Feeling more like a sporty hatch than an SUV, the 2022 Cupra Ateca VZx is an engineering marvel, delivering exceptional handling and excellent road holding, thanks in no small part to the Bridgestone Turanza tyres it wears.
Powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine, producing 221kW of power and 400Nm of torque, it can sprint to 100km/h in 4.9 seconds. Its powerplant is matched with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and all-wheel drive.
Fuel economy is a claimed 7.8-litres/100km (we managed 10.1) and its 55-litre fuel tank needs to be filled with 98 RON premium unleaded. Outside, the Ateca looks a little boxy compared to its Formentor stable mate, and only comes in a single high end spec, the VZx.
The only optional extras on offer are an Akrapovic exhaust, a Brembo brake package and a panoramic sunroof. With all those boxes checked, the Ateca suddenly sits alongside the Tiguan R and quickly takes you from a fixed price $65,990 drive away up to $70-$75K.
It’s a performance variant, and shares plenty with its VW sibling, which in a way, makes it feel less bespoke. It doesn’t feature the same clean, modern dashboard as its sibling, and the seating position is more like that of a conventional family SUV.
You do sit higher though and visibility through windows is great all round and there are other pluses like the fact it has physical dials for temperature and fan speed, for example, and you don’t need to search through menus to make minor air-conditioning adjustments.
The Ateca is accommodating for a huge range of body shapes and taller drivers won’t have trouble getting comfortable either. The front seats have large bolsters as well. The 9-speaker Beats sound system packs a punch and is crystal clear at any volume.
The materials don’t feel up to Tiguan R standards, but the equipment list is still quite generous. The Ateca isn’t short of storage space up front either, with plenty of little spots for pretty much anything you can think of.
Headroom is exceptional thanks to the larger body, and there’s plenty of legroom too. Air vents, USB-C ports, and a fold-down central armrest all feature in the rear, and the doors open nice and wide, so loading the little ones should be easy enough.
You get three top-tether and two ISOFIX points back there for child seats. There’s ample space in the front and rear seats, and the cargo hold is generous, with a claimed boot space of 485-litres. The back seat split-folds 60:40 and also has a ski port.
The suite of advanced safety technology includes autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, lane-keeping assistance, rear cross-traffic alert, blind zone warning, rain-sensing wipers, dusk-sensing headlights, and a door exit warning.
A 360-degree camera, and front and rear parking sensors also feature. Under the boot floor is a space-saver spare on models equipped with standard brakes. Examples with optional Brembo brakes come with an inflator kit in lieu of a spare tyre of any kind.
The Cupra Ateca VZx comes with a 9.2-inch infotainment screen with embedded navigation and AM/FM radio, as well as wired and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Digital radio in not included.
The infotainment system shares similar frustrations as those in other Cupra models, including an over-reliance on touchscreen controls and a cluster of buttons in the steering wheel. You’ll find two more USB-C ports up front, as well as wireless phone charging.
As stated previously, our fuel consumption was somewhat higher than claimed, but our fascination with the sounds of the Akrapovic exhaust may have had something to do with that. Its mid-tone grumble, crackles and pops are pretty damn cool.
You’ve been warned. It’s not easy to resist letting this thing loose in full Cupra mode to make some noise, especially with the perky engine under the hood. It’s easy to underestimate the Ateca VZx with its tame interior, but it is something special.
A few tight turns at speed is all it takes to know how good it is, and understand its performance bent. The suspension feels light on turn in, but load it up and it comes alive, hunkering down and giving you a feeling of absolute confidence that it will stick every time.
Our test vehicle had standard brakes, which did the job well, although we reckon the Brembo package should be a standard inclusion. That aside, we reckon you should note down this car as one of the most surprising packages we’ve driven this year.
All Cupra models come with a 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty and are sold with three years of free servicing. The Ateca VZx is available in Magic Black, Graphite Grey (as tested), Nevada White and Dark Camouflage.
Our test vehicle was supplied by Cupra Australia. To find out more about the 2022 Cupra Ateca VZx, contact your local Cupra Garage.