Just My Cup of CUPRA

Just My Cup of CUPRA

OneShift Editorial Team
OneShift Editorial Team
28 Jan 2021
...faster you can yell “¡Hola Supercow al rescate!”
What we like:
Designed to be classy
and not in-your-face. A well-engineered performance SUV
built from “middle-class” underpinnings that simply do not disappoint!
What we dislike:
Rear seats do not fold flat.

It was not even a year ago that SEAT in Singapore introduced the CUPRA Ateca to us. We were quite blown away by sheer performance, built into a day-to-day bread-and-butter Ateca (that itself has also gone through a recent mild product update).

For those who have not heard of CUPRA, it is easily forgivable, since the brand is rather low-key here. Essentially, you are looking at the newly-minted performance wing of Spanish automobile manufacturer - SEAT; much like Audi Sport and the M division of BMW. But the magic here is that the CUPRA badged cars are based partially on what is within SEAT’s own stable of mostly compact-sized cars… and again I say, much like Audi Sport and the M division of BMW; but more attainable.

While we were among the last to “board the bus”, CUPRA is really in its early days, with the sub brand already showing plenty of promise.

The CUPRA Ateca, which is the performance sub-brand’s first offering, has gone through a model refresh, with some styling tweaks and more importantly, up-rated performance.

Most notable exterior changes are in the Ateca’s hexagonal grille, and reworked front bumper. Its 19” rims have been tastefully restyled, this time a more purposeful 5-spoke design. Micro details like ‘CUPRA’ on the front brake calipers, switched to its corporate copper colour, adds more consistency to the car’s colour accenting.


SEAT dives deep into its German parent parts bin for the Ateca, with a good scatter of switchgear, either taken straight from, or re-skinned to make it its own. We have to say that fit and finish is very close to its VW cousin, to a point that you could quite easily believe that you are in a Tiguan, with your eyes shut.

The CUPRA-badged SUV gives you additional TLC over the vanilla car, with copper-themed accents, premium leather-coated sports seats that are not only supportive, but comfortable enough for you to go the distance without much fatigue.

In the driver’s seat, the 10.2” digital cockpit has been retained, while its Android and Apple supporting infotainment system now sports an enlarged 9.2” display, that also recognises swiping gestures. You can also control the infotainment system, with the activation phrase “Hola Hola!”... so apt!

A wireless trickle charger that sits underneath the climate control… controls, helps to keep your mobile devices juiced up while you try to impress your significant other with your Sportify “mixtape” featuring the likes of Modern Talking… or would this more likely be some sort of New Order? Complementing the entertainment system, is a premium Beats Audio system, driven by a 340W amplifier, that includes a subwoofer.

There are now even more buttons laid out on the steering wheel, providing easier access to the car’s other functions like its adaptive cruise control. Designers have now included copper accents on it to match the rest of the interior.

Just like the standard Ateca, the Cupra-badged one does a fine job of ferrying four around, and while it does visually pop less than one of my favourite small performance SUVs - the JCW MINI Countryman, you do get a generous 485 litres - essentially 35 one-litre bottles of Sangria more than the MINI.

The Drive

The potent 2.0 turbocharged engine taken right out of the VW Golf R has been retained, and still provides the same punchy 300hp and 400Nm, spinning through a 7-speed DSG. SEAT’s electro-hydraulic multi-disc all-wheel drive system has been fettled with to optimise grip, shaving precious milliseconds off its century sprint, which now stands at 4.9 seconds versus the already impressive 5.2 seconds the pre-facelifted car achieved. In perspective, the BMW X3 M40i which is powered by BMW’s potent signature inline-six is only a hair quicker by 0.1 seconds.

There are three road-friendly drive modes to choose from, with the ‘Comfort’ one providing a relaxed-pliant ride, with earlier upshifts, lukewarm ‘Sport’, and on the other end, you get their mental CUPRA drive mode - more commonly known as Sport+. Gimmicky nomenclature aside, I note that there are only two modes you need to drive this car in, ‘Standard’ and ‘Cupra’... you either blow cold or hot, and never lukewarm. I say this because the Ateca is already quite effortless in its ‘Standard’ drive mode.

In ‘Cupra’ drive mode, the suspension stiffens up, and the exhaust delivers its rich symphony of pops and bangs, and overall engine and transmission response sharpens up. Even with its taller height, the compact performance SUV takes to corners with about the same aplomb you would get from more expensive performance-oriented SUVs, and can even put some sports cars to shame.

For those who care to exploit the improved AWD system’s ability to milk the most grip out of the tyres, ‘Launch Control’ can only be accessed in ‘Cupra’ mode. Activation takes a while since this feature is buried within the infotainment menu. Once on, the sequence to get this to work is for you to hold the brake pedal with your left foot, and then floor the throttle with your right, then lift off the brake. Brutal acceleration follows, with that turbocharged 2.0 spinning almost to the redline, before the next gear change takes place; all this while you tear down the street easily bypassing any one of our country’s posted speed limits faster you can yell “¡Hola Supercow al rescate!”

Beyond getting from point A to point B quickly, the CUPRA Ateca is remarkably easy to live with; delivering ride quality, similar to that of the standard SEAT-badged variety. SEAT product managers have even decided to capitalise on the car’s AWD, by including an ‘Off-Road’ drive mode that softens up the suspension, and optimises the drivetrain for loose gravel surfaces. Why sure, it can do the off-road bit rather decently, but I would compare this as eating rice with a fork, as opposed to eating rice with a spoon. While a spoon is that little bit better, the CUPRA Ateca simply shines, when you take on that sharper left fork in asphalt-paved the road.

The CUPRA Ateca has a suite of active safety features, like its adaptive cruise control, that is able to adjust its speed and distance according to the vehicle in-front of you; while features like its Rear Cross Traffic Alert, detects passing traffic and other obstacles when you are reversing, issuing audible and visual warnings if any are detected, and will intervene if no action is taken.

Our Thoughts

There are a few schools of thought regarding high-performance SUVs. Those who like the versatility of an SUV, its (perceived) ruggedness, and of-course the performance traits that makes sports cars so appealing; would be for what the first car from CUPRA has brought to the table.

There are others though, who feel that anything with delivering such performance should be reserved for something without such a high centre of gravity.

Both of these schools of thought aside, the CUPRA Ateca on its own, is a well-engineered high performance SUV that will easily put a smile upon your face.

Credits: Words and Photos by Clifford Chow

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