Why we ran it: To assess if Cupra’s first own-branded car feels like the real deal or just a Seat made too sporty for its own good
Life with a Cupra Ateca: Month 5
We’ve just spent the past five months living with the Seat sub-brand’s highperformance SUV. So how has it fared? - 24th July 2019
One of the Cupra Ateca’s more surprising capabilities – of which there are several – is to start conversations. I’ve had quite a few with complete strangers, each of them baffled by the origins of its elaborate copper-hued grille badge.
“What is it?” is invariably the question when checking out what appears to be a very mainstream car bearing a badge they’ve never seen before. Most are happy with my “a high-performance Seat” answer, and most are then strangely uninterested in knowing any more about the Spanish company’s new sub-brand.
I mentioned more surprises, and one is the performance. This is a mid-size SUV with the performance of a potent hot hatch. You have 296 turbocharged horsepower to deploy and an at least as effective 295lb ft firing at all four wheels between 2000 and 5200rpm. The effect is to propel 1615kg of Nevada white Cupra to 62mph in 5.2sec and on to 153mph. That’s undeniably rapid, but it only occurs when you take steps to overcome the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox’s desire to set the highest possible fuel-saving score in Comfort mode, and its rather unreasonable need to think long and hard when you suddenly want to go.
The DSG transmission’s ability to hide most of that 296bhp beneath a blanket of electronic indecision amounts to the most frustrating counterbalance to the Ateca’s many positive surprises. Trample the throttle to overtake in Comfort mode and there’s a sizeable pause before the Ateca responds. It’s mere fractions in reality, but it can prompt the aborting of a manoeuvre. The same can occur when attempting to exit a side road into fast-flowing traffic, this mission also at times abandoned for the same reason.
Why not choose Sport mode, which quickens the cogs’ reactions? Because that firms an already over-firm ride to the point of discomfort on the kinds of road surfaces of which this country has too many. It also has the transmission running in lower gears than necessary a lot of the time. A better solution might be to individually programme the Ateca’s multiple modes, except that you can’t quicken gear selection without having the brain hold onto them for longer. The slack response of the Volkswagen Group’s DSG transmission can be experienced in multiple models across the brands and is pretty frustrating at times.