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Long term tests

Cupra Ateca 300 Fast Fleet test – 6 months with the 296bhp family car

While it lacks engagement on more challenging roads, Cupra's Ateca passed the Fast Fleet test with strong pace, practicality and long-distance comfort

When it comes to the evo Fast Fleet there are some cars we really don’t want to hand back (Ford had a difficult time prising the Mustang’s key from Adam Towler’s grip), whilst others some can’t wait to see the back of (Will Beaumont’s death stares at the recent Swift Sport for instance).

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Occupying that Rhodium Grey area in-between is the Cupra Ateca 300. If it had been a lesser, SEAT-badged Ateca it wouldn’t have held as much appeal, but fitted as it was with the 296bhp 2-litre turbo engine from the VW Golf R, plus that car’s multi-link rear suspension, it piqued my curiosity. Could it really offer hot hatch performance in a bigger, heavier suit?

> New Cupra Formentor and Leon get more power and drift mode for 2024

It certainly had the traffic-light Grand Prix nailed, with a proper surge that made me think Cupra wasn’t exaggerating about the 5.4sec 0-62mph time (that’s quick enough to keep a Macan S honest). And it also appears to be good for the quoted 153mph top speed and more if one fellow Cupra driver and evo reader who contacted us is to be believed. For the sake of clarity, this was achieved on the autobahn…

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And it was this type of environment where, really, the Cupra shone brightest. Its ability to whisk you great distances at pace and in comfort was its forte. The ride wasn’t too hard, with the worst country-road surfaces generally handled with aplomb, and there were enough creature comforts to make longer journeys a pain-free experience.

It was when you started to push on along said country roads that things started to unravel. A heavy and tall vehicle is never going to be able to match a lighter, lower car for dynamics and athleticism. And so it proved with the Cupra, which managed to cope with direction changes up to a point, but ultimately the combination of 1615kg and its sheer size resulted in less than smooth progress when really going for it. Although Sport and Cupra driving modes brought an element of added vim, I found Comfort more than peppy enough for everyday driving and certainly more suited to urban environments. Fuel consumption was respectable, averaging just over 31mpg. That figure included some heavy load-lugging duties too.

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The Cupra certainly stood out on the road, with the copper alloys wheels (an acquired taste), quad exhaust pipes, dark trim and that unfathomable badge front and back enough to warrant plenty of craning of necks from other motorists.

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Negatives? Very few, really. The car would occasionally revert to a previous drive mode on start-up and the auto-dip headlights were a little slow to react, sometimes eliciting flashes from oncoming motorists. And, Cupra included, I still don’t trust in-car satnavs to get me where I want to go as quickly, or reliably, as Google Maps on my phone manages to. The Cupra’s front end also developed a strange scraping-cum-gurgling sound that made itself known at low speeds when the steering wheel was turned.

So it’s goodbye Cupra, but is it a good buy? Well, if you’re after genuinely quick transport and estates aren’t your thing then it’s pretty much the entry point to performance SUV motoring (the less said about the Audi SQ2, the better). And during my six months of Cupra custodianship I only saw one other on the road, so you’d be part of a pretty exclusive club.

Which also begs the question as to whether Cupra has succeeded in getting its brand image across, as on more than one occasion I was approached by people asking, ‘What is it?’ Ouch. The Cupra Ateca is certainly a capable machine, and kudos to SEAT for trying to make a go of the Cupra name in its own right, but is it one the public has still to buy into? – Jonathan Baker

Date acquiredJanuary 2019
Duration of test6 months
Total test mileage5047
Overall mpg31.3
Costs£0
Purchase price£42,215
Value today£33,000

This story was first featured in evo issue 267.

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