This Ateca gets off to a good start for new brand CUPRA
EARLIER this year SEAT announced the creation of a standalone performance brand, CUPRA, that will produce sporty versions of its mainstream models and look after the firm's motorsport activities.
The first model from the new brand, the CUPRA Ateca, arrives in Ireland this January.
It's an interesting choice of car for a brand looking to establish its sporting credentials as it's of course based on the regular Ateca, a mid-sized crossover SUV.
Whatever your views on crossovers and SUVs - and it's clear that an awful lot of people are fans - it's pretty much accepted that they don't handle as well as lower-slung vehicles.
This is down to physics - the higher the vehicle the more body roll, something that's anathema to hustling a car rapidly around corners. When it comes to performance, the lower down the centre of gravity, the better.
Creating a performance SUV is akin to asking Lewis Hamilton to win the F1 championship in a double-decker racing car.
So, can the CUPRA Ateca cut the mustard as an appealing alternative to a hot hatch? Visually at least, it hits the mark.
As well as the copper tones of the CUPRA badging and the CUPRA name outlined front and rear, it comes with unique fore and aft bumpers, lots of gloss black treatment of grilles, roof-rails, diffuser and door mirrors, and a four-bore exhaust.
Sitting on 19in rims and riding 10mm lower than the regular Ateca, it does look rather purposeful, The specification ticks all the boxes.
The CUPRA Ateca utilises the Volkswagen Group's familiar turbo-charged, direct-injection, 4-cylinder TSI 2.0 litre unit that develops 300PS/400Nm of torque.
That's matched to a 7spd DSG auto box and 4Drive all-wheel drive.
There is a selection of drive modes, with Sport and Cupra the two settings that will appeal to the keen driver.
Interestingly, CUPRA has decided not to fit any artificial noise augmentation, so what you hear inside the cabin is purely engine and exhaust.
In Cupra mode, it does bop and burble a certain amount, but overall it's not as raucous as you'd find on other performance cars. Inside you get CUPRA badging, Alacantra door panels and sports seats, aluminium pedals and an 8in touchscreen.
Driving the car, figures of 0-100km/h in 5.2 seconds and a top speed of 247kmh mean few will beat it in a straight line away from the traffic lights. But what about around twisty corners or challenging roundabouts? Well, actually, it's pleasantly better than expected.
Perhaps aided by a lower than expected kerb weight of 1,540kg, it turns in nicely with not a lot of body roll, the 4WD doing its thing to keep everything in check.
Ultimately though, it isn't quite as involving a drive as a hot hatch such as the Leon Cupra, not encouraging you to find the limits the way the former does, which might be a good thing.
The CUPRA Ateca is likely to appeal to former hot-hatch owners who now need the practicality of an SUV but still want decent performance.
As a rapid school-run machine, it will take some beating. Prices have yet to be finalised, but expect something around the €50,000 mark. SEAT will have its challenges in getting the public to see the CUPRA brand as a separate entity, but it's off to a good start with the Ateca.