The Ateca looks a bit conventional alongside its Cupra counterparts.
It’s an upright, slightly boxy SUV sitting alongside the slinky Leon hatch and sporty Formentor SUV in Cupra Garages, with proportions that borrow heavily from the practical but slightly dull Skoda Karoq. It even comes pre-wired for towing.
Don’t be fooled, though. You can buy versions of the Formentor and Leon with 140kW or 180kW, but the Ateca is only available in full-fat VZx guise with 221kW. It’s the only Cupra available in Australia with an angry Akrapovic exhaust, too.
There’s just one model in the Ateca range. The 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx is a range-topping variant, with a sticker price of $65,990 drive-away.
It’s $1000 cheaper than the equivalent Formentor, and undercuts the conceptually similar Volkswagen Tiguan R ($68,990 before on-roads) on paper.
There are a few options that can quickly turn your $66,000 SUV into a $70k or $75k proposition, however.
The Akrapovic exhaust is $5950, a Brembo brake package is another $4050, and a panoramic sunroof is $1800. With all those boxes ticked, the Ateca sits alongside the Tiguan R rather than undercutting it.
Anyone who orders a car now will get a 2023 model with the pricing above, some vehicles in stock may be 2022 models. Pricing and details for those cars are here.
Alongside the Leon and Formentor, the Ateca looks and feels a bit old.
It doesn’t feature the same clean, modern dashboard as its siblings, and the seating position is more like that of a conventional family SUV than a wannabe sports car. You sit a bit higher, and outward visibility through the upright windows is better all around.
Although it doesn’t look as slick as the uber-modern dash in the Formentor, there are some benefits to the Ateca’s age.
It has physical dials for your temperature and fan speed, for example, so you don’t need to go deep into the menus to make minor air-conditioning adjustments. Everything falls easily to hand, and there are no touch sliders to be found.
It’s not as racy as the Formentor, but the driving position in the Ateca is still accomodating for a huge range of body shapes. Leggy drivers won’t have trouble getting comfortable, and the seats do a good job balancing bolstering when you’re in a hurry with long-haul support.
The nine-speaker sound system packs a punch, too. Although its materials don’t feel up to Volkswagen Tiguan R standards, the equipment list is generous.
The Ateca isn’t short of storage space up front, and there’s a wireless phone charger at the base of the dashboard.
It’s a mixed bag in the back. Headroom is exceptional thanks to that boxy body, and there’s acres of space for chunky boots beneath the raised front seats – but legroom is no better than in the more stylish Formentor, based on our time with the cars.
Air vents, USB-C ports, and a fold-down central armrest all feature, and the oversized side windows mean shorter passengers still get plenty of light.
The doors open nice and wide, so loading kids should be simple enough, and you get three top-tether and two ISOFIX points back there for child seats.
Boot space is a claimed 485 litres with the rear seats in place.
The 2023 Cupra Ateca is powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine producing 221kW of power and 400Nm of torque.
It’s mated with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive. Cupra claims a 0-100km/h time of 4.9 seconds.
Claimed fuel economy is 7.8L/100km on the combined cycle. The Ateca has a 55L fuel tank and requires 98 RON premium unleaded fuel.
The Ateca might look a bit boxy, but it gets a move on when you put your foot down.
Like everything else with the Volkswagen Group’s turbocharged 2.0-litre performance engine, the Ateca shapes as properly quick point-to-pointer.
Put your foot down and there’s just a hint of lag, before it really pins you back in the seat and rushes toward the redline, and its all-wheel drive system means you’re able to deploy that performance in essentially any weather.
Our test car was fitted with the optional Akrapovic exhaust, which has a gravelly bark in Sport mode, and lays on the snap, crackle, and pop thick when you back out of the accelerator. It’s an option denied to Australian buyers elsewhere in the Volkswagen and Cupra ranges, so it’s nice to be offered the chance to have it here.
With that said, I wouldn’t be paying close to $6000 for it – it didn’t dramatically change the character of the car in our brief time behind the wheel, and the Ateca’s brand of understated performance isn’t necessarily improved by having more noise.
For all the performance on offer, the Ateca feels impressively refined at city speeds. In Comfort mode it does an impressive job isolating occupants from pitted city streets and pothole-ridden New South Wales highways, and even in Sport it won’t shake your bones loose.
Combined with the flexible, torquey engine and smart dual-clutch transmission, the suspension tune makes for an SUV you’d happily drive every day.
Road noise is reasonably well suppressed on the highway, and the standard range of driver assists take some of the stress out of long drives by smoothly matching the speed of the car in front, and by actively ensuring the car stays between the white lines.
We didn’t get the throw the Ateca around for long, but based on our brief launch drive it feels every bit as capable as you’d expect of a Volkswagen Group performance SUV.
Ateca VZx highlights:
- 19-inch alloy wheels in black/copper
- Dynamic Chassis Control
- Progressive Steering
- Quad exhaust outlets
- 9.2-inch touchscreen infotainment system
- Wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay
- 10.25-inch Digital Cockpit instrument cluster
- Wireless phone charging
- 9-speaker Beats sound system
- Semi-autonomous parking assist
- Hands-free power tailgate
- Power driver’s seat with memory
- Heated front seats
- Leather upholstery
- Keyless entry and start
- Tri-zone climate control
- Ambient lighting
- Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter
- Heated steering wheel
- Illuminated sill plates
- Aluminium pedals
- Heated, power-folding exterior mirrors with memory
- Four USB-C outlets (two front, two rear)
- Automatic headlights
- Rain-sensing wipers
- Paddle shifters
- Rear privacy glass
- LED headlights
- Fog lights with cornering lights
- Automatic high-beam
- 18-inch temporary spare
Available options include:
- Akrapovic exhaust: $5950
- Brembo brake package: $4050 (replaces temporary spare with tyre repair kit)
- Panoramic sunroof: $1800
The Cupra Ateca doesn’t yet have a rating from ANCAP or Euro NCAP, though the related Seat Ateca has a five-star Euro NCAP rating from 2016.
In European testing, it received an adult occupant protection rating of 93 per cent, a child occupant protection rating of 84 per cent, a pedestrian protection rating of 71 per cent, and a safety assist rating of 60 per cent.
Standard safety equipment includes:
- AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection
- Adaptive cruise control
- Blind-spot monitoring
- Lane-keep assist
- Driver fatigue detection
- Safe exit warning
- Surround-view cameras
- Front and rear parking sensors
- 7 airbags
The Cupra Ateca is covered by a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Cupra also includes three years of free servicing.
The Ateca is an appealing car in isolation , but it feels a bit lost alongside the Leon and Formentor.
It’s not meaningfully cheaper than the top-spec Formentor, and its space advantage isn’t quite as big as expected in the rear seats.
Even after a facelift its cabin feels a bit old alongside the latest Volkswagen Group products, although it wants for nothing given its starting price.
So, who’s going to buy one? Cupra is pitching itself as a tribe for rebels, but some buyers will be less rebellious than others.
It slots between the two on size, and offers the affordable all-wheel drive performance formula the Volkswagen Group has perfected.
There’s a niche out there for it, but those seeking the full Cupra experience are better served elsewhere in the range.
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MORE: Everything Cupra Ateca