Parkers overall rating: 3.4 out of 5 3.4

Update 1: Welcome – an introduction to Cupra

2019 Cupra Ateca black front bumper

Hello there, my name is Paul Wallace, known online primarily as ‘SupercarsofLondon’ and for the last 20 minutes or so, I’ve struggled to come up with an appropriate introduction. So hello will have to do!

Over the next six months, I have been tasked with sharing my living experiences with the all new Cupra Ateca, both on YouTube and right here. So however you enjoy learning new information about the latest and greatest coming out from the automotive world, I hope you find enjoyment through the journey I have ahead of me. If you’ve ever wanted a head-to-head between a Lamborghini Urus and a Cupra Ateca…bookmark this page now.

Cupra, as a standalone manufacturer – a sporty spinoff from SEAT – launched on February 22, 2018 with its version of the Ateca. Armed with a new logo and a determined team of performance specialists, Cupra has spent the last 12 months building the foundations for what promises to be an exciting Spanish performance and luxury car manufacturer. On its first anniversary, Cupra has unveiled its first images of the Formentor, which proves these guys mean business. But let’s move onto the Cupra Ateca which has joined my small fleet down in Hertfordshire. 

2019 Cupra Ateca badge

I’ll be totally honest, no matter how loud the Spaniards shouted from Cupra HQ, I was totally unaware of their existence until January of this year, which given my interest in performance vehicles, is a little embarrassing. However, my first experience during my research process was a pleasant one. Visually, the Cupra logo pulled my heart strings. Aggressive, modern and a little bit wacky. The further I dug, the more I became intrigued. The Cupra Ateca is a very good looking car. A nice size, proportionally designed with all the right arches, exhaust pipes and grilles. This is a proper sporty small SUV.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago, upon collection at Parkers Head Office, I was like an excitable little child eager to see the car, get a feel for its steering and grip levels. Two characteristics I’d been made aware of by the Parkers team. On first sight, I was over the moon with the specification, and as it stared at me, looking like it was going to rip my head off, I was convinced this is the sort of car I’d actually buy. A promising start!

2019 Cupra Ateca front black

My YouTube video, which runs through my first drive picks up from here, and you’ll get to see my initial first impressions on a crisp February morning, along with a unique ‘Cupra Experience’ in Andorra as I started to get a feel for the Ateca’s driving dynamics on the world’s highest permanent race circuit.

Stay tuned and bookmark this page for updates throughout the next few months. I’ll be going into detail on the Cupra as a performance machine, a daily driver. Pitting it against some strong competition and hopefully having the opportunity of pushing it to the limits on a wild roadtrip towards the Scottish Highlands. 

Whilst I entered this exciting journey with minimal knowledge of Cupra, my heart already starts to race every time I pick the keys up and walk outside. There’s something magic about this brand, and I can’t wait to discover more. Until next time, there’s a full Cupra Ateca review here, and you can watch my latest Cupra video here.

Update 2: Spec Talk

2019 Cupra Ateca black front end

I wasn’t expecting time to pass so quickly, but here we are – well into the second month of running the 2018 Cupra Ateca as my daily driver. I’ve manage to rack up over 1,000 miles in total, since my first update, and much about the Ateca has made itself clear in that time.

Fundamentally, the Cupra strikes me as a well-built performance crossover which benefits from just enough flair to imbue it with a bit of character. Mine has several options, though, which ramps the price up from the standard £35,900 to a whopping £41,175. You might rightly baulk at that but there are two things to consider. Firstly, the majority of these cars will be purchased through a PCP scheme, meaning the jump in monthly payments won’t be nearly as eye-watering as the additional 15% overall cost added on top of the base price. 

More importantly, the options – having compared my car to a friend’s standard Seat Ateca – elevate the feel and look of the Cupra even further beyond that of its conventional counterpart, which makes the upgrades feel like good value for money. Case in point: the Design Package fitted to mine costs £3,345 and includes the 19-inch copper-finished wheels, Brembo brakes and black trim. I’ve subsequently tried to find a better-priced package on any new car that transforms the car in such a way as on the Cupra with no luck; I couldn’t even find a set of decent-looking aftermarket 19-inch alloys, similar performance brakes and a wrapping company who could replicate the black pack for the same price Cupra charge. Consequently, the pricing seems fair and the upgrade worthwhile, and that’s without further taking into account the cost of labour if you wanted to go the aftermarket route.

The Ateca continues to suprise on a daily basis, too. Like me, a lot of my friends were unaware of Cupra’s existence but I’ve been flying the flag and introducing them to the brand. I’ve taken multiple passengers on long journeys, short trips, town rides and motorway cruises; the reaction to getting into the Ateca is identical every time. ‘Oh wow, Alcantara,’ or ‘this is actually really nice’ are common remarks, and I often find people taking snaps of it – and no one forgets the experience of the ‘Cupra’ race mode.

It’s rare we get the opportunity to experience a brand-new manufacturer and its first car for the first time, but I am loving every moment of it. I’ve captured a few people’s first reaction now on camera, and those videos are sitting on my Youtube channel. It still excites me every time I get in, too, which is fortunate – as I’ll currently planning my first road trip with it, and will be putting many more miles on the clock soon.

That said, I’m not a fan of the ‘Beats’ sound system because the equaliser it just too fiddly. I’ve spent a solid hour or so trying to fine-tune it to my preferences but, ultimately, it’s easier just to leave it in its factory setting. You might as well spend £200 on a better Bluetooth speaker.

In the meantime, if you’ve got any questions about the Cupra, please leave a comment on my video and I’ll do my best to answer it.

Update 3: The ‘Cheaper’ Lamborghini Urus

2019 Cupra Ateca black with bronze wheels

Welcome back to another dip into the world of living with a 2018 Cupra Ateca. So far we’ve discussed my first impressions to this new and very young brand. Bags of ambition with great support (and a handy parts bin). But this month, I want to delve deeper into the emotion and character the Ateca carries, and why I’m comparing it to a £200,000 super sports utility vehicle. 

I’ve been lucky enough to ‘live’ with a Lamborghini Urus for the past seven days. Not just a Urus, but a Urus in the South of France. Home to some of the greatest driving roads in the world, and of course stunning weather. Upon collection I soon adapted to the sheer size of the Lambo. With the 4.0-litre biturbo V8 rumbling in front of me, it caused a scene wherever I went. I wanted to see just whether this heavy, twin turbo’d bus still felt like a Lambo, and gave the driver that unique feeling so I set my alarm for 5am and got an early night (not very Lambo of me). Behold, sunrise on Col de Turini. Go Pros attached and enough fuel to get me up and hopefully back down the mountain.

Flicking the fighter jet inspired drive select toggle down to Corsa, I flew through the gears chomping tarmac at a scary rate. It has the power to shed it’s two tonne weight, with 650bhp and 850nm of torque, but surely this thing is going to struggle under braking and through the corners. Casting my mind back to tackling similar roads in my old rear wheel drive Huracan, I tried to concentrate on that feeling. The excitement of being on the edge, the raw exhaust tone and feeling of being connected and at one with the car. I was pleasantly surprised at what Lambo have achieved with the Urus. On the limit, the four-wheel steer still enables the car to be agile, dip, turn and fly out of any corner. The brakes have so much power you find yourself nose to nose with the windscreen far too often. Luckily it was still 6am so no one saw. It’s safe to say in Corsa mode, the Urus is VERY much a Lamborghini. 

Away from tight and twisty mountain roads, the Urus has the luxury of ferrying three (or four if you have the five seat configuration) friends to dinner, to the shops or wherever you need to go. A luxury that hasn’t really existed within the Lamborghini brand. It’s quiet, comfortable and feels expensive – the seats can either cool you down or heat you up almost instantly. Then you pass a shop window and clock your reflection and smile at the sheer road presence you command. Overall, it ticks so many boxes, provides flare, gives everyone involved a smile and has performance & luxury to match it’s price tag. This is where the Cupra comes back into play.

In my eyes, I can truly compare the Cupra to the Urus in the way it delivers smiles per mile and value for money. Yes it’s a new, unproven brand that’s still finding it’s feet. But the Ateca being it’s first attempt really isn’t bad going. In the same way the Urus is Lambo’s first attempt at an SUV since the Audi takeover and the infamous LM002. The Cupra ticks so many boxes well. It’s fast, it puts the power down, it’s different, causes a stir driving through a town high street yet still provides the driver with the luxury and practicality of doing it all with three or four people in the car too. I’ve had multiple experiences of people photographing the car at a set of lights, and people trying to work out what the logo is. Someone has even asked me if it’s a Transformer. 

Here’s what I’m excited for looking into the future; there’s no denying Cupra still have a lot to prove in the automotive world. I’ve covered nearly 7,000 miles in the car now and have many conversations with friends trying to find legitimate flaws in the car. Yes the central screen needs updating, the sound system is a bit odd and the exhaust could do with a little more character, but these aren’t things you can be too picky with when you’re spending £40k on a car that does so many things so well. So I’ll say it here, the Cupra Ateca truly is a baby Urus. I would like some more exhaust burbles like the Urus though if that’s possible. 

Update 4: Parkers Old vs New

2019 Cupra Ateca and Renault Megane R26R

Over the last six to 12 months, I’ve been experiencing a shift in my interests, excitement and what really gets me going when it comes to driving. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. I was scared and a little nervous that I had finally become desensitised to the new, latest and greatest cars because I spend so much time around them. With Goodwood Festival of Speed behind us, and a short ‘hot hatch’ roadtrip completed with good friend ‘MrJWW’ (or James as his real name away from the internet), I’ve had time to reflect on what’s changed. And thankfully, it’s not me!

There have been numerous new cars arriving in 2018 and 2019 that I have driven that lack flare, a character or even a personality. Let’s take the McLaren 720s for instance. A £250,000, 200mph+ rocket ship built and designed for road use. The car is frighteningly quick and if you squeeze the right pedal to the floor, it’ll certainly take your breath away. And you won’t really get it back until you back off. It’s hands down the fastest car you can buy for under £750,000. What’s even scarier is the 720s has dropped to £160,000 on the used car market making it even more accessible. The first time I drove the 720s I felt it lacked something. I couldn’t put my finger on it and I spoke to other people who had also driven it who all agreed. It felt great to drive, it was fast, the steering was precise and it felt like a spaceship…but it lacked emotion. 

Moving on to my little UK adventure that took place just before Goodwood Festival of Speed, myself and MrJWW set out to fall in love with cars again, and identify this missing jigsaw piece in so many fast, super and hot cars. We started at the Bicester Heritage site with Lotus and had ‘Caffiene and Machine’ as our lunch stop. Lotus go against the grain when it comes to manufacturing. They don’t chase horsepower, they don’t chase technology. They chase thrill, connectivity and emotion. We hopped in an Exige 410 & an Evora 410. Both shouty engines with minimal weight, a manual gearbox and that’s about it. Bashing through the British B-roads I had a smile on my face the entire time. The sheer pace these cars could take and the hammering of the gearbox was impressive, but more importantly, I felt in charge of the car, and the road. Don’t get me wrong, with both cars around £80,000-£90,000 I couldn’t quite see the tangible value. But from an experience point of view, I could. This really kick started my brain to recalibrate what I was looking for in a car. I, like many other people had been brainwashed into thinking about the importance of horsepower, rather than some of the other numbers on a spec sheet. 

 2019 Cupra Ateca and Leon Cupra R

Onwards to day two, the ‘hot hatch’ day. I’d swapped in my long term loaner, the Cupra Ateca, for a SEAT Leon Cupra R ABT ST 4Drive. Meanwhile, James has brought something special. A piece of history and a legendary vehicle to many enthusiasts. The 2008 Renault Megane R26.R. At the time of launch, the Renault destroyed the front-wheel drive Nürburgring world record and immediately becoming iconic in the hot hatch world. Whilst the Cupra R was running a solid 345bhp, AWD and some fancy tech, I couldn’t help but want to jump back in the Renault at any given opportunity. Four point harnesses, no rear seats, a cage so exposed it looked like Spider-Man had made it, and an induction noise that brought out our inner child-like behaviour. There’s no denying the SEAT was a far superior car, but the Renault was more fun. What was important in this test was realising Renault hadn’t even improved the bhp figure between the standard ‘hot’ Megane and the R26.R. Instead, they fitted it with sticky tyres, stripped the whole thing out and left the driver with the absolute basics required. As many of you will agree, these changes transformed the car and made it incredibly agile and fun to drive. Meanwhile in the SEAT, I had the car’s temperature absolutely perfect, the seats were comfy, my virtual cockpit in full view along with everything set up in race mode to get ready for the attack. The AWD gave me ample grip, the gearbox was smooth and effortless and the whole car destroyed the roads with ease. But I didn’t feel exhilarated. My adrenaline was at an all time low, my heart wasn’t racing any faster than if I was cruising on the M25 at 70mph. I even got out feeling quite refreshed. And then it hit me….

Technology has developed so fast, and at such a rate that a vast percentage of fun has been sapped out of many cars. The imperfections that once haunted manufacturers were in fact their stamp on the automotive world. Their character was determined by the ‘not so great’ features. We live in a world where we strive for the ultimate tech, we strive to move forward, and we strive to want more. We believe we need more power to enjoy a car. With more power comes more safety. With more safety comes more tech. With more tech comes disconnection. I’ve driven so many new cars that have felt as though a computer is doing 80% of the work. This is what is killing the fun and enjoyment and where we can revert back to the McLaren 720s. It’s a masterpiece, yet because it’s so fast, the safety net is too big. It’s everyday capabilities created by technology makes it less special. You feel disconnected to the car and that’s where the problem lies. I was scared it was me, but I’m happy to blame the new era of cars. Rewind ten years, and you’ll have more fun driving some of the wacky stuff produced back then. The best thing about older cars is that they have done the most of their depreciating. So you can pick up a bargain and I guarantee you’ll have more thrills than buying new! Check some of these prices out: 

  • 2009 Audi R8 V10: £48,000
  • 2013 Maserati MC Stradale: £60,000
  • 2008 Ferrari F430: £80,000 
  • 2008 Renault Megan R26.R: £22,000 
  • 2008 BMW E92 M3: £15,000 
  • 2013 Mercedes Benz C63 AMG: £17,000

You can buy all of these cars for the same price as one brand new McLaren 720s. Just some food for thought. New vs old is very much an on going battle, and there is no right or wrong answer. This is just my experience based on what I’ve been driving recently. Some cars you need for A to B, but if you’re lucky enough to have a car that goes from A back to A, then go old. You won’t regret it! 

Update five: the Final Drive and Saying Goodbye

2019 Cupra Ateca farewell

Eight months ago, I found myself carless. I’d just sold my Mercedes AMG C 63 and was imminently awaiting a collection date for my dream car, a 2009 Lamborghini Murcielago. Being an excitable little child, I’d completely overlooked the necessity of having a sensible car to be used on a day to day basis – until I was shown a 2019 Cupra Ateca by the guys at Parkers. I’d never heard of the Spanish brand before, had no idea that they’d shifted away from SEAT, and I definitely had no idea what the Ateca really was. I just thought it looked cool. 

Fast forward to today, the end of the British summer – quite frankly the time I need an AWD vehicle – and I’ll admit it, I’m a little bit emotional. Today was the day the Cupra Ateca was collected from my house, never to set foot on my driveway again. Saying goodbye to a car that has been so convenient, effortless and present in my life for the last six months was actually harder than I thought. And to think the learning curve I’ve experienced going from never hearing about a Cupra before, to not wanting to see one leave is pretty crazy. I’m going to do my best to precisely note what exactly was so special about the Cupra Ateca. 

Let’s start with what made my heart race stepping foot into the Ateca. It felt special, it felt unique and in my opinion, felt like an absolute bargain at £40,000 with all the options. Faux carbon, alcantara, copper stitching dashed across the interior – but the exterior was my favourite part. Cupra had managed to capture the car’s character when you stood face to face with it. The black paint, copper details and Transformer-style branding meant it caught people’s eye. The mystery around the brand provided many a conversation with automotive enthusiasts and people passing, mainly during petrol station visits…which there were a lot of. But the Ateca carried a presence, both static and dynamically, which I loved, and it meant it never got boring to look at or to step inside.

2019 Cupra Ateca with Lamborghini

Moving onto some of my favourite features, we have to start with the virtual cockpit. Designed perfectly, and fitting with the design language, the versatility and view options throughout the virtual cockpit is hands down the best I’ve experienced within a car. I’ve driven my fair share of luxury cars and VW group vehicles and still believe the Cupra’s virtual cockpit design is the best I’ve seen – during 8,250 miles and six months it never got boring. Information all available through the steering wheel, there really was no need for the clunky and outdated centre console screen and button layout. Safe to say that 90% of the interior was bang on, but the centre console screen and also the trendy ‘Beats by Dre’ upgraded sound system let the car down. As I’d mentioned in previous blogs, the sound system’s usability to the average consumer blew my mind. The quality was fine, but that’s pretty much it.

But what made the Cupra Ateca so good as a transportation device, as a car? We’ve covered the design, its character and some of its tech but what made the Cupra a really complete package was the way this thing drove in all of its modes.

In comfort, it had just enough feel through the steering and throttle, and the upgraded Brembo brakes never failed. Through town it was sizeable but never intimidating, on motorways and open roads it had enough weight and road presence that it never felt loose or as if it was going to get blown off the road.

Whilst it’s on the smaller end of the SUV spectrum, it hugged the road and cut through the weather day in day out. I’ve driven some SUVs and smaller vehicles that can really be affected by cross winds but the Cupra could conquer any road in any weather. The suspension was firm but never too stiff, and cycling through the modes, the car become more sensitive, faster and responded better to driver input.

2019 Cupra Ateca rear light

The all-wheel drive system was clever and always found the grip. I genuinely can’t fault the drive. What I can pick up on, which did get a little tedious, was its ability to stay below 30mpg regardless of the drive. The only frustrating element to ‘owning’ the Cupra, was the amount of time I spent at petrol stations. The performance came at a price, and the price was usually £60 every other day!

For a practical, performance SUV for the everyday family driver, the ongoing running costs of spending a lot of time at petrol stations could potentially put off those who cover heavy mileage on a day-to-day basis. I reckon I spent £1,500-£1,750 during the six months on fuel.

So there we go, six months living with Cupra’s first attempt at separating itself away from SEAT. While a lot is still very much the same as the SEAT Ateca in terms of parts and design, the tweaks and changes implemented by Cupra justify the price jump. It’s not just aesthetic.

The car’s constant ability to surprise you in ‘Cupra Mode’ means it’s a real performance SUV too. I likened it to a baby Lamborghini Urus, and will stand by that statement. I got attached to the car, I got used to the car, and it served me well. A few things mentioned above that I can imagine will get ironed out the more Cupra push towards unique projects, which are in the works, and excite me very much.

There’s no denying the Ateca has a place in the market, and shouldn’t be overlooked. The numbers arriving in the UK are still small, meaning depreciation isn’t as much of a problem in comparison to some of its rivals, it’s just whether you’ll take the risk and buy something different.