How the hot stuff is taking over Seat SUVs in NZ (and we don’t just mean Cupra)

David Linklater
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Photos / David Linklater, supplied


Base price
Fuel Consumption (l/100km)
Maximum power kW
0-100 km/h
  • Still a fun to drive SUV
  • Worthwhile infotainment upgrade
  • Extra safety equipment
  • Changes from last model not that obvious
  • On the small size of 'medium SUV'
  • Not a huge saving over 140kW FR 4Drive model

Seat is supposed to be the fun brand in the Volkswagen Group and it seems New Zealand buyers agree. An overwhelming preference for the sporty and/or fast models among Kiwi buyers has prompted a consolidation in the facelifted Ateca range for 2021.

In the mainstream “Seat Ateca” range, the entry Style and luxury oriented Xcellence models are no more. Instead we now just have the sporty FR, still with two powertrain choices: a FWD 1.4 (pictured above) and the 4Drive (that’s Seat-speak for AWD) 2.0. The larger Tarraco seven-seater has also moved to FR-only status.

The Ateca is also the base for the “Cupra Ateca”, a 221kW high-performance SUV that’s proving a bit of a hit. In fact, it’s Seat NZ’s single biggest-selling model.

That outwardly impressive fact has to be tempered by the knowledge that Seat is still a niche concern here: the Cupra Ateca clocked up just 43 sales for 2020, ahead of the Tarraco (29) and Arona city SUV (28). But top spot is still top spot, right?

Across the range, the Ateca facelift is mostly cosmetic and specification detail. The most obvious change is a new nose that’s quite similar to Tarraco. At the rear you can spot the new model by a flowing new “Ateca” script (apologies to Porsche) and sequential indicators.

All models have gained Front Assist, City Emergency Braking, Pedestrian Protection, Side Assist and Exit Assist. No major changes to the powertrains or chassis components, save the addition of the XDS traction control system at the front that mimics the effect of a differential lock.

Detail changes inside include better-quality materials, a new steering wheel (same as Tarraco) and a glossy 9.2-inch colour touchscreen for the infotainment. If you’re an Apple user you’re in luck, because the Ateca now has wireless Apple CarPlay, with Android Auto still available via a cable. Ateca also moves away from ye olde USB-A plugs to the newer USB-C connectors (four individual ports in the cabin).

Seat has also bundled some of the more popular Ateca options into two packages, Urban and Street.

The Cupra model is now officially an Ateca VZ (“veloz” is Spanish for fast, simple as that) and aside from the Ateca-wide changes, it now gets curvy bucket seats as standard. There’s a $3k price rise to $66,990 though.

We’ve spent some time in all three Atecas on a Seat NZ drive day and while there’s nothing specifically new to report in terms of performance and dynamics, they still impress as the sharpest and most enthusiast-oriented of the models on this platform (the Skoda Karoq and VW Tiguan are very close relatives).

Actually, there is something kind of new. The Ateca FR FWD quietly moved from a dual-clutch to eight-speed automatic gearbox last year and the new model with XDS is impressively smooth both in a straight line and through the bends.

While 110kW doesn’t sound like much and it’s easy to cringe at a FWD SUV, unless you really need the extra grunt and AWD, the entry FR is definitely worth a drive before you commit to the $6k more expensive FR 4Drive.

There’s still nothing quite like the Cupra Ateca on the market. It’s a rip-snorting SUV that’s strong on dynamic ability and character. It’s one SUV that might make you think twice about wanting a hot hatch; which makes sense, because it’s basically a slightly taller VW Golf R.

The Ateca is the first and still only model from Seat’s standalone Cupra performance brand (it wears no Seat badging), but it’s the catalyst for a much bigger Cupra presence both globally and in NZ.

Mid-year we’ll see three new Cupra models in NZ: the Formentor SUV, the Leon hatch and the Leon Sportstourer.

The newfound marketing clout of the Cupra brand has meant that Seat has rethought its original plan to sell Formentor as both a Seat and Cupra. It’ll be a Cupra exclusive, available in both $54,900 V 4Drive and $68,900 VZ specifications. So now you see the method in that “VZ” label.

Think of Formentor as a coupe-SUV version of the Ateca, although all the body panels are unique. It’s slightly longer and lower than Ateca.

The Formentor V has the same 140kW powertrain as the Seat Ateca FR 4Drive, but it comes in full Cupra warpaint. The Formentor VZ picks up the 221kW unit from the Cupra Ateca.

And while Cupra is mostly about fast SUVs, it’s not totally. Along with Formentor will come Cupra versions of the all-new Leon VZ hatch ($59,900) and Leon VZ Sportstourer (that’s a wagon, $65,900). They both have the full-phat 221kW engine; but the hatch is FWD, while the Sportstourer gets AWD.

Plug-in hybrid iterations of both Formentor and Leon are a possibility for future release (both 150kW).

And back to “Seat” models: the Leon will also be available in a more mainstream 110kW 1.5-litre mild hybrid form as a Sportstourer only, at $44,900.

The only model in the Seat NZ range that doesn’t seem to getting more spicy is the Arona baby-SUV. For 2021 it’s lost the fizzy 1.0-litre turbo-triple engine in favour of a more prosaic (and slighty less powerful) 1.6-litre four. The accompanying $2500 price reduction (now starting at $27,900) keeps the model competitive in what’s a busy segment, says Seat NZ.

ENGINES: 1.4 turbo-petrol four (FR) or 2.0 turbo-petrol four (FR 4Drive and Cupra)
POWER: 110kW/250Nm (1.4), 140kW/320Nm (FR 4Drive), 221kW/400Nm (Cupra)
GEARBOXES: 8-speed automatic, FWD (FR), 7-speed automated dual-clutch (FR 4Drive and Cupra)
ECONOMY: 6.2-7.7l/100km
PRICES: $46,900 to $66,900.

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