New Cupra Ateca 2020 review

The facelift Cupra Ateca just falls short of giving the hot SUV a new lease of life

Overall Auto Express Rating

3.5 out of 5

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While the mid-life changes to the Cupra Ateca are all subtle, they help to freshen up this rapid family SUV. However, with the recent arrival of Cupra’s own Formentor, the case for the hot Ateca has become much harder to justify. Unlike the SEAT-derived Ateca, the Formentor is unique to the Cupra range, plus it’s more distinctive to look at, more sophisticated to drive – and costs only £780 more to buy.

The Cupra Ateca was the first model to launch SEAT’s performance offshoot as a standalone brand. Its start in life has been strong, with more than 10,000 units sold in its first full year – the equivalent of 15 per cent of all Ateca sales.

Now there’s an updated model, which benefits from a range of mostly cosmetic upgrades. However, designers have taken a fairly low-key approach to the exterior refresh. The angular shape is carried over with only a few minor detail changes; the LED headlights get new internal graphics that give the car’s face a slightly sharper look, while the front grille elements and bumper designs are also subtly fresh.

All Cupra Atecas ride on 19-inch alloy wheels, and adaptive dampers are fitted as standard. Cupra has reworked the steering in order to improve the response from the rack, although otherwise the mechanical set-up is largely the same as before. This includes the powertrain; a 2.0-litre petrol turbo sends its drive to all four wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

A maximum of 296bhp is delivered from 5,300rpm up to the 6,500rpm red line... or the copper line, in this case. The rev counter, displayed on a 10-inch digital screen that can be customised to show a variety of driving and media functions, is only one of many details within the cabin that now carries Cupra’s signature colour.

Stitching on the seats, dash and gear-selector gaiter, as well as on a new steering-wheel design, also feature the copper finish, which helps to highlight an otherwise black and moody cabin. The body-hugging sports seats wear a mix of leather and Alcantara, and feel supportive. Quality is decent enough, but the black door handles look rather cheap.

The rest of the cabin nails the family-car brief; there’s loads of room in the back, and cubby spaces are plentiful. Although 485 litres doesn’t sound like a vast amount of boot space, the square area and huge opening make loading easy.

Once out on the road, however, it almost feels like the chassis engineers have forgotten that some semblance of comfort is also welcome in a family car. Within a few hundred yards, it becomes clear that the ride is on the less forgiving side of the current crop of hot hatchbacks. The Ateca always seems busy, and it can crash into abrupt road-surface changes. The adaptive dampers do little to alter this feeling; the ride is at its harshest in full-blown Cupra mode, but the improvements are only marginal when you tone things down to Comfort.

The flip side of this is that the Ateca is a lot of fun to throw around. Perversely, it’s at its most playful in Comfort setting. By introducing a little extra body roll, the weight transfer allows you to play with a chassis whose balance can be adjusted with both the steering and the throttle.

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The updated steering doesn’t introduce a huge difference in feel, but it is precise and pleasingly weighted.What hasn’t changed is the Cupra’s ability to cover ground at a seriously rapid rate, whatever the weather. Overall grip levels are high, and the four-wheel-drive system means that even in damp conditions it’s possible to make the most of the 2.0-litre turbo’s full 400Nm. In Sport and Cupra modes, the exhaust system introduces a few pops and bangs to add a little drama to go with the sub-five-second 0-62mph time.

Model: Cupra Ateca
Price: £39,050
Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl turbo petrol
Power/torque: 296bhp/400Nm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic, four-wheel drive 
0-62mph: 4.9 seconds
Top speed: 153mph
Economy: 31.7mpg
CO2: 218g/km
On sale: Now
Chief reviewer

Alex joined Auto Express as staff writer in early 2018, helping out with news, drives, features, and the occasional sports report. His current role of Chief reviewer sees him head up our road test team, which gives readers the full lowdown on our comparison tests.

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