateca with the equivalent engine. What's more, there’s no doubt that if you just want something fast, fun to drive and fairly practical, you might be better off looking at our guide to the best hot hatchbacks.

If, though, you want an SUV that offers speed, acceleration and excitement, the Ateca 300 is one of your cheaper options. While it's quite a bit pricier than the Ford Puma ST, it slightly undercuts more powerful four-wheel-drive rivals, including the Audi SQ2, the Cupra Formentor and the VW T-Roc R.

What’s more, the Cupra Ateca’s depreciation is predicted to be slow. It should hold its value as well as the Formentor and better than the SQ2 and T-Roc R. That’s good, because not only does it mean your Ateca should be worth more after three years, but also that PCP deals remain competitive.

You can check the latest prices using our New Car Deals pages.

When it comes to running costs, the 1.5-litre is the only one with an official fuel economy figure of more than 40mpg. The 190 TSI dips to the mid-30s, while the most powerful 300 will struggle to hover around 30mpg if you make use of all that power. However, the Formentor can turn out cheaper as a company car if you go for the plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option.

You might be surprised to see that the price gap between the Cupra Ateca 300 and the Porsche Macan isn’t all that big, but bear in mind that the Ateca comes with much more standard equipment.

In fact, entry-level VZ1 trim includes 19in alloy wheels, keyless entry and start, a heated steering wheel, adaptive suspension, a self-parking feature, all the infotainment kit and automatic emergency braking (AEB).

Moving up to VZ2 adds electric and heated bucket seats, leather upholstery, a powered tailgate and a Safe and Driving Pack, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and a few other safety features.

VZ3 adds Brembo brakes and 19in copper alloy wheels, while range-topping VZN gets 2oin copper alloy wheels, a BeatsAudio sound system, a panoramic sunroof and metallic paint. 

We don’t have reliability data for the Cupra Ateca, but Cupra as a brand came last out of 32 car markers in the 2023 What Car? Reliability Survey, putting it behind BMW (12th), Ford (17th) and VW (22nd). Meanwhile, in the family SUV class, the Seat Ateca finished in 17th place out of 34 cars.

The Seat Ateca scored five stars out of five in its Euro NCAP safety testing in 2016. It performed well in the individual categories, but it’s important to note that tests are tougher now. The T-Roc performed slightly better in front-seat adult occupant protection and child occupant protection.

Costs overview

Strengths Competitive price; generous equipment

Weaknesses Petrol-only engines may limit its appeal

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Cupra Ateca interior infotainment

FAQs

  • The Cupra Ateca is based on the Seat Ateca but has a more powerful engine option, firmer suspension and sportier styling.

  • It depends which version you have. The Ateca 300 – which comes with the most powerful engine – gets a 4Drive all-wheel-drive system, while the other two versions have front-wheel drive.

  • No. There are only petrol engines available. If you want a hybrid car you might want to consider the Cupra Formentor.

  • The fastest Cupra Ateca is the 300 4Drive. With an official 0-62mph sprint of 4.9 seconds and a top speed of 153mph, it's no slouch. If performance is important to you in an SUV, see our guide to the best performance SUVs.

At a glance
New car deals
Save up to £1,453
Target Price from £35,408
Save up to £1,453
or from £380pm
Swipe to see used car deals
Nearly new deals
From £28,999
RRP price range £36,480 - £50,125
Number of trims (see all)5
Number of engines (see all)3
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol
MPG range across all versions 31.4 - 42.2
Available doors options 5
Warranty 5 years / 90000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £2,431 / £3,583
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £4,861 / £7,166
Available colours