Long-term report: The Cupra Ateca flies under the radar

I quite like an undercover performance car. There’s something to be said about being able to travel in a vehicle that has boatloads of performance but doesn’t shout about it too much. And this is the case with ‘our’ Cupra Ateca.

I’ve seen a few other examples on social media and, by and large, they’ve been finished in quite jazzy colours. Some even have bronze wheels – you don’t really see these very often, and that makes these particular Atecas stand out quite a fair bit. You can probably see where I’m going with this.

Black lettering helps with the stealthy appearance

Our car, in flat silver with matching wheels, looks just perfect in my eyes. It’s because, for the most part, it looks just like a regular Ateca. It’s likely that most people driving near it do too.

That’s until you open it up a bit. Thanks to that 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged engine, the Ateca does pick up rather quickly, and I’ve found on multiple occasions that it’s left other cars floundering behind. That includes sports cars, who have looked at our subtle exterior and believed us to be in just another SUV, rather than a four-wheel-drive with the beating heart of a Volkswagen Golf R under the bonnet.

Quad exhausts hint at the car's performance

I think that’s quite cool, don’t you? And it kind of reflects the overall driving experience that you get with the Ateca. When you’re not driving quickly and would rather potter around, the Cupra is happy to oblige. The ride is a little harsher than the regular Ateca, that’s for sure, but it’s not obnoxiously firm. Likewise, the steering feels a touch heavier than the Seat upon which this car is based, but it’s not so weighty that you feel like you’re wrestling with it every day.

Cupra's own badges adorn the front

On a recent trip into Southampton I was able to drive into, park, and drive out of a multi-storey car park without shouting, worrying about curbs or cursing a large turning circle once – and this is often the case with performance SUVs. Furthermore, once we were all done, there was plenty of room in the boot for shopping bags.

And once the shopping is finished and you’re free of the car parks, it’s still a car that you can use to exploit a twisty road. The performance is more than enough for the UK’s roads, and the suspension is judged just well enough that the car’s bulk doesn’t hold you back in the bends. I’d like a little more exhaust noise if I’m honest (and I’m aware that this goes against the whole ‘undercover’ ethos), but when you’re pushing on a bit it’d be nice to have a car with a bit more audible character.

The rear of the car gets Cupra's new logo too

Overall though, things are going well with ‘our’ long-term Cupra. The brand has recently announced a new concept – the all-electric Tavascan concept – and I’ll be interested to see how that fits in with the brand as a whole. Ideally, I’d like them to introduce an all-out hot hatch, but I think that the push towards electrification means that it might not be a viable prospect. Still, we’ll have to wait and see.

  • Engine: 2.0-litre TSI petrol, seven-speed automatic
  • Price (as tested): £35,915
  • Power: 296bhp
  • Torque: 400Nm
  • Max speed: 153mph
  • 0-60mph: 5.0 seconds
  • Fuel consumption (combined): 34mpg
  • CO2: 168g/km
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