There's a saying in marketing that, when you're explaining, you're losing; but as this is technically a new brand, you might be wondering what a Cupra Ateca is. Once the name bestowed upon high performance versions of SEAT cars, Cupra is now a separate brand. The ethos is the same, taking SEAT cars and adding some spice to make them faster, and now a little more unique. The Ateca SUV is Cupra's first model, and others will follow.
In the metal
Applying the Cupra formula to the existing Ateca means that it is virtually unchanged in size from the SEAT model it's based on. Only the length increases slightly due to the different bumpers and exhaust setup. You won't find any SEAT badges on the Cupra Ateca; instead, it wears the distinctive copper-coloured Cupra logo on the grille and at the rear.
An enlarged front bumper opening gives the car a sportier look while aiding cooling. These sections are finished in a gloss black honeycomb design with the lower section wearing the Cupra name in matt aluminium lettering, similar to how Audi displays 'quattro' on some of its RS models. The gloss black treatment continues through the roof rails, door mirrors, window frames, side skirts and diffuser.
Like other 300-or-so horsepower models from the Volkswagen Group stable, the Cupra Ateca gets a quad exhaust treatment at the rear. Integrated into the diffuser, these add a purposeful look to the back. To further remind those sitting behind you in traffic what you're driving, the Cupra name is also spelt out across the bottom of the hatch.
The rear bumper features five blanked-off slots, something of a nod to the five slots that appeared on the nose of past SEAT Cupra models. The Ateca wears unique 19-inch alloy wheels that come shod with 245/40 section Pirelli P Zero tyres.
On the inside, Cupra has tried to differentiate the Ateca, but we think more could have been done to make this car feel a bit more special. Thankfully there isn't as much faux carbon fibre as there could have been, and you do get Alcantara in the door cards and on the seat inserts. The flat-bottomed wheel would have been great trimmed in the same material, but buyers will have to make do with a leather-upholstered one.
Boot space remains at 485 litres, as per regular all-wheel-drive versions of the SEAT Ateca and every Cupra Ateca will feature a digital instrument cluster along with an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment display with navigation and smartphone mirroring like Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Wireless phone charging is also available.
Get in, twist the drive mode to Cupra, firmly press the large aluminium brake pedal, then the throttle, watch the revs rise on the digital tacho and go. The Cupra Ateca cracks the 100km/h barrier in 5.2 seconds from rest and, on the right roads, it feels every bit as brisk as that suggests it will. For comparison, that makes it as quick to 100km/h as the Porsche Macan GTS.
The only reason you might consider buying a Cupra Ateca is to have the 300hp engine in what remains a practical SUV body. Its flat torque curve delivers all 400Nm from 2,000rpm right up to 5,200rpm, which is just before the engine reaches its peak 300hp. That means that you always have that surge of acceleration when you roll back on the throttle. It feels at its quickest when accelerating above 50km/h.
Interestingly, Cupra's engineers decided not to include a sound symposer to amplify or augment the engine note inside the cabin. So, what you hear is the real deal, though the 2.0-litre blown four-cylinder isn't the most vocal power unit around. In Sport and Cupra modes, you do notice more burble and popping on the overrun from the exhaust, but this SUV doesn't deliver the kind of raucousness you'll find with something like a Range Rover SVR.
To get the most driving enjoyment you'll need to stick to those two aforementioned driving modes. In all, there are six settings to choose from in the Driving Profile Selection, including one for off-road and one for snow. Along with tweaks to the progressive steering, the throttle, transmission and dampers also adjust through three defined settings. The Comfort mode does soften things down a little, but it remains a touch on the firm side, even with regard to steering weight.
Tipping the scales at 1,615kg, the Cupra is the heaviest of Ateca variants, but isn't as 'big-boned' as some other SUVs. Due to its raised height and centre of gravity, the handling is always going to be somewhat compromised in such a car, but the all-wheel-drive transmission does keep stability in check with only the faint hint of understeer appearing when you begin asking too much from it. You can certainly have fun driving this Ateca and, despite its SUV-ness, it remains an impressively quick car point-to-point.
For the most part, the all-wheel-drive system manages power delivery well, and only when you push it very hard do you feel it start to struggle as it shuffles power between the axles. Its increased height and the effect that has on its centre of gravity does mean that you might not always feel as eager to attack some of your favourite sections of road as you might do in an all-wheel-drive hatchback of similar power.
What you get for your money
Pricing for the Cupra Ateca will start at €49,990 in Ireland. The Cupra Ateca will come in one standard specification with the further option of adding a Performance Pack. Standard items include keyless entry and start, eight-inch touchscreen display with navigation, wireless charging pad with a mobile signal booster and digital instrument display.
The Performance Pack will consist of upgraded Brembo brakes and alloy wheels. There is a choice of six exterior colours: Energy Blue, Velvet Red, Brilliant Silver, Magic Black, Nevada White and Rodium Grey.
Deliveries for the Cupra Ateca are due to begin in January 2019 and, along with other future models, will be sold through one dealership initially, Airside Cupra, in Dublin. As part of the brand's international launch, the first 7,000 customers purchasing an Ateca will receive a limited-edition carbon fibre case embossed with the Cupra logo in copper. Inside is a special carbon Cupra key cover and bracelet.
It might seem like something of a lone wolf in the segment right now, but with a pack of similarly powerful SUVs on the horizon, the Cupra Ateca is getting a head start. Its sharp styling is tastefully done, carrying enough subtlety to escape the attention of many. If you have to have an SUV, but you still want your performance kicks, then this Cupra could be right up your street.