In-depth reviews

Cupra Ateca review - Engines, performance and drive

296bhp and sharp handling combine to create one of the most exhilarating SUVs you can buy

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

The Cupra Ateca has no business being this good to drive. In fact, we reckon it’s the finest-handling car in its class, although there aren’t many performance SUV rivals.

There are six driving modes to choose from – Normal, Sport, Cupra, Snow, Off-Road and Individual – but Cupra is the setting you’ll require to enjoy the Ateca at its most impressive and aggressive. In this mode, the steering and throttle are sharper, the gear shifts are quicker and the exhaust note is enhanced, delivering a proper hot hatch feel.

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Body lean is kept in check, while the 4Drive all-wheel drive system delivers a huge amount of grip, which serves to inspire even more confidence in the drive. There’s even an Off-Road mode, although the combination of 19-inch wheels and low profile tyres won’t allow you to venture too far off the beaten track.

Instead, revel in the Cupra Ateca’s on-road prowess, where only the non-communicative steering threatens to spoil the party. In every other respect, it’s terrific fun, with brilliant off-the-line pace, superb handling and a pleasingly firm ride. Even the seven-speed DSG gearbox, so often a party-pooper, feels at home in the Cupra, being both fluid at low speeds and decisive when you’re pressing on.

It can’t mix it with the likes of the Honda Civic Type R or Hyundai i30 N – that was never the intention – but it bridges the gap between the MINI Countryman JCW and the Porsche Macan. And that’s high praise.

Engines, 0-60 acceleration and top speed

Any thoughts that the Cupra Ateca is little more than a tarted-up SEAT SUV are soon forgotten when you hit the accelerator. The 296bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine is lifted from the Volkswagen Golf R hot hatch, giving this SUV a real turn of pace.

The 0-62mph time is polished off in 5.2 seconds – quick enough to trouble most self-respecting hot hatches. In reality, it feels even quicker, especially if you keep the rev-counter between 3,500 and 6,000rpm.

In fact, the faster you go, the more exhilarating it becomes, especially in Cupra mode, when the quad exhaust tips produce a raucous soundtrack. What’s all the more remarkable is that the Cupra sounds so docile at lower speeds. The top speed is 153mph.

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