Parkers overall rating: 3.4 out of 5 3.4
  • Powerful 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine
  • DSG automatic and all-wheel drive
  • Fast, but not that exciting

Petrol engines

At the heart of the Cupra Ateca is a 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged petrol engine producing 300hp and 400Nm of torque. Channelling the power via a seven-speed DSG automatic transmission to all four wheels results in a claimed 0-62mph acceleration time of 4.9 seconds before pressing on to a top speed of 152mph. In terms of five-seater family SUVs, this is a pretty quick one.

The engine, gearbox and all-wheel drive work very well together, providing plenty of performance and good traction, allowing this Ateca to cover ground at an impressive rate. It’s not, perhaps, as ferocious as those figures might lead you to suspect – there’s no massive kick in the back here when you put your foot down, but speed builds quickly, even so. Standard-fit launch control makes for nifty standing starts.

You can choose to activate the gearbox manually via the paddleshifters on the back of the steering wheel, but it does a decent job taking care of business if left to its own devices. Use manual control and leave yourself in too high a gear, and the engine does get a little bogged down, so just keep that in mind when pulling away from junctions.

The sound of the engine is sporty but quiet and quite remote – something of a surprise given how lively the Cupra looks from the outside. While we’re of an age where we like this more mature approach, no doubt some potential buyers will be disappointed by the lack of extrovert fireworks from the exhaust.

A choice of driving modes allows you tailor the experience to a certain extent, changing the accelerator mapping to exaggerate or relax responsiveness and the speed of gearshifts, as well as the weight of the steering and the firmness of the Dynamic Chassis Control variable suspension.

The most aggressive settings are labelled Cupra, with Sport and Normal below this; there is also an Individual mode where you can mix and match to suit your personal preferences, as well as Snow and Off-Road for less speedy situations.

The top spec VZ3 model comes with ‘satellite buttons’ on the steering wheel similar to those fitted to the Audi R8 supercar, one for changing drive modes, the other for starting and stopping the engine.

What’s it like to drive?

  • 4Drive all-wheel drive adds traction
  • Tall body leans over more than a hatch
  • Composed and balanced, even so

It takes a lot to unstick the Cupra Ateca, but as you drive faster into corners, the bodyroll – while mostly well contained – will eventually convince you to ease off a bit. For a tall car it handles well, just like a regular Ateca, but there’s only so much you can do to resist body movement in an SUV that doesn’t have expensive active anti-roll systems.

When really cornering quickly you can feel the all-wheel drive system shuffling power to the back wheels, just before the front ones start to feel overwhelmed. It’s quite impressive to experience as you can maintain traction and grip during wet-weather conditions far better than you may expect for such an upright and heavy car. Even so, the Ateca retains a fundamentally front-wheel drive feel in all situations, so no need to worry about the back of the car becoming wayward when driving quickly.

As such, it still lacks something compared with the enjoyment you get from driving a good, conventional hot hatch, such as a Cupra Leon or Volkswagen Golf R. The Cupra Ateca’s steering and front end response just don’t engage the driver enough – it’s perfectly pleasant but not truly exciting, and you have to adopt quite an aggressive driving style to really get the most out it. The top-spec VZ3 is the best version to opt for if this sounds like you, as this comes with a Brembo brake upgrade with mightier stopping power.

The Ateca does deal with mid-corner bumps well, however – even in the most hardcore Cupra driving mode. Despite being on 19-inch alloy wheels and with sports suspension 10mm lower than a normal SEAT Ateca, it typically absorbs surface changes with little drama. But you will still find rougher roads transmitting shocks through to the passenger cabin; so while ride comfort on long journeys in the Normal setting are bearable, you may quickly tire of Sport and Cupra on the motorway.