Just as the personality of the new Cupra Ateca, Sitges, south of Barcelona, offered temperamental weather with sunshine and hard winds.
Seat was founded in 1950 by a state-owned Spanish company. The first factory was in Barcelona and apart from the Spanish state and Spanish banks, Fiat was also a partner. Consequently, the first Seat models were based on Fiat 600, 850 and 1400/1500. In 1986, Volkswagen bought Seat through its subsidiary Audi.
The journey Seat has made in the last ten years, perhaps even twenty, is completely in line with what Volkswagen's other brands have done. Almost all members of the Volkswagen Group have moved from cheap and simple brands to more expensive and more premium.
“Skoda used to be the brand that got the most attention before Seat, but now the Spanish car company has all eyes on it”
At the start, the sportiest models from the Seat had the addition Cupra in the name, such as Leon and Ibiza Cupra. Seat has great experience in racing and it is this department that has handled the Cupra versions. Although the step is large, it can be compared with the Audi RS, BMW M and Mercedes AMG.
Unlike these brands, they have now chosen to divide it up and make Cupra a separate brand and skip Seat on these models. Of course, this is still about Seat cars but in a very own vintage and with a sportier attribute than regular Seat models. First off among the Cupra models is the SUV Ateca, a model Enliven tested in Barcelona in 2016 when it was first introduced.
The Ateca model is a compact SUV in the middle class. When Voyage tried it out in 2016, it stuck out thanks to equipment level, comfort and price. When it arrived, it was a very important piece of the puzzle for Seat to move its brand further and broaden the model program. What they are doing now by breaking up the brand into two and launching Cupra Ateca, is offering a model in a different segment where they are completely without competition. It's a sporty premium SUV with a price level that puts it far below other comparable cars, for example, the Audi RS Q3.
The price of a Cupra Ateca starts at SEK 409,900 which is more than SEK 100,000 below the price the Audi RS Q3 had at launch in 2014. For that price, the performance is almost equal, Cupra Ateca has 300 horsepower, which is 10 horses less than the Audi but does 0-100 kilometers per hour at the same time, 5.2 seconds. To get the power down to all four wheels from that two-liter machine, a 7-speed DSG gearbox is used.
“A recipe that works both for everyday and for when you demand the little bit extra from the car”
The settings for being this versatile are Normal, Sport, Individual, Snow and Off-Road as well as Cupra. The switch for these selections is located between the seats behind the gear shift. The latter, which is advantageously chosen when you want to get the most out of the car's sportier character, changes the car's engine response, sound and also the adaptive dampers for more stable driving characteristics.
In order not to mix up a Cupra Ateca with a regular Seat Ateca, a lot of effort has been put into the exterior. The grille in the front is beefy with large air intakes throughout the front. In the middle of the grille is the new Cupra emblem in bronze. At the bottom of the front and on an air intake is also the text Cupra so that no one should miss what this is all about.
Unlike the usual Seat Ateca, Cupra Ateca is lowered and stands firmer on the ground thanks to this. At the rear, the car has four exhaust pipes at the bottom along with a diffuser that really provides a powerful and sporty tone. Here as well, you’ll find a bronze-colored Cupra emblem but on top of a carbon fiber plate. At the top of the rear window there is a wing, whether it has any aerodynamic effect must be left unsaid but that it adds to the smoky look is something we can agree on.
Inside, they have been generous with Alcantara, which most people can agree is a nice material. The seams on the steering wheel and the chairs are bronze-colored just like the emblems that the steering wheel is adorned with as well. Instead of traditional analog meters, a large display fills the space in front of the steering wheel. Here you get all the motor data as well as navigation, more neatly and easily overviewed. The infotainment system is, of course, compatible with Apple CarPlay and the corresponding for Android phones.
The test run from Barcelona Airport offers highway mostly and you can speed up quite a lot and barely notice it. The fine asphalt that roads are provided with here makes the tire noise minimal and hardly heard in the car despite the large rims. One has to throw an extra eye on the speedometer from time to time in order not to be too far above the speed limit. The nice thing about an over-motorized car is that when you go for a calm and quiet ride in harmony, the engine does not have to work too hard but without feeling weak. This also leads to lower consumption in the long run.
To really feel what Cupra Ateca is all about, they have arranged a closed-down route on a public highway. Along the route, officials are sent to see that nothing happens but not to cause you to slow down. This particular type of driving I personally consider to be among the most enjoyable available. Hitting the pedal to the metal on an unknown road without being worried about oncoming traffic, a bit like driving at Nürburgring or rally for those who have had the pleasure of experiencing that. After a round, the adrenaline is pumping and the Brembo brakes are next to red hot but Cupra Ateca is absolutely not tired or exhausted and is happy to take another round.
What they have succeeded with by dividing the company into two divisions is that they have increased its image as a brand with performance and premium feel in the genes. Something one might not initially think of if someone mentioned the name Seat. But with Cupra Ateca they manage this really well and the model really gives off that feeling of sportiness needed if you are to find just the right customers who want more than just a Seat.
Basic price: from SEK 409,900
This article was originally published in Voyage Magazine.