Cupra Ateca long-term test review

Cupra is a new brand and the Ateca its first model, yet it's already our favourite sports SUV. How will it fare as family transport? We have four months to find out...

11 June 2019
Cupra Ateca long-term test review

The car Cupra Ateca 300 Run by Alastair Clements, special contributor

Why it’s here The Ateca is leading the new wave of sports SUVs that are taking the fight to the traditional hot hatch, so we’re keen to find out how it fares in a long-term relationship

Needs to Lay the groundwork for the new Cupra brand with thrilling performance while retaining the qualities of a practical SUV

Price £35,915  Price as tested £37,845  Miles covered 6351 Official economy 38.2mpg Test economy 25.3mpg Options fitted Comfort and Sound Pack (£1930) Contract hire £355 Insurance group 33 Typical insurance quote £865

11 June 2019 – A fond farewell?

It’s probably best that I get an admission out of the way up front. I was originally quite cynical about the Cupra Ateca’s ‘sports SUV’ billing, with the idea of a manufacturer trying to turn a big, lumpen car that traditionally has an aversion to corners into something lithe and agile striking me as an exercise in futility.

Instead, it was the promised blend of performance and practicality that attracted me to Cupra’s first standalone model. But after living with it, I now realise that it has more strings to its bow than I ever imagined.

Cupra Ateca long-term test review

Key to its success is the car on which it’s based; not for nothing is the Seat Ateca selling like hot cakes. It’s brilliantly practical, with a big boot and plenty of room for a family, particularly in the spacious rear.

There are some neat details, too, such as the rubber seal between the door and rear wheel arch that prevents dirt from getting on passengers’ clothes as they slide in. And a few tweaks to the specification give the Cupra model a personality that’s clearly distinct from its Seat sibling.

True, the interior looks a little functional in places, but it feels beautifully screwed together. And while you might understandably fear that ‘sporty’ would translate into an overly firm ride, the fact that my wife and kids have managed to drift off to sleep in the car is the best compliment they can pay to its comfort.

Cupra Ateca long-term test review

Then, of course, there’s the Cupra Ateca’s Mr Hyde side. Turn the little knob between the seats to Sport mode (or Cupra if you’re feeling ambitious), flip the gear selector over to manual and use the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel and it’s a flyer. Straight-line pace is impressive enough (our testers got from 0-60mph in just 4.7sec), but the real surprise is how alertly it can change direction and how well it grips for what is, after all, a tall and heavy machine.

There are niggles, of course: the steering in my car grumbled occasionally, the cupholders are woefully inadequate and there’s insufficient seatbelt height adjustment if you’re tall. But the only major downside to Cupra Ateca ownership that I’ve discovered is the fuel consumption.

It’s important to point out that I live in and commute through London, and that on longer country-road runs it performs significantly better. But with a 296bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine that’s so responsive that its turbo seems to be continuously on boost, you expect it to like a drink. And drink it does – like Oliver Reed after a bowl of dry-roasted peanuts, in fact.

Cupra Ateca long-term test review

However, another brand within the Volkswagen empire, Skoda, has gone the twinturbo diesel route with its Kodiaq vRS, and it took only a short turn in that car to convince me that the Cupra is more than worth the extra wallet pain. Quite aside from the sweeter sound of the petrol engine, the Kodiaq vRS can’t compete with the thrilling power delivery and indeed outright pace of the Ateca, feeling almost lethargic in comparison.

I’m also a big fan of the arch-filling alloy wheels that Cupra has fitted, and the tasty quad exhausts. But otherwise I’ve got to admit its looks border on anonymous – although that might at least in part be down to my car’s Nevada White metallic paint. Had I gone for Energy Red, it would probably have given the Cupra the required lift but at the same time robbed it of its rather pleasing subtlety.

In years to come, I expect I’ll struggle to recall exactly what the car looked like. But the sense of that fantastic, almost gravity-defying agility and the thump in the back upon hard acceleration – plus the sound of the crackling overrun as another confused hot hatch driver watches it pull away – will live long in the memory.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Cupra Ateca 300 – test data

List price £35,915 Target Price £35,915 Price as tested £37,845 Options Comfort and Sound Pack (£1930) Dealer price now £32,375 Private price now £28,778 Trade-in price £29,928 Miles covered 6351 Test economy 25.3mpg Official average 38.2mpg  Contract hire £355 Insurance group 33 Total running cost £753.33 

Read more on our long-term Cupra Ateca >

See more long-term test reports >

Related cars