Cupra Ateca - first standalone Cupra performance car at the 2018 Geneva motor show

Published: 06 March 2018

► Meet the new Cupra Ateca
► First standalone Cupra car
► A 296bhp Cupra R transplant

You're looking at the new 2018 Cupra Ateca. And no, that's not a typo. It's the first fruits of the new standalone Cupra brand - and it's making its motor show debut at Geneva 2018 on its own dedicated half of the Seat/Cupra stand.

The Spanish carmaker has spun off its performance division into a separate standalone badge, much like Abarth is to Fiat, or DS to Citroen. It aims to offer customers a more personalised experience than you’ll find from a regular Seat, or even its existing Cupra-badged derivatives.

Barcelona bosses have chosen the Ateca crossover as the first recipient of the new super-hero-inspired badge. Why pick a crossover for a performance brand? Because it reflects the broader, more progressive intention for this semi-premium brand, says Seat. 

We've driven the new Cupra Ateca: full review here

It's not all about the performance, though

Cupra won't just be about raw sporting performance, like Cupra models of yore. This time, it'll inject a layer of luxury, of personalisation and bespoke materials on top of the go-faster vibe.

Notice the Cupra branding below the spoiler - shades of Audi Quattro, anyone?

And this thing won't be slow: the new Cupra Ateca borrows the maximum Leon's 296bhp four-cylinder turbo. And a hint of Audi Quattro RS models' sub-spoiler branding (check out the Cupra lettering on the snout of this prototype above that CAR sampled).

So it's devilishly quick, then. Cupra quotes 5.4sec from 0-62mph and a top speed of 152mph. It's essentially a VW Golf R in a sensible SUV suit...

How have they turned the Seat Ateca into a Cupra Ateca?

This car could have been called the Seat Ateca Cupra, but instead it's spearheading the new standalone brand launch. So the mechanicals are familiar: it's the Volkswagen group 296bhp and 295lb ft blown four sending drive to all four wheels through a Haldex 5 central coupling snaffled from the Leon Cupra.

Check out the surprise Cupra Ibiza also unveiled at the launch

The new 2018 Cupra Ateca: due at the Geneva motor show in March

There are six settings, letting drivers pick from Comfort, Sport, Cupra, Individual, Mountains or Snow symbols; the controller manages settings for throttle mapping, engine management, stability systems and switchable dampers (they have three settings of their own, stretching between maximum comfort and vice-like body control for performance). There's even an active exhuast flap for serene or snarly engine noise.

The car rides on chunky 19-inch wheels, wrapped in 245/40 ZR19 Pirelli P Zero tyres. Look closely, and you might spot the optional high-performance Brembo brakes behind the rim, swapping the standard 17in discs for 18in perforated items with four-piston callipers. That's one indication of how much bespoke tuning has gone into this newcomer; others include the fact they've fitted new spring rates, dampers and anti-roll bars for more precise handling.

Only one transmission will be offered: a six-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic. Paddle-shift gear levers nestle behind the flat-bottomed steering wheel as standard.

But why brand this a Cupra instead of a Seat?

It's when you get past the obvious mechanical differences where you understand the true purpose of the Cupra brand. The badge has been around since 1998, but now it's going to be a standalone entity. The division will be responsible for cars, parts (so owners can increasingly personalise their Cupras) and experiences (such as trackdays and racing events).

A designer shows off the new Cupra badge: inspired by super-heroes and pincer movements

The pincer-style badge (above) is finished with a copper over carbonfibre effect - both materials are an accent colour for the new Cupra brand. It's joined by a bespoke Cupra grille, peppered with openings, a new spoiler at the rear and a quartet of purposeful exhuast pipes. Well, we say purposeful, but this is a four-cylinder engine, remember...

That exhaust note has been tuned specifically for this model, with a sportier vibe (assisted by loudspeakers).

Up close and personal, the Cupra treatment actually appears less severe than the pictures suggest. The copper details are more subtle and the body kit slightly more tasteful than on first inspection. It’s certainly not as restrained as something like an Audi SQ5, but it’s not quite as Halfords as you might think. And that’s a good thing.

Inside the new Cupra Ateca

We've sat in the new sports crossover from Spain and its Ateca roots are plain to see. We mean that in a good way: the Ateca is a very zeitgeisty SUV and benefits from the Volkswagen family techfest and decent build quality. The flat-bottom steering wheel with white stitching lends a sportier vibe, as do the Alcantara door cards.

This car sits 20mm lower, so you're perched marginally closer to the tarmac than in a regular Ateca. How will it drive? Too early to tell, but we know it weighs in at 1557kg, so it's still a chunky SUV - albeit one with a genuine turn of speed.

Author Tim Pollard tries out the interior of the Cupra Ateca

So there you have it. Seat doesn't believe there are any rivals at the price for the new Cupra Ateca, which lands in showrooms in autumn 2018 costing around £35,000. That places it neatly beneath the likes of the Range Rover Evoque, Audi Q5 and Mercedes GLC - the only other similarly sized crossovers with half an eye on performance and style, as well as family SUV duties.

Around a fifth of Seat dealers will become accredited Cupra outlets, specialising in selling the new brand. You'll still be able to buy a Cupra from a regular Seat showroom, however.

Read all our Seat car reviews here


By Tim Pollard

Editorial director of CAR's digital publishing arm. Motoring news magnet

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