Parkers overall rating: 3.9 out of 5 3.9
  • Just one engine powers the Cupra Ateca
  • Powerful 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine
  • DSG-only, plus all-wheel drive 

At the heart of the Cupra Ateca is a 2.0-litre TSI turbocharged powerplant producing 300hp. Channelling the power via a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox 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. Clearly this promises to be a quick five-seater SUV.

From behind the wheel, the Cupra Ateca – unsurprisingly – feels like the mechanically similar Leon ST Cupra, just with a higher driving position. That translates to a fast and composed drive, both in a straight line and around bends, but one that’s not as exciting as those wild looks suggest.

Fundamentally, it’s just like a fast Ateca. It doesn’t kick you in the back as much as you’d might expect when you put your foot down, building speed smoothly, if not as quickly and ferociously as you might hope for with that headline 0-62mph figure.

The engine is certainly powerful and eager to rev, but the SUV nature might be why the slightly underwhelming sound coming from the engine softens things a bit. At least this benefits refinement on a long journey, meaning it still fulfils the brief of being a family-friendly car for times when you’re not trying to be a racing driver.

The seven-speed DSG automatic is smooth and quick shifting, if a little slow to respond when you require a downchange and a brief burst of acceleration. At least there’s no delay between the throttle response and the vehicle setting off from stationary, which has blighted several self-shifting VW group cars.

Limited Edition models can also be optioned with an Akrapovic exhaust system that adds some volume and theatre when driving in sportier drive modes, producing crackly sounds as you change gear. It’s quite a pricey option, but at least it makes more of a difference here than it does on the previous Volkswagen Golf R we tested with the same system.

How does it handle?

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

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 a tall SUV.

What does impress is the way the Cupra deals with mid-corner bumps on the road remarkably well - even in the most hardcore Cupra driving mode – despite being on larger alloy wheels and with 10mm lower suspension than a normal SEAT Ateca.

In regards to drive modes, there’s Comfort, Sport, Cupra, Individual, Off-road and Snow to choose from; altering the adaptive suspension, the engine’s responsiveness, and steering weight.

The steering might feel artificially heavy in Cupra mode for some, so we’d opt for the Individual mode's capacity to pick and choose individual parameters, and leave the steering set to Normal  – it feels a bit more responsive which, in turn, makes the car feel a little more agile, while you can put everything else in a sportier mode if you desire.

When pressing on, 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 cornering in wet-weather conditions far better than you may expect for such a tall and heavy car.

The electronic stability control system also has its own Sport mode, which livens up the car’s responses a little without having to have all the safety systems off. There is a quirk in that activating the cruise control will revert the ESC system and Front Assist back on, which means you may have to repeatedly navigate and delve into the vehicle Settings menu on the touchscreen, as there is no specific button for it on the dash.

The Limited Edition comes with larger 20-inch wheels, and 18-inch Brembo brakes, the latter which are effective, but the pedal itself is highly assisted. This means that, while there’s a sharp initial response to the pedal, there’s almost an unnatural amount of stopping power applied as you press further down on the brake pedal. It’s a little odd at first, but you do get used to it after a while.