Of corners that is. The Cupra Ateca is one of the better SUVs dynamically speaking, and it’s part of a growing local line-up.
Cupra is not a brand most have heard of but the following of Seat’s performance offshoot is slowly growing here. It’s first offering was the Ateca, the machine seen here, which has been (subtly) updated for 2021 and now known as Ateca VZ (Veloz is Spanish for speedy). Last year, just over one-third of all local Seat sales were of Cupra models, compared with 17 per cent in 2019, and this year the local distributor reckons the performance brand will run even-stevens with Seat.
Later on, we can expect the arrival of Cupra’s first bespoke offering, the Formentor, in time for winter. This is based on similar mechanicals to the Ateca, but is rather sexier with its rakish styling. And further down the track we’ll see a range-topping grunter powered by the five-cylinder turbo used by the Audi RS 3, to be known as the VZ5. According to the Cupra supreme leader, the Formentor “represents the essence of the brand, but the addition of an even more extreme five-cylinder engine to the family will mark it out as a true enthusiast’s vehicle.”
Back in the now, the ‘new’ VZ is part of a rationalised Ateca line-up that has seen the Style and Xcellence models axed. And so Ateca now starts at $46,900 for the Seat-badged FR with a 110kW/250Nm 1.4 turbopetrol mated to an eight-speed auto. The AWD FR 4drive is $52,990 and uses a 2.0T making 140kW and 320Nm, hooked up to a seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox.
And then there’s the Cupra Ateca VZ, at $66,900, now $3k more expensive than when last we drove it. The front end has been refashioned, the upper grille reprofiled, the bumper now with larger vents and stylised deflectors. Full LED headlights make the grade too, as do fresh 19-inch wheel designs. Out back are LED taillights with dynamic indicators.
The update inside relates to a new 9.2-inch infotainment touchscreen which includes integrated nav and voice control for those that like arguing with machines. There’s ‘Full Link’ phone connectivity with Android Auto and wireless Apple CarPlay. Gone are the hard menu buttons and radio knobs replaced with soft touch jobbies on the flush fitting screen. There’s a wireless charger and USB-C ports too.
Other standard items include sounds from Beats Audio, which according to our in-house audiophile is excellent, ‘imaging like the dickens’. We haven’t a clue either. There’s a 10.2-inch configurable digital instrument cluster, smart key, powered tailgate, heated front seats and steering wheel, and surround view parking camera.
Cupra bits include the Driving Experience knob with no less than six modes, including the go-fastest Cupra setting and adaptive dampers with Cupra-specific tuning. There’s quick steering (2.1 turns lock-to-lock) and sports seats with their integrated headrest, swathed in black Dinamica (a vegan friendly microfibre) with copper stitching. It’s okay on comfort but lacks decent adjustment. And it’s not powered either. The optional ‘petrol blue’ leather trim ($2250) also comes with electrical adjustment and memory settings. There are few other options, though one to consider is the three-year/45,000km scheduled maintenance plan for $1550.
While Cupra has performance at its soul, the Ateca VZ is no mad cat. With the drive mode set to Normal, this is civilised, the engine torquey but docile, the twin-clutch smooth for the most part (it’s still difficult to reverse calmly on inclines) and the ride on the 19s impressive (for something with sporting intent). It’s low riding for an SUV sort, but it makes for an easy entry, the seat height just so. The boot and rear seat space we’d call adequate for most jobs; it’s a smallish SUV after all. Active cruise is well tuned, so too the safety monitors (no constant warning bongs) and that quick steering that lets you latch on to the apex also eases parking and general commuting. The long term fuel use for this machine was sitting on 9L/100km.
But it’s for action you’d buy the Cupra and this doesn’t disappoint. While it suffers no turbo lag per se, the boost isn’t on stream fully until 2000rpm but then the meaty 400Nm is tapped, and you’re zooming. This 2.0-litre pulls strongly right up to 6500rpm, in that matter-of-fact turbo-type manner.
The going is pretty swell even in Normal mode, though Sport seems right if you’re getting into it. The Cupra Ateca steers assuredly into the bends, the AWD set-up working seamlessly with the ESP to ensure the traction and cornering lines are sorted and the powertrain is set to spur on the action. Everything is a tad overdone in Cupra, which needs smoother surfaces and fewer limits to be enjoyed properly. However, if you are likely to hit the Cupra mode often, you might be tempted by the $4300 Brembo brake upgrade. But the standard picks work well with a solid pedal feel complete with a decent initial bite.
The Ateca VZ provides a quick and easy way to dispatch ground with just enough interaction to keep a keen driver interested. And the rest of the time, it’s a competent and comfortable all rounder. It makes the $82k Audi asks for the SQ 2 seem all a bit much.
And what of the other Cupra models inbound? There’s a new Leon on the way, offered in both the 221kW hatch ($59,900) and 228kW Sportstourer ($65,900) guise, with the possibility of a 150kW hybrid variant down the line. The Cupra Formentor will offer two spec levels, V and VZ, the latter getting the 228kW turbopetrol. The V variant uses the same powertrain as the Seat Ateca FR4, packing 140kW, with quoted fuel use of 6.5L/100km. A 150kW plug-in hybrid is a likely starter late in the year, and it should have an EV range of around 60km. Formentor is slightly longer than Cupra Ateca by 70mm but rides lower for improved dynamics. It utilises the VW Group’s MQB Evo platform. Inside is a floating 12-inch infotainment screen. We can’t wait to get acquainted.
|Model||Cupra Ateca VZ|
|Engine||1984cc, IL4, T/DI, 221kW/400Nm|
|Drivetrain||7-speed twin-clutch, on-demand AWD|