Cupra Ateca VZ on test: the devil we know

David Linklater
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Photos / David Linklater


Base price
Maximum power kW
Maximum torque Nm
0-100 km/h
  • Incredible performance value-for-money
  • Packed full of character
  • Accomplished but not overdone
  • Soundtrack too subdued
  • Looks really similar to Seat Ateca
  • What's a Cupra again?

Changes to the Cupra Ateca for 2021 are limited to a new grille and front bumper, some detail stuff like sequential indicators and new badges, shapely bucket seats and some smart new infotainment tech, including wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Oh, and it’s now called the Cupra Ateca VZ. Because veloz is Spanish for “speed”.

And yet the Cupra Ateca is a bigger deal than ever this year, partly because it’s still unique (221kW in a characterful SUV for less than $70k), partly because it’s emerged as the most popular single model sold by Seat here and partly because of what the Cupra brand is about to become.

The Ateca was the first model from Seat’s standalone Cupra performance brand (not to be confused with the “Seat Ateca”, despite the shared body shell) and it’s been a high-profile hero model for the Spanish maker.

But by the end of this year there will a bunch of new Cupra models in New Zealand, including the Formentor SUV and Leon hot hatch/wagon. The Ateca won’t get any less exciting from a driver’s point of view, but it will find itself changing roles slightly, from the leery look-at-me member of the wider Seat family to a bit more of a mainstay in the expanded Cupra range. It’ll certainly be the Cupra with the most obvious link to Seat.

And that’ll actually suit the Ateca well. It’s a fast and capable SUV, but part of the beauty of this model is that it’s not overdone. With launch control active it can shove you to 100km/h in under five seconds and the AWD chassis is sticky in the extreme, but the noise is never over-the-top and the ride/refinement remains impressive even in the most aggressive “Cupra” drive mode.

It’s a beautifully balanced machine that delivers incredible value; you can’t find this much power, performance and character in an SUV for less than $100k elsewhere, let alone at the $66,900 asking price (up $3k over last year’s).

Speaking of which: the Ateca got an interior spruce-up last year with a larger, more colourful 9.2in infotainment screen (the Cupra also gets a 10.2in virtual instrument cluster).

For 2021 the whole Ateca range has moved to USB-C ports for phone connectivity, but if you’re not ready for that hardware change you don’t have to worry: wireless phone projection and the standard charging pad means you’ll never have to physically plug in. The charging cradle is grippy rubber and has high bolsters on either side to stop your device flying around in corners; good idea.

There’s not a lot you need to add, but there’s some stuff you might want to add. Copper is the Cupra colour, but if you want alloys accented in that colour (as featured on our test car) you’re up for $600-$2250, depending on style. They’re all still 19-inch rims, though: Cupra doesn’t let you go wild and ruin the chassis with oversized wheels.

You might not necessarily need $4300 Brembo brakes on your family SUV, but they are effective and they do add a certain performance cred to the package.

Petrol Blue upholstery (as on the Limited Edition Cupra Ateca we drove last year) is another nice touch: $1550, as long as you’ve opted for the $700 power/memory driver’s seat.

With all of the above, a Cupra Ateca would be $74,140 – and even more unbeatable value in terms of performance, ability and cool-factor.

So the bar has been set high and it’s going to be interesting to see what the Cupra lineup looks like by the end of this year. We can’t wait.

By the way, don’t go looking for Cupra models on the Seat NZ website. They used to be there, but there’s now a dedicated portal for the go-fast brand. Cupra is taking on a life of its own.

ENGINE: 2.0 turbo-petrol four
POWER: 221kW/400Nm
GEARBOX: 7-speed automated dual-clutch
0-100KM/H: 4.9 seconds
ECONOMY: 7.7l/100km
PRICES: $66,900


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