If Seat’s decision to launch Cupra as an independent entity seems perplexing, time behind the wheel of its first offering is unlikely to offer much clarification.

This hot Ateca’s performance is muscular enough even if your yardstick is VW’s Golf R, and there is usability to trump what any hot hatch can offer. As an affordable familyoriented driver’s car, it evades most attempts at serious objective criticism – but not all.

Matt Saunders Autocar

Matt Saunders

Road test editor
Hot crossover is objectively impressive but lacks true driver reward

What’s lacking is charisma and true driver engagement. We have reservations as to whether Cupra’s interior feels special enough, whether the exterior is suitably bold and whether the powertrain is vociferous when you’re in the mood. Beyond stability, the chassis also captures little of the suppleness or handling reward that have made some of this car’s mechanical relations so appealing. Frustratingly, the precision in the driving controls and body control suggest a more rewarding dynamic compromise might have been struck.

This opening salvo seems some way from being the best driver’s car that the firm might have given us. Thankfully, it’s also good enough to suggest that much better is yet to come.

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