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2023 cupra ateca vzx review

2023 Cupra Ateca VZx Review


What’s a Cupra? If we had a dollar for every time a person asked us about the 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx we had on test we’d probably be able to afford one. And the comments were far from negative, in fact, quite the opposite. The brand’s far from a household name amongst all but the most in-tune Volkswagen nerds like ourselves, but it attracts attention.

On the surface, it’s aggressive. You can’t help but stare at the bronze accents, huge Brembo brakes, and aggressive front end with that unfamiliar badge sticking out. Make your way around the car and the Akropovic exhaust tips stare you right in the face, “this thing means business” one person told us at the crest of one of our favourite driving roads in Sydney. They must’ve seen us pass a few sports bikes on the way up.

2023 cupra ateca vzx at a glance
Image: Supplied | Cupra Australia

2023 Cupra Ateca VZx at a Glance

High PointLow PointVerdict
It’s the closest thing you’ll find to a go-kart on wheels in the small SUV segment. A stretch? Maybe, but you’ll upset plenty of hot hatches while comfortably dropping the kids off at school. Grab the Akropovic exhaust if you can to give some character to match the fiery character of the car.Only $1000 cheaper than the Formentor VZx which is newer, just as quick, features less hard plastic and houses a larger infotainment system upfront (albeit clinically frustrating to use).While its brother the Formentor makes the most sense on paper, there’s something to be said for the Ateca which is more fun to drive, makes a better noise with the Akropovic exhaust, and offers more space overall. It’s perfect for those who aren’t ready to jump into a modern swatch of technology in the Formentor.

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2023 cupra ateca vzx feature
Image: Ben McKimm | Man of Many

What Powers the 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx?

 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx Performance Figures
Engine2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol
Power221kW @ 5300-6500rpm
Torque400Nm @ 2000-5200rpm
Acceleration0-100 km/h in 4.9 seconds

Under the bonnet of the 2023 Cupra Ateca is the all too familiar Volkswagen EA888 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder petrol engine. At this point, we like to refer to it as ‘old reliable’ because it’s not going to change anytime between now and the time most Volkswagen group A One-Off Rebuilt 1974 Lancia Stratos Group 4 Rally Car Has Gone Up For Auction are all-electric. At this point in its lifespan, the motor is reliable, powerful, and fuel-efficient. About all you could ask for really.

The engine produces a stout 221kW power figure, which is only a hair less than the 2022 Audi S3 we tested earlier this year (228kW). They share similar 0-100km/h times too, with the Cupra Ateca only losing the sprint by 0.1 seconds, achieving the 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds. We’ll talk more about how that power’s delivered below, but just know one thing, it’s quick.

Our test car was also equipped with the Akrapovic exhaust system, which retails for $5950. It’s a complete waste of money if you’re buying it as an option because it’s an axle-back system that provides no power, but if you’re lucky enough to stumble on a pre-configured car that has it (for a reasonable price) jump on it. Yes, it’s the same as the one on the Golf R ‘Final Edition’.

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2023 cupra ateca vzx how does it drive
Image: Supplied | Cupra Australia

How Does the 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx Drive?

In a world filled with boring small SUVs, the 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx is one big middle finger. We’ve had a chance to drive the full Cupra range now they’ve landed in Australia and the Ateca VZx sits at the top of that list when it comes to fun-factor. Make no mistake, it would get flogged by the Formentor VZx on a track, but on the street, it’s more fun. Plain and simple.

It’s surprisingly nimble and willing through the steering wheel. The driving position is typical SUV but the sports seats make up for any amount of excessive body roll you might get through the suspension. Unfortunately, there’s no making up for the centre of gravity when it comes to SUVs, even the $600,000 Bentley Bentayga Speed we drove on the track at The Bend couldn’t manage this with all its suspension wizardry. The Cupra is no magician in this aspect, even with the dampers stiffened in sports mode.

Nonetheless, the Ateca VZx is incredibly fun to drive. Due to the short wheelbase and oversized brakes, the weight transfer to the front axle is extreme. It literally feels like the rear wheels are lifting off the ground, we just smile. It’s a sensation you rarely experience in cars these days, they’re simply too good, but the Ateca just wants more.

The rack is quick enough, it begs for a switchback, you chuck it in and plant your foot, and it wants more again. You know the brakes are there, but how’s the mechanical grip? Good. All we can think about is how capable the car would be with a decent set of tires.

Power is solid, but it’s hard to say it’s ‘great’ by 2023 standards. Of course, if the fastest car you’ve ever driven is a Golf GTI or i30 N-Line, it will be a great introduction to what a quick car really is these days. The brakes and lateral grip from the 4WD system mean you can go flat foot pretty much anywhere. It’s like a light switch, on or off.

Just be warned, if you divebomb a corner Max Verstappen style, you’ll find the understeer you were (or weren’t) looking for. Let’s not forget it’s a small SUV with some go-fast bits thrown in for good measure. Boy does it work though.

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2023 cupra ateca vzx interior
Image: Supplied | Cupra Australia

What’s the Interior Like on the 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx?

The interior is where the 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx lets us down a little. We drove this one before jumping behind the wheel of its bigger brother, the Formentor VZx, so just know that the interior of the Formentor is far superior. If you were wondering why Cupra would offer two SUVs at different price points, the interior is your answer.

It’s the plastics! We just couldn’t get around the use of hard scratchy plastic all over the interior. We’ve complained about VW Group’s use of “cheaper feeling” plastics in the rear of the new cars, including the new $100,000 AUD Audi RS3 we drove recently. Sadly, they’ve made their way into the front of the Cupra Ateca VZx. You’ll find it on the door cards, around the b-pillar, the dashboard, and the centre console.

Outside of the rather disappointing use of materials, the seats are excellent, the blue colour adds a great pop of colour and they’re very comfortable. The drive selector is nice and simple to use, we actually missed the basic dial once we jumped into the Formentor that uses a frustrating push button on the steering wheel that you have to push five times to go from ‘hardcore’ to ‘soft’.

In terms of space, the front is plentiful, and the rear seats are a little upright but make way for larger passengers with ease. We wouldn’t want to take on big road trips with the family, but young couples and families would appreciate the space on offer.

Related: 2022 Audi S3 Sedan Review

2023 cupra ateca vzx dashboard
Image: Supplied | Cupra Australia

Is the Infotainment System Modern, Does it Have Apple CarPlay?

As mentioned, we jumped from the Ateca to Formentor so we had a chance to live with both for a full week. It suffices to say that even given the slight price disparage ($1000), the Ateca does miss out on the latest and greatest VW Group switchgear. Primarily, the larger centre touchscreen infotainment unit (9.2-inch vs. 12-inch) and associated software.

Although both feature wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, we’d love to see the larger display make its way into the Ateca because it does look better on an everyday basis. Essentially, because the Ateca is based on the VW T-Roc R it receives the same dashboard (and interior, etc.) which means the older tech remains. Those who are looking to nitpick between the two could see the benefit in the older system software that’s less heavy on capacitive touch buttons, but if you’re just plugging in your phone and using Apple CarPlay you’ll want to have the bigger screen in pretty much all scenarios.

In terms of driver display, the Cupra Ateca features the standard VW 10.25-inch digital instrument cluster with Cupra-specific graphics. Other interior features include tri-zone climate control, wireless phone charging, a nine-speaker Beats sound system (plus subwoofer), and heated front sports seats with Petrol Blue leather trim.

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2023 cupra ateca vzx rear end
Image: Ben McKimm | Man of Many

Should You Buy the 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx?

How Does the Cupra Ateca VZx Cost?

The 2023 Cupra Ateca is priced from $60,990 plus on-road costs. Our drive-away price for Cupra Artarmon (in Sydney) indicated a base drive-away price of $65,990 and with all options thrown at it, including Dark Camouflage paint ($475), Brembo brakes ($4,050) and panoramic sunroof ($1,800), we ended up with a drive-away price of $72,315.

Configure your own Cupra Ateca in the configurator linked here.

Warranty and Servicing

Every CUPRA in Australia comes with a factory 5-year unlimited kilometre warranty, transferrable at no cost if you decide to sell your CUPRA during the warranty period.

Cupra includes three years of free servicing.

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2023 cupra ateca vzx verdict
Image: Supplied | Cupra Australia

Man of Many’s Verdict on the 2023 Cupra Ateca VZx

While we enjoyed our time in the Cupra Ateca VZx there was a burning question just waiting to be answered once we hopped out of the Ateca and into the Formentor. Is there any reason someone would justify buying the older platformed car with little difference in price between them?

It all came down to the interior, specifically the switchgear, infotainment, and plastics. The Formentor just leaves the Ateca in the dust in this category and makes no argument in terms of driving dynamics or power either. You sacrifice nothing but a little space if you opt for the Formentor, we just wish it had some character from the exhaust.

Unfortunately for the Ateca, its launch was delayed by one or two years thanks to a global pandemic and by the time it arrived in Australia, technology had moved along.

Check it out

2023 Cupra Ateca Standard Specification

Standard specification

  • Towing Pre-wire
  • 2.0L turbo 4-cylinder petrol engine 221kW/400Nm
  • 7-speed DSG
  • 4Drive all-wheel drive
  • 0-100km/h in 4.9 seconds
  • Metallic Paint (Nevada White, Graphite Grey, Magic Black)
  • 19″ Exclusive Sport Alloy Wheel in Black and Copper
  • 18″ Temporary Spare Wheel
  • Tyre Pressure Warning System
  • Full LED Headlights and Daytime Running Lamps
  • Rear LED Lamps with Dynamic Indicators
  • Fog lamps with Cornering Lamps
  • Light Assist (Auto High Beam)
  • Driving Profile Selection
  • Dynamic Chassis Control
  • Progressive Steering
  • Hands Free Power Tailgate
  • Rear Roof Spoiler
  • Black Roof Rails
  • Quad Exhaust
  • Rear tinted Windows
  • Gloss Black Highlights
  • Auto Folding & Heated Mirrors with memory
  • Welcome Light in Exterior Mirrors
  • Mirror cases in Dark Aluminium
  • Light & Rain Sensor Adaptive Cruise Control
  • Front Assist with Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection
  • Side Assist with Exit Assist
  • Lane Assist
  • Travel Assist
  • Driver Fatigue Detection
  • Proactive Passenger Protection(Pre-Crash)
  • Park Assist
  • Front and Rear Parking Sensors
  • Top View Camera (360 degree)
  • Petrol Blue Leather Sports Bucket Seats
  • Heated Front Seats
  • Driver’s Seat Power Adjustment with Memory
  • Keyless Entry and Start
  • 3 Zone Climate Control Air-Conditioning
  • Ambient Interior Lighting
  • Leather Gear knob with Copper Stitching
  • Illuminated Scuff Plates
  • Aluminium Pedals
  • Floor Mats
  • 10.25″ Digital Cockpit
  • 9.2″ Navigation System
  • CUPRA Leather Steering Wheel with Satellite Buttons and Heating
  • Paddle Shift
  • Wireless Phone Charging
  • Wired and Wireless Apple Carplay and Android Auto
  • Beats Sound System, 9 Speakers + Subwoofer + 340w Amplifier
  • 2 Front and 2 Rear USB-C ports

Options

  • Akrapovic Exhaust ($5,950)
  • Brembo Brake package ($4,050)
  • Panoramic Electric Sunroof ($1,800)
  • Premium Metallic Paint ($475)

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