The Volkswagen Group’s EA888 four-pot has served many a hot hatch supremely well, so it’s little surprise that this 2.0-litre turbo is one of the Cupra Ateca’s biggest selling points. Although it is not immune from lag, the throttle response is notably crisp, and there’s a rare cleanliness to the smooth manner in which it pulls to the 6500rpm redline.
We might have wanted more character from the sports exhaust when Sport or Cupra mode is selected (there are, after all, a full quartet of exhaust tips), but equally this engine’s aural refinement in normal use is beyond question. If you’re driving the car every day, it’s the engine’s sense of classiness, coupled with its breadth and flexibility of performance, that make it seem like a motor with few peers. A dual-clutch gearbox whose discreet mechanisms are generally very well timed completes the picture agreeably.
Perhaps it might follow, then, that the car seems a bit aloof. The Cupra Ateca’s outright performance is certainly stronger in objective terms than it feels from behind the wheel.
Hooked up to the road test telemetry equipment, this 1615kg crossover SUV recorded a 0-60mph time of 4.9sec, shading that of even the 5.0-litre V8-engined Ford Mustang Bullitt tested recently.
However, in-gear acceleration feels slightly less muscular. The important overtaking metric of 40-60mph in fourth gear took 3.9sec while, in a full-fat hot hatchback of a similar price, it’d be little over 3.0sec. Given that the Ateca is more than 100kg heavier than a Golf R and more than 200kg heavier than the last Honda Civic Type R we performance tested (2017), this is simply the price you pay for practicality, although similar can be said regarding aerodynamics and a raised driving position (which in turns stifles the sensation of speed).
In short, and in the real world, you’ll be going quicker in a hot hatch, and feel like you are going quicker still when your chance to give the Ateca its head finally presents.
Elsewhere, the Cupra Ateca is the respectable, usable, civilised car it’s cracked up to be. Its 55-litre fuel tank allows 350 miles between fill-ups on motorway runs. At 70mph, the engine is turning over at little more than 2000rpm and our microphones recorded cabin noise at that speed at 67dB. That’s reasonable for a performance car wearing low-profile tyres and some aggressive body styling and is a match for the more slippery profiled Golf R.