If Seat’s aspiration for the Cupra Ateca was simply to mimic the handling of a bona fide hot hatch at greater altitude, then the car ultimately falls short. However, when you consider just how high the bar is now set in the hot hatchback segment for body control, outright grip, handling response and adjustability, failure to live up to such exacting standards need not necessarily make this car a total disappointment.
Select wisely one of the six driving modes and the Cupra Ateca displays a fairly adaptable dynamic character. With the dampers in their more relaxed setting, the ride quality is taut but reasonably yielding and, as an everyday, every-road compromise, it’s somewhere between satisfactory and creditable. Admittedly, if you only rarely exercise this chassis on more testing routes, the insistent firmness of that ride and the immediacy of the initial steering response would both likely become tiring, but the Cupra’s ability to maintain good body control – and generate decent grip and plenty of handling directness – when commitment levels rise give it certain qualifications as a driver’s car.
Go looking for a more compelling kind of driver reward, though, and this chassis can’t cut it in the same manner as the best hot hatches. The raised ride height and extra weight demand a pretty authoritarian suspension tune – one unyielding to the extent that the front axle can deflect as it tries to digest the more pronounced flaws in a road surface.