From £36,4808
Everything that’s good about the Seat Ateca, with added performance and a bit of extra polish, even in prototype form

What is it?

Right, let’s be clear about this. The SUV you see here is the Cupra Ateca and not, you must understand, the Seat Ateca Cupra. That might sound like a minor spot of nomenclature, but understanding the difference between Cupra as a Seat performance badge and Cupra as a Seat sub-brand is key to understanding the aims of this definitely-not-a-Seat Ateca.

While Cupra-badged Seat models were all about performance, the Cupra sub-brand has a slightly different brief, mixing performance with ‘uniqueness and sophistication’. The idea is that Cupra-branded models will appeal to a slightly more affluent audience, willing to pay higher margins.

That’s why the first Cupra model is an Ateca and not, say, a Cupra Ibiza. Seat believes there are bigger margins to be had making a high performance family SUV than a hot hatch. And Seat also believes there’s a fairly sizeable gap in the market for a Cupra Ateca, above the likes of family SUVs such as the Hyundai Tucson, Peugeot 3008 and, yes, Seat Ateca, and below premium sporting models such as the Audi SQ2 and BMW X3M.

So how do you turn a Seat Ateca into a Cupra Ateca? Well, there’s a new ‘tribal’ Cupra logo, which entirely replaces the Seat badges. There’s also a new grille design and rear bumper, some glossy black details, quad exhaust details on the rear diffuser and 19inch diamond cut allow wheels. Inside, there are more Cupra logos, Alcantara-covered seats, a leather steering wheel and gear stick, and aluminium pedals and other features.

More substantially, the Cupra Ateca features the VW Group’s EA888 2.0 TSI engine, in this case tuned for 296bhp and 295lb ft of torque, propelling the 1632kg SUV from 0-62mph in 5.2secs on its way to a top speed of 153mph. There’s a seven-speed DSG auto ‘box and variable four-wheel-drive, while work has been done to the Ateca’s adaptive suspension settings.

There’s also been considerable tuning of the Ateca’s software, including a new Cupra drive mode. Our test machine also featured the optional Performance Pack, which among other tweaks includes 18in Brembo brake and bucket seats. Yes, bucket seats in an SUV.

2 Cupra ateca prototype 2018 fd hero rear

What's it like?

The machine we tested was officially still a pre-production version. From where we were sitting (in the aforementioned bucket seat) it all looked rather finished and polished, although Seat claims there’s still some tuning work to do, largely on the software and settings.

Given we rate the Seat Ateca as one of the best family SUVs on the market, you won’t be surprised that adding extra performance and kit enhances the package, making the Cupra Ateca very nice to drive.

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On normal roads, in the standard drive modes, it feels much like a Seat Ateca, albeit one with a pleasing punch of extra power when needed. So there’s decent turn-in and positive, direct steering, while the suspension and chassis control settings do a decent job of masking the Ateca’s height and weight.

To prove the Cupra Ateca’s sporting credentials, we were also given the chance to test it on a race circuit. And, should you fancy a few laps after dropping the kids off at school, you’ll be glad to know that the Cupra Ateca is enjoyable on track. It makes brisk progress on straights and is good fun in the bends.

That is, of course, with the physics-based caveat that it’s a high-sided, relatively heavy SUV: it’s prone to understeer if you push to hard, and it’s easy to overwork the brakes if you ask too much of them.

4 Cupra ateca prototype 2018 fd cabin

Should I buy one?

Even if you never take a Cupra Ateca onto a circuit – and, let’s face it, you probably won’t – it’s undoubtedly an enjoyable car. But it isn’t a hardcore ‘hot’ version of the Seat Ateca: it’s a more rounded proposition.

It’s recognisably an Ateca, but it has a bit more of everything. Including cost: the Cupra Ateca will be sold in the UK for £35,900, compared to £30,340 for the current top-spec Seat Ateca (the 190bhp 2.0 TDI).

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That price fits right into the market gap Seat has identified for the Cupra Ateca: regular family SUVs, but below premium offerings. And, on early evidence, it certainly feels like a compelling, unique option for those seeking a machine that mixes performance kicks with crossover practicality.

Just don’t call it a Seat.

Cupra Ateca specification

Where Spain Price £35,900 On sale Autumn Engine 4 cyls, 1984cc, direct injection, petrol Power 296bhp at 5300-6500rpm Torque 295lb ft at 2000-5200rpm Gearbox 7-speed automatic Kerb weight 1632kg Top speed 153mph 0-62mph 5.2sec Fuel economy TBC CO2 TBC Rivals Audi SQ2, Mercedes-Benz GLC

9 Cupra ateca prototype 2018 fd otr side

James Attwood

James Attwood, digital editor
Title: Acting magazine editor

James is Autocar's acting magazine editor. Having served in that role since June 2023, he is in charge of the day-to-day running of the world's oldest car magazine, and regularly interviews some of the biggest names in the industry to secure news and features, such as his world exclusive look into production of Volkswagen currywurst. Really.

Before first joining Autocar in 2017, James spent more than a decade in motorsport journalist, working on Autosport,, F1 Racing and Motorsport News, covering everything from club rallying to top-level international events. He also spent 18 months running Move Electric, Haymarket's e-mobility title, where he developed knowledge of the e-bike and e-scooter markets. 

Join the debate

Add a comment…
SmileItsFun 2 August 2019

That's My Car

OK. So I got one in that exact colour, Brembo breaks and all but no bucket seats.

Whether the decision about making a Cupra sub-brand is your thing or not I don't really care as there's loads of manufacturers doing it.

Isn't Audi a sub-brand of VW...?

(only kidding Audi guys)

The car is easy to drive (very easy with all of the tech) and eminently pleasurable when you need to pootle around in comfort mode. Switch to Sport or better still Cupra and it then becomes big fun on the twisty roads and I appreciate the 4-wheel drive grip.

If you're out of Cupra mode and not belting the car around, economy is acceptable for a petrol, auto SUV with 4x4 tech (it is the Haldex system) but it's still ready if you boot it - just a little less ready.

I have no regrets (other than I don't drive it as much as I would like to) and it looks good - better in the metal than photos and certainly not like the Kodiaq or Karoq (my neighbours have them, nice as they are NOT like the Ateca). The good thing is that it's just as practical and comfortable as any Ateca.

scotty5 1 October 2018

Don't call it a SEAT.

Don't call it a Seat?  Ok then...   it's a 5 Cupra SUV with two bucket Cupra's in the front. Final specification is still unknown but it's likely electric memory cupras will be a £500 optional extra and heated cupras will be part of a £400 winter pack.

catnip 1 October 2018

They've done a really good

They've done a really good job with this, I hardly recognised it as an Ateca at all.....

WallMeerkat 1 October 2018

catnip wrote:

catnip wrote:

They've done a really good job with this, I hardly recognised it as an Ateca at all.....

I thought it was a Skoda Karoq. Or Kodiac. Or something.