For a stand-alone performance brand derived from a marque whose marketing efforts promote playful chic, the Cupra Ateca’s interior feels unapologetically Volkswagen Group.
There are, of course, benefits to this. The ergonomics are all but infallible and, alongside the car’s generous, visibility-enhancing glasshouse, soaring head room for all on board means the Ateca’s cabin has a lofty, airy feel absent from, say, a Golf R. It’s also very easy to slide into, and while the packaging of the multilink rear suspension robs the car of some load-carrying potential, 485 litres of capacity comfortably exceeds that of comparable hot hatchbacks.
The standard of material fit also feels encouragingly high although, unsurprisingly, not quite on the same level as a Volkswagen Tiguan. Oddly overlapping cupholders aside, you could live with this car so very easily, which is the point.
But what Cupra has struggled to do is move the Ateca away from the perception that practicality lies at the heart of the offering. Performance cars should feel more cosseting than this, and while the touch points send the right message – perforated leather on the satisfyingly firm, thin rim of the steering wheel, generous Alcantara for the bolstered seats and copper-coloured stitching – this environment doesn’t automatically make you want to get stuck into the driving experience. If the Cupra’s interior had been more urbane in the wider choice of materials, this might not matter so much. As it is, even sporadic gloss black, chrome and Alcantara trim can’t divert one’s gaze from the more ordinary dashboard and window-sill mouldings.
The instruments and display feel more in keeping with a car whose asking price is well on its way to £40,000. As in the Seat Ateca, the Cupra’s infotainment screen and its digital instrument binnacle (standard for this model) are set on the same plane and look superbly crisp. They do much to lift the ambience of an otherwise subdued interior and are an antidote to a busy transmission tunnel and centre console smattered with switchgear.
The Cupra’s digital array does much to lift the ambience of an otherwise staid cabin. Both the central 8.0in touchscreen display (which handily retains some physical switchgear, for quick adjustments on the move) and the entirely pixelated instrument binnacle come as standard, as does DAB, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring.
The various menus for the media, navigation and information functions are as straightforward to negotiate as we’ve come to expect from the Volkswagen Group stable, and the Cupra gets an additional readout for turbo boost pressure, power output (in kilowatts, alas) and all-important g-force.
The instrument binnacle is the real star, though, with four different skins that prioritise the legibility of engine speed, road speed and navigation as you see fit. There’s a mode that attempts to tick all boxes, but we’re not sure dials that scroll up the side of the readout will ever catch on (although BMW has recently chosen to go down this path).