It’s an odd one, the Cupra Ateca. Here we have a small family SUV with the same powertrain as the Volkswagen Golf R – and Audi S3 and SEAT Leon Cupra 300. Which is a car we’re not sure the world actually needs.

It’s also the first car produced under the standalone Cupra brand which has, up until now, been the name applied to the fastest SEAT-branded models.

At a glance, the Cupra Ateca could easily be mistaken for the run-of-the-mill SEAT version. Look more closely and there’s plenty of details to differentiate the two, not just the copper Cupra badges and quad exhausts. The car tested here also came with copper wheels and various other bits of copper and carbonfibre trim. If that’s a bit in-yer-face for you, more muted options are available. Finished in grey, as here, we think it’s an effective combination of subtlety and aggression.

There’s less to mark the Cupra out inside, other than badges and some more carbon. It’s a pleasant if austere place to be with plenty of space for family car duties, loads of places to put life’s detritus and a big boot. Just like any other Ateca.

It doesn’t go like any other Ateca, though. It’s a lot faster. VW’s 2.0-litre TSi unit isn’t the most tuneful of engines, and It doesn’t actually feel as fast as the 5.2secs 0-62mph time suggests. But there’s not a trace of turbo lag and it pulls strongly. License-losing speeds are easily reached.

Ride quality is on the firm side but the trade-off is tight body control. Push hard and it will succumb to the laws of physics eventually. Otherwise accurate steering and a responsive chassis mean it’s easy to make rapid cross-country progress. On a smooth road, the Leon Cupra would pull away, but on a typically ruined British B-road, the extra compliance in the Ateca’s suspension might just give it the edge.

The Cupra Ateca’s only real rival at the moment is the Audi SQ2, which uses exactly the same underpinnings and powertrain. Later this year, Volkswagen will deliver its version of the recipe with the T-Roc R. If they all prove to be a success, other manufacturers may jump on the bandwagon. As a small family SUV, the Ateca is among the best. And in Cupra guise, it’s a surprisingly effective performance car. We’re still not sure the world needs it when the SEAT Leon ST Cupra exists. But the Ateca has useful extra bandwidth over its estate stablemate that will clinch the deal for many people.

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Model tested: Cupra Ateca 2.0 TSi NR 300 DSG 4Drive Type: Smallish hot hatch SUV Price: £35,900 Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder turbo petrol Power: 300hp Torque: 295lb/ft Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch, four-wheel-drive Performance: 0-62mph in 5.2secs, top speed 153mph Economy: 38.2mpg combined, Co2 emissions 168g/km Length: 4,376mm Width: 1,841mm Height: 1,615mm Weight: 1,615kg Boot capacity: 485l Towing weight: 2,100kg Rivals: Just the Audi SQ2 at the moment, though a Volkswagen T-Roc with the same powertrain is due later this year

By Graham King

Quick spin: Cupra Ateca
Performance86%
Ride & Handling76%
Design70%
Space & Safety90%
Value for money77%
Gadgets74%
The Positives
  • An excellent family car
  • Plenty fast enough
  • Surprisingly effective handing
The Negatives
  • Looks like any other Ateca
  • Firm ride
  • Rarefied brief
79%Overall Score
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