2023 Cupra Ateca VZx review (video)

Mark Davis

There are a handful of new car brands making the long voyage to Aussie shores of late. If you like performance cars in particular, Cupra is a new brand you should get to know.

Cupra, which stands for Cup Racing, is a new spin-off performance brand of SEAT, headquartered in Spain. And Australia is the first country in the world where the brand will operate independently of SEAT. If you remember SEAT as a short-lived brand in the late 90s where only winners of the The Price Is Right drove them, don’t worry, Cupra is nothing like it. The brand is owned by Volkswagen Group, meaning that many underpinnings and engines from performance-oriented VWs are used.

Launching in 2022 with three models to start with, here we’re looking at the medium performance SUV, the Ateca. For now, there is just one variant on offer called the VZx. It comes with a familiar 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine taken from the Volkswagen Golf and Tiguan performance variants. It also powers all four wheels and uses VW’s seven-speed dual-clutch auto. Prices commence at $66,750 (excluding on-road costs).

2023 Cupra Ateca VZx – THE SPECS

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]Engine: 2.0-litre turbo four-cylinder
Output: 221kW@6500rpm / 400Nm@2000-5200rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed dual-clutch auto
Drive type: All-wheel drive
Wheels: F & R: 19×8.0, 245/40
ANCAP: Not testeds
Tare weight: 1655kg
Power-to-weight: 7.48:1 (kg:kW)
Official fuel economy: 7.8L/100km
Economy during test: 8.2L/100km
Fuel capacity/Type: 55L/98 RON[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]Power efficiency: 28.33kW:L/100km
0-60km/h: 2.32 seconds*
0-100km/h: 4.90 seconds*
60-110km/h: 3.35 seconds*
1/4 mile: 13.18 seconds at 173.1km/h*
Max acceleration: 1.053g*
100-0km/h braking: 3.05 seconds at 38.71 metres*
Max deceleration: -1.302g*
Decibel at idle: 43/45*
Peak decibel at 60-100km/h: 87*
Priced from: $66,750[/column][end_columns]

* Figures as tested by PerformanceDrive on the day. Factory claims may be different

2023 Cupra Ateca VZx – THE PACKAGE

Even though the Ateca spawns from a platform used by many other cars, the external design beats to its own drum. We see touches of Audi-ness and Skoda-esque vibes, but it strikes an unambiguously sporty tone. The front exhibits a smoothly rounded shape that conveys aerodynamics. A glossy black upper and lower grille and surrounds contrast well with the body paint. Then the sharply angled LED headlights outlined with daytime LEDs give off an athletic edge.

Large wheel arches dominate the side profile to give way to strikingly sporty black and copper-coloured 19-inch alloy wheels. The rear looks most like a Skoda with similarly shaped LED taillights and a prominent boot line lip integrated into the design. It is topped off with a unique spoiler and rear diffuser that houses attractive dual exhausts or optional Akrapovic-branded quad exhausts (as tested) with intricate copper inner highlights. Designers have done a fine job at making the Ateca’s high performance soul shine through while still maintaining an upright SUV silhouette.

Hop inside and you swiftly sense similar atmospherics in design. First up, we love the elaborate copper-coloured highlights around the steering wheel buttons and logo that mirror the external theme. Then you get premium feel blue micro-suede textures on the door skins and blue bucketed leather seats. They do well to break up the rest of the black coloured surfaces. At night, it all glows beautifully with soft mood lighting hidden in the door skins. Sadly, a corner has been cut as there is no ambient lighting in the second row.

In terms of usability, all the boxes are ticked. Just like its VW and Skoda cousins, the Czech Republic built hot-SUV is remarkably practical for a performance vehicle. You get spacious head, shoulder and leg room in all seats. There are huge door pockets and lots of storage between the front seats, including room for a wireless phone charger. The layout is also quick to grasp, as interfaces and buttons sit flush and are arranged logically. Thankfully, air-con controls have both physical buttons and an on-screen menu to choose from.

On the digital front, you get a crystal clear 10.25-inch fully digital instrument cluster with selectable layouts and a rich 9.2-inch centre touch-screen that integrates wireless Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It connects to a crisp nine-speaker BeatsAudio sound system with a separate subwoofer and 340-Watt amplifier. We should note our test vehicle intermittently suffered a display issue where the picture would vigorously shake up and down. We’re certain there will be a fix, but it’s worth keeping an eye out.

Although you only get one variant to choose from, it’s a feature-packed one that would sit high in the lineup. As standard, you get important safety features like blind-spot sensors, lane-departure warning with active lane-keeping aid, forward collision mitigation with pedestrian avoidance, steering and braking input, distance-controlled cruise control, driver attention detection, side door exit warning, rear cross-traffic warning, front and rear parking sensors, 360-degree camera, automated steering parking assistance, and auto-dipping high beam. But it misses out on reverse collision mitigation.

You also score a myriad of other comforts and conveniences, like keyless proximity remote locking, ambient lighting in the front row, dual-zone climate control, a heated steering wheel, LED head and tail lights, active cornering fog lamps, partially leather seats and interior skins, tyre pressure sensors, a wireless phone charger, powered tailgate, illuminated scuff plates, electronic diff lock, and electronically controlled adjusting dampers.

As costed options, you can add a Brembo brake package, a panoramic electric sunroof and an Akrapovic quad exhaust system.

For piece of mind, Cupra offers a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is required every 15,000km or 12 months. And for a limited time, the brand is also offering three years of complimentary scheduled servicing and roadside assistance.

2023 Cupra Ateca VZx – THE DRIVE

Now to the central reason we’re all here – performance. The 2.0-litre TSI, four-cylinder turbo-petrol engine from Volkswagen Group is a tried and tested thriller. Cupra has applied its own programming, so outputs are slightly different to its cousins. It extracts an imposing 221kW and 400Nm. Officially, it propels itself from 0-100km/h in just 4.9 seconds. Our tests revealed exactly 4.90 seconds.

You get a snappy take-off and pushing it hard unleashes a crackling symphony from the exhaust, especially if you have the optional Akrapovic system. The engine feels comfortable high in the rev range, where maximum power and exhilaration happens. It’s hard to grasp its full potential without stretching the law. A truly fun hot-SUV to get behind the wheel of.

There is an electronic diff lock and five driving modes to select from – normal, sport, Cupra sport, off-road and snow. As well as a customisable mode. A quick access button on the steering wheel shows its dedication to getting your goose bumps rising as quick as possible.

When driving the Ateca in a civilised fashion, there is an unbecoming lag when the car is already rolling and you apply power. It’s as if it gets stuck in a higher gear and does not want to let go. Acceleration does not match accelerator input from your foot until you really plant your foot right down. Acceleration only seems to be fluent in the extremes, or if you come to a dead stop and take off.

The widely used seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission plays a large part to its impressive 0-100km/h time. Under heavy acceleration, it whips through the ratios swiftly. It’s well-suited to a high-performance car like this. For a dual-clutch gearbox, take-off under gentle acceleration is reasonably quick. Usually, dual-clutch types mean take-off delays and nervous inching forward in car parks. Not so much here. Only, the gear downshift delays mentioned above under normal driving conditions could be made more intuitive.

In the corners, the Ateca VZx holds on much like a hot hatch. Even with that raised centre of gravity, it stays rigid and firm, partly thanks to electronic adjustable dampers. In Sport and Cupra driving modes, the dampers are stiffened so it holds onto corners with minimal body roll. Grip through the tyres are the first to give out when really challenged.

The great thing is, those electronic dampers also offer a ride that is comfortable enough to live with every day in Normal mode. You will still find it firmer than other standard SUVs, partway due to the low-profile tyres. Having said that, the Ateca won’t be any good on terrain rougher than gravel.

Fuel consumption figures read well in the Ateca when you consider its high-performance credential. The average is officially listed at 7.8L/100km. Surprisingly, our testing over about 600km of varied highway and city conditions gave a close average of 8.2L/100km.

If you indulge yourself with the accelerator pedal regularly, you will see the fuel average climb quicker than the average as a result of those high-power outputs. Consider that it also requires a minimum of 98RON-rated petrol. Which, these days, is significantly more expensive.

2023 Cupra Ateca VZx – THE VIDEO

2023 Cupra Ateca VZx – THE VERDICT

Although it will start off as an unknown to many, the Cupra Ateca is well worth a look when it comes to mid-sized performance SUVs. But it’s not really an unknown given many parts are shared from Volkswagen Group models. The more mid-sized performance SUVs, the merrier. Australia often gets watered down sports variants but the Ateca VZx is the full experience.

You get a ripper 221kW engine, all-wheel drive, performance suspension and all the latest features. At the same time, an SUV orientation that offers a practical element for everyday use. One thing that might hold it back is how it sits so close to its Cupra Formentor brother in terms of price, size and performance.

[column width=”47%” padding=”6%”]PROS:
– Slick, well-known and tested high-performance engine taken VW Group
– SUV shape gives a roomy, practical interior, and a high driving position
– Handling exhibits the agility of a hot hatch
– Copper highlights inside and out give off an exclusive sporty vibe
[/column] [column width=”47%” padding=”0″]CONS:
– Unfitting acceleration lag when already moving
– Tight and sporty suspension means minimal movement and a rougher ride
– Steering column adjustment lacks breadth[/column][end_columns]

As always, if you’re thinking about buying a new car don’t forget to click here to speak with our car buying specialists.

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