Seats have always been the Volkswagen groups wildcard. Designed to appeal to individuals who wanted something a little sportier and sharper looking than a Polo or a Golf, the Seat range has a little of the hooligan about it. This hooligan-esque reputation was, traditionally, cemented by the range topping Cupra models that were very powerful and very popular.
It was with some surprise and then major excitement when, in 2018, Cupra was revealed as it's own stand alone brand. Promising a new type of performance car for the masses.
Watch my review of the Cupra Ateca
What is the Ateca?
Based on the Seat Ateca SUV, this is the new performance sub brands first foray into the market.
The whole idea of the Ateca is to get yourself into a practical car that gets your legs all a quiver for under £36k (although the model tested was fully loaded and was nearer the £40k mark than not). Armed with the same engine, gearbox and four wheel drive system you'd find in a Golf R, this family rocket will get you to 60 in just 4.7 seconds thanks to the 2.0 litre, 296bhp unit.
The interior is very much a Volkswagen group offering. Decent infotainment system, climate control, heated seats and all the comfort jazz you would expect.
But we don't care about the interior....it's about getting it on the road.
What is it like to drive?
This is where I was fully prepared to say that the Ateca was a great first try but the Cupra was all power and no dynamism.
Turns out that wasn't the case.
The Cupra starts with a confident rumble via the quad exhausts and responds well to whatever driving style you choose. I took off serenely while I got my bearings but even at low speeds you can feel that the Ateca is a tightly wound spring that will take off like an angry bull that has just been kicked in the man marbles.
My test track for the day was the winding Millbrook alpine course that twists and turns, allowing you to fully explore a cars capabilities. It was on this beautifully crafted road that the Cupra Ateca really showed its ability.
Even though it is an SUV and therefore a tad tall, once you are in the cabin and "hammering" it you can't really tell that you are further from the ground than you'd be in a sporty car. The roll through the corners is subtle and well engineered and it moves just enough to carry momentum into the turns and the four wheel drive keeps you glued to the ground.
The power is available from lowdown in the rev range and the gearbox confidently delivers when asked without much dithering. You can take control of gear selection via the paddles attached to the steering wheel if you want but to be honest, I didn't feel the need.
Overall the drive was pointed and most importantly, fun.
Is the Cupra a Seat on steroids?
The first of anything new is always going to leave room for improvement. This is clearly still an Ateca that you can buy with the Seat badge on the front but the team at Cupra have done a great job of beefing it up. I think it'll do a good job of getting people interested in the brand, I'm certainly looking forward to the new, stand alone models promised in the future.
Some of the interior finish could do with a little more attention and if I was to be very picky, I'd like to hear a little more character from the engine (however in the interest of balance that could be said about many a car nowadays).
Overall, it's practical, quick and offers an interesting alternative to what is on the market at the moment.
Strong first outing for Cupra