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Electric eScooter is Seat’s first two-wheeler

Seat eScooter

Seat will reveal a concept electric scooter at the Barcelona Smart City Expo on 19 November. The eScooter previews a production model, which will be the marque’s first two-wheeler (excluding its collaboration with Segway).

Designed to take the place of a 125cc petrol motorcycle, the eScooter offers emissions-free urban transport. It’s a part of Seat’s plan to ‘spearhead the Volkswagen Group’s micromobility strategy’.

Seat eScooter

Barcelona has the most motorcycles per capita in Europe. Given the city is also one of the biggest in Seat’s home country, it’s the perfect place to launch the eScooter.

Seat wants to evolve from car manufacturer to ‘mobility services provider’ to work within a ‘collaborative, shared, sustainable economy’. The eScooter is one of its first steps. It will develop the concept with Barcelona-based electric bike manufacturer Silence, for sale to both fleets and private customers.

Seat has already launched the eXS KickScooter, in collaboration with Segway, to a similar end. These can be shared via the start-up service, UFO. Getting back to cars, Seat is working with the car-sharing service Respiro. Its Twizy-esque Minimo electric concept (see below) demonstrates the brand’s thinking there.

Seat eScooter

“The constant growth of large cities makes achieving efficient mobility one of the main challenges to overcome,” said Seat president, Luca de Meo.

“Today we are taking a further step in our urban micromobility strategy by confirming the launch of the first eScooter in the history of the brand.”

Now drones are being used to deliver car parts

Seat drone used to deliver steering wheel

For better or for worse, drones are playing an increasing role in our everyday lives. 

Only yesterday, UPS drones made the first home prescription deliveries to a private home and retirement centre in North Carolina. Last month, drones were used to deliver snacks and health care products to residents in Virginia.

Now, Seat has started using drones to deliver car parts at its Martorell factory to the northwest of Barcelona in Spain.

The pilot project sees drones delivering components from the logistics centre to the assembly workshops in 15 minutes. The first delivery was a steering wheel, but the drones will also be used to deliver airbags to the production line.

When an order is placed, the part is loaded into a carbon fibre capsule at the logistics centre, located 2km away. This is attached to a drone using an electromagnet, before travelling at a height of 95 metres and at 40km/h (25mph).

The drone is in the air for four minutes, with the additional time required for the initial loading and the subsequent delivery to the assembly line.

Seat says the pilot project – no pun intended – will see drones being used to delivery steering wheels and airbags, but the plan is to use the method of delivery for other car parts.

Drones will ‘revolutionise logistics’

Drone delivering car parts

“Drone transport is going to revolutionise logistics, as for example in the case of Seat, where it will reduce part delivery time by 80 percent”, said Christian Vollmer, vice-president for production and logistics.

As drones run on electric batteries, Seat says the reduction in CO2 emissions could amount to one tonne every year. The project is being carried out under the supervision of the Spanish Aviation Safety Agency (AESE).

“We’ve tripled safety on this project. The most important aspect was that the drone had a large load capacity and to streamline its construction to the maximum. In addition to its six motors, we’ve equipped it with three GPS, six batteries and three IMU (Inertial Measurement Units), which are the inner workings of the drone”, said pilot Toni Caballero.

Seat Mii Electric available for £199 a month

Seat Mii Electric available to order

The Seat Mii Electric is now available to order in the UK. It’s Seat’s first all-electric car and first deliveries are expected early next year.

Priced from £19,300, the Seat Mii Electric is available for £199 per month on a PCP deal. This is after a £4,399 customer deposit, with Seat contributing £500 to the cost.

The first 300 retail customers who place an order before 31 December 2019 will also receive a free wall box charger fitted at their home, a three-pin charging cable, plus servicing and breakdown cover for three years.

It’s the first of a range of all-electric and plug-in hybrid Seats. The Mii Electric will be followed by the el-Born EV, plug-in hybrid versions of the Tarraco and Leon, along with performance plug-in models wearing a Cupra badge.

Seat Mii Electric city car

The Seat Mii Electric city car boasts a 36.8kWh battery pack to provide up to 161 miles of WLTP range. Rapid charging to 80 percent takes an hour, while using a home charger takes four hours to reach 80 percent charged.

Only one trim level is available, with the spec including 16-inch alloy wheels, heated front seats, 5-inch colour screen, DAB digital radio, smartphone integration, rear parking sensors, hill hold control, lane assist and traffic sign recognition.

To help distinguish it from petrol versions of the Seat Mii, the EV features ‘electric’ lettering on the rear, plus stickers and cosmetic interior upgrades.

Seat Mii Electric in the UK

The Mii Electric is also the first model to get Seat Connect, giving remote access and management of the vehicle. Mii Electric owners can review driving data, parking position, vehicle status, and have the ability to control the air conditioning from their smartphone.

Five no-cost metallic colours are available: Deep Black, Candy White, Tornado Red, Chester Blue and Tungsten Silver.

Seat Mii electric production will begin in Slovakia by the end of the year. Orders can be placed now and first customer deliveries are projected for the end of the first quarter of 2020.

It will make its UK customer debut at the Seat store in Westfield White City between 28 October and 9 November.

Seat Arona

Best Way To Pack A Car For Your Holidays: Top Tips

Seat AronaWe don’t often think to hard about how we pack the boot of a car with luggage before we go on holiday. The sheer xcitement means the process isn’t completed with the precision it deserves.

Car maker Seat, however, is adamant more methodical packing could save you boot space – and could even save your life.

The KonMari Method (famously developed by Marie Kondo) utilises three steps to get the best out of your luggage space. They are as follows:

  1. De-clutter – remove any items you can do without.
  2. Pack smart – folding and rolling clothing cleverly can save you space. Box up all the loose bits, too.
  3. Categorise – put essentials within reach in the car, and maximise boot space by packing suitcases vertically.

The video above explains all. It certainly sounds like just about enough to save you a bit of space in the boot, but your life? Indeed.

An efficiently packed boot is a tightly packed boot, which shouldn’t feature any loose items that could go flailing around the cabin in the event of an accident. 

“Life, in general, is very cluttered in the modern world. We constantly have to go through a de-cluttering process in order to keep a peaceful mind,” said Europe’s first certified KonMari consultant, Aline Lau.

“Many people now adopt Marie Kondo’s mindset in their homes but this is the first time we have used it to pack a car.

“We will automatically try to take too much with us on vacation but, by separating each item and categorising what we really need, we can be more efficient instead of trying to take everything from our lives with us on holiday.”

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Seat Tarraco 2019 review: a seven-seat SUV fit for family life

Seat TarracoOur Gav recently enjoyed three months and 3,000 miles driving a Seat Alhambra, a ‘practical and flexible’ seven-seat people carrier. He declared it a ‘prime example of a properly sorted MPV’ and ‘worthy of your attention’. Well, sorry Gav, people just aren’t listening.

Sport Utility Vehicles are where it’s at, you see. Most of us venture no further off-road than mounting a kerb, yet sales have skyrocketed in recent years – and that trend is forecast to continue. Buyers like the high driving position and perceived safety of SUVs, but mostly they love their tough, go-anywhere image. If an MPV is a sensible sandal, an SUV is an all-terrain trainer.

Seat has jumped wholeheartedly on the SUV gravy train. Its new seven-seat Tarraco sits above the (small) Arona and (medium) Ateca in a three-tier range. It’s the Barcelona brand’s new flagship – and the aspirational alternative to an Alhambra.

Two TSI petrol engines are offered – 150hp 1.5-litre and 190hp 2.0 – plus a 2.0 TDI diesel available in two outputs: 150hp or 190hp. You can opt for two- or four-wheel drive (‘4Drive’), plus six-speed manual or seven-speed DSG auto transmissions.

Tarraco prices start at £28,335 for a 1.5 TSI 150 SE and stretch to £38,055 for a fully-loaded 2.0 TDI 190 Xcellence Lux. I ventured to deepest Berkshire to sample 190hp petrol and diesel versions on UK roads.

First impressions

Seat Tarraco

‘Tarraco’ is the old word for Tarragona, following a longstanding tradition of naming Seats after Spanish cities. Underneath, however, its roots are resolutely Germanic. The Tarraco is based on the same Volkswagen Group MQB-A LWB platform as the Skoda Kodiaq, and the two cars are mechanically nigh-on identical.

The Seat has more aggressive SUV attitude, though. It rides 20mm lower than the Kodiaq, with a jutting grille, bonnet bulges, sculpted body-sides and swoopy LED light signatures. This year’s must-have styling feature – a full-width rear light bar – is also present and correct, although the central section is only a red reflector. Those ‘tailpipe’ slots either side of the rear bumper are fake, too.

Nonetheless, the Tarraco has car park kudos that no glorified minibus (sorry, Gav) can match. At 4,735mm long and 2,118mm wide, its footprint is on par with a Land Rover Discovery Sport. Few cars offer so much metal for your money

Inside the Seat Tarraco

Seat Tarraco

Here’s where Seat’s oh-so-sensible Alhambra plays its trump card. The old-guard MPV is a true seven-seater (“Whenever we’ve carried a full quota of five children, there’s been a scramble for the rear seats,” says Gav), while the young-gun Tarraco is effectively a five-plus-two. Its rearmost chairs are only really suitable for youngsters, yet have no Isofix mounting points. You do get three Isofix points in the middle row, though.

Five-up, the Tarraco feels very spacious. There’s ample headroom and shoulder width, and the optional panoramic sunroof bathes the cabin in light. The second-row seats also slide and flip forward individually. Boot space ranges from 2,005 litres in ‘van mode’ to 700 litres with five seats occupied – and just 230 litres when fully loaded with passengers. All figures, incidentally, are fractionally smaller than the Skoda.

As for the driver, you get digital dials, and a media system with Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity. Shame the eight-inch touchscreen, perched atop the dashboard, looks like an afterthought.

Overall, the effect is pleasingly premium, as befits the Tarraco’s range-topping status. I particularly liked the wool and Alcantara (man-made suede) upholstery of our Xcellence-spec test cars.

Standard kit on the entry-level SE includes 17-inch alloys, three-zone climate control, rear parking sensors, auto headlights and wipers, cruise control and ambient interior lighting. SE Technology adds 18-inch alloys and sat nav, while the Xcellence and Xcellence Lux push upwards into Audi territory. If you’re quick, launch-spec ‘First Edition’ cars are even better equipped.

Seat Tarraco: on the road

Seat Tarraco

If you’re expecting a lively drive to match that purposeful mien, prepare for mild disappointment. The Tarraco doesn’t transcend its SUV origins like a Porsche Macan, and unless Seat’s sporty sub-brand Cupra gets involved (as with the smaller Ateca), that’s likely to remain the case.

Refinement and long-distance comfort are more the Seat’s raison d’être. Its suspension soaks up potholes very effectively – particularly if you opt for smaller wheels – and both petrol and diesel engines are hushed. For maximum quietness, wait for the plug-in hybrid version, due in 2020.

On twisty roads, the Tarraco is planted and predictable. Its steering is nicely weighted, body-roll is kept in-check and the DSG ’box is smooth and intuitive. Its brakes also feel reassuringly robust, backed up by standard-fit Front Assist with pedestrian and cyclist detection.

The predicted best-seller – the 150hp 1.5 petrol – wasn’t available to drive at launch. However, the perky 190hp petrol would be my choice versus the slightly sluggish 190hp diesel. For starters, it costs around £1,500 less, while the quoted fuel economy is hardly leagues apart (29.7mph versus 37.2mpg). And the diesel was just 3mpg more efficient on my identical test-route.

Seat Tarraco verdict: 4 stars

Seat Tarraco

Seat has hit upon a winning formula. Its sales were up 12 percent in 2018, making it the UK’s fastest-growing car brand for the second year in a row. Given such success, it’s hardly surprising the Tarraco doesn’t break the mould.

No, it isn’t a mobile Tardis like the Alhambra, but that’s hardly the point. For better or worse, the sort of people who occasionally tackle a gravel track en route to a National Trust property want SUVs. And this is a pretty good one: comfortable, refined, well-equipped and inoffensive to drive.

The greatest threat to the Tarraco comes from within. The aforementioned Skoda Kodiaq starts from around £3,000 less, and is a cheaper option spec-for-spec. Not quite the ‘reign in Spain’, then – more like Czech mate.

Seat Tarraco

Five 2019 Seat Tarraco rivals

  • Skoda Kodiaq
  • Volkswagen Tiguan Allspace
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Land Rover Discovery Sport
  • Seat Alhambra

How much did our test car cost?

Seat Tarraco Xcellence First Edition Plus 2.0 TSI 4Drive 190 DSG: £38,605

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2019 Seat Alhambra review: a seven-up MPV with just enough fizz

Seat Alhambra Xcellence

Seat doesn’t want to sell you an Alhambra. It would much rather you opted for the Tarraco, a seven-seat SUV that’s bang on-brand and totally in-tune with current trends. MPVs are out of touch, out of step and very nearly outta here.

But I’m here to tell you that the Seat Alhambra is as relevant to families today as it was when the concept was unveiled at the 1995 Geneva Motor Show. SUVs might be sexy, but they’ll never be as practical and flexible as a properly sorted MPV.

And, after living with a Seat Alhambra for three months and 3,000 miles, I can confirm that it’s a prime example of a properly sorted MPV.

The car in question is a Seat Alhambra in top-spec Xcellence trim, powered by a 2.0-litre diesel engine developing 150hp. It’s possible to get a more powerful diesel engine – the same unit is available with 184hp – but unless you raid the accessories catalogue, the Xcellence model is as good as it gets in Alhambra-land.

Taking the last Seat

Seat Alhambra review

Amazingly, the current Seat Alhambra is approaching its 10th birthday, which in automotive terms means that it should be drawing its pension and taking advantage of free bus travel.

It clings on for life partly because, until the arrival of the Tarraco, Seat hasn’t had another seven-seat SUV in its range, but also because Volkswagen hasn’t replaced the platform-sharing Sharan. The truth is, this could be the last Alhambra.

Few people will shed a tear. MPV purchases are driven through necessity rather than desire; their arrival on the driveway providing a very visual reminder that you’re no longer in the prime of your life.

What follows is 20 years of active parenthood, followed by years of providing financial and emotional support through uni and first-time-buyer schemes, then retirement, then… well, you can guess the rest.

You can understand why Mr and Mrs Two-Point-Four Family are attracted to a visually more attractive seven-seat SUV, seemingly happy to accept a little less practicality in exchange for more perceived glamour at the school gates. But before you fall for the SUV marketing twaddle, here are half a dozen reasons why the Seat Alhambra is worthy of your attention.

Sliding doors are ace

Seat Alhambra sliding doors

Sliding doors are good, but electric sliding doors are even better. Opt for the SE L or Xcellence trim levels and the doors can be operated at the touch of a button, giving joy to children everywhere.

Seriously, kids love sliding doors, while you can live out your A-Team fantasies by hanging out of the side like ‘Howling Mad’ Murdock. Warning: don’t try this at home, you crazy fools.

Aside from rekindling memories of Saturday night telly, the sliding doors are extremely useful in tight parking spaces and make getting into and out of the car very easy. The tailgate is also powered, so you can put on quite a display as you wander back to the Alhambra in a supermarket car park.

There are surprisingly few cars available with sliding doors, which is a shame because once you’ve lived with them, you’ll find it hard to live without them.

Third-row seats that aren’t third-class

Seat Alhambra third row

How often have you read a review of a seven-seat SUV only to find that the seats in the third row aren’t quite as billed in the glossy brochure? At best, many seven-seat SUVs are little more than 5+2 vehicles, with the third row designed for occasional use only.

Things are different in the Alhambra. Getting into the very back is easy, thanks to the sliding doors and the way in which the second row of seats tilt forward, but once there, there’s plenty of space even for taller children and adults.

Put it this way: whenever we’ve carried a full quota of five children, there’s been a scramble for the rear seats. There’s plenty of headroom and, thanks to the fact that the three middle seats slide forward independently, plenty of legroom, too. There’s even enough legroom if the middle row seats are slid all the way back.

Thanks to roof-mounted lights, a pair of cupholders on the left, a storage compartment on the right, and a pair of air vents, these don’t feel like the cheap seats. Remember when all the cool kids sat at the back of the bus? Things are no different in the Alhambra.

It has a boot the size of a Suzuki Swift

Seat Alhambra boot

Even with all seven seats folded up, the Seat Alhambra offers 267 litres of luggage space, which is two litres more than the Suzuki Swift. That’s pretty decent for a seven-seat bus, albeit far from ideal if you’re heading off for a family holiday with all five children in tow.

This rises to 658 litres in five-seat mode or 2,297 litres if you turn your Alhambra into a two-seater. While the Tarraco can muster 700 litres with the third row folded down, it can offer just 1,775 litres with the second row folded away. Once again, the Alhambra has its fashionable upstart well and truly licked.

And don’t think you’ll need a degree in origami to run through the various seating configurations. I’m about as handy as a chimp wearing boxing gloves, and even I managed to work it out without resorting to the manual. The seats are light, easy to operate and a doddle to fold away. You’re also presented with an entirely flat floor.

It feels like a posh bus

Seat Alhambra front seats

With the caveat that I’ve been reviewing an Alhambra in the plush Xcellence trim, there’s a distinctly premium feel to this MPV. Integrated sunblinds and aircraft-style folding tables on the front seat backrests are standard on SE and above, while 12-way electrically adjustable and heated leather front seats, DAB radio, sat-nav, rear-view camera and voice recognition are standard on SE L.

The Xcellence model boasts an opening panoramic sunroof with electric sunblind, sports-style front seats, chrome door sills, headlight washers, heated washer jets and keyless entry and go.

It’s actually pleasant to drive. No, really, it is

Seat Alhambra dashboard

I won’t pretend that the Alhambra is a great car to drive, but you’re likely to be pleasantly surprised by its road manners. It might be old, but the Alhambra is based on an old Volkswagen car platform, rather than something with its roots in the commercial sector, so it’s surprisingly agile for a car of its size.

The steering has a nice weight to it, there’s a surprising lack of body-roll when cornering, and if anything, the ride is a little on the firm side, but this might have something to do with the ‘sport’ suspension found on the Xcellence model.

Even the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel engine offers just enough in the way of performance, with the Alhambra having a decent turn of pace, even with all seven seats occupied. I’m not sure you’d need the extra poke offered by the 184hp version.

It’s never what you’d class as ‘fun’, and no matter how many times Seat peppers its press pack with the ‘sport’ word, it still feels at odds with the brand proposition. However, if your only experience of driving MPVs stems from something with the underpinnings of a van, you’ll find much to like about the Alhambra.

You can coast through life

Seat Alhambra DSG

I’m not a huge fan of the six-speed DSG dual-clutch transmission, although I’m not sure I could stomach a manual gearbox in a seven-seat MPV. Ninety percent of the time, the DSG is perfectly adequate, but it can feel flustered at junctions and when crawling in traffic, while it often selects the wrong gear for climbing or descending hills.

But there’s one aspect of DSG-equipped diesel engines I really like: coasting. When you lift off the throttle, the engine is de-clutched, helping to deliver better fuel economy. It’s why I rarely use the cruise control because even the gentlest of gradients can see you freewheeling like a kid on a skateboard.

I guess I shouldn’t get too carried away because the fuel savings are probably wiped out by the effort required to climb the hill, but it’s strangely satisfying trying to coast for as long as possible.

But… (because there’s always a ‘but’)

Seat Alhambra rear light

It’s not all chocolate and roses in the Alhambra, but what’s remarkable is the fact that I find myself nitpicking to find reasons for complaint. Many of its rivals will have been replaced, revised or refreshed in the decade since the Alhambra made its debut, and yet it remains one of the best MPVs you can buy.

Faults? Well, 36.4mpg isn’t a great return over the course of three months, and the interior harks back to Volkswagens of old, with a cabin that’s rather sombre and lacking in flair. Meanwhile, the 6.5-inch infotainment screen looks a little quaint in 2019, and there’s no Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Aside from these minor points, I’m struggling to find things to dislike about the Alhambra. It’s so refreshing to find a car that masters everything it sets out to do, rather than promising the earth and then failing to deliver.

When the world wakes up to the fact that the SUV isn’t the perfect family car, the MPV might have bitten the dust, and cars like the Seat Alhambra will be relics of the past. Which is a tragedy, because a full-size SUV with sliding doors is one of the most underappreciated body styles on the market, but not enough of you are buying them.

It might not be cool, but the Seat Alhambra is big and surprisingly clever.

Seat’s £185 in-car coffee maker ‘could save Brits £1,800 a year’

Seat in-car espresso coffee maker

Anyone for coffee? “Mii, please,” said somebody at Spanish car giant Seat, before muttering something about the wonderful Arona of fresh coffee. Terrible coffee-based puns aside, Seat reckons this in-car coffee machine could save motorists more than £1,800 a year in coffee shop bills.

We tested the Handpresso coffee-making device back in 2016 and we were mightily impressed. But with the benefit of hindsight, the “life-changing” claim may have been a little overblown – the machine has spent the past 18 months in a cupboard, wedged between a spiraliser and a bread-maker.

Coffee Homeground

Priced at £185, the Handpresso comes with two glasses and is powered via a 12v socket. Seat says it will fit neatly into the cupholders of any its models, but other cupholders are available. Power it up, and the Handpresso will dispense 50ml of fresh espresso in three minutes.

Drinking coffee in the car

Over the course of a year, the Handpresso will cost an estimated £405, which is a lot less than the £2,210 spent per year by the nation’s coffee lovers. There’s also the added benefit of not queuing up in your favourite coffee shop.

The Caffeine Kick Inside

The idea of an in-car coffee machine is nothing new. Indeed, the Handpresso in the Fiat 500L was a proper job (and one of the few things we liked about the car).

Fortunately, Seat’s range of cars is more convincing and includes the new Tarraco seven-seat SUV and hardcore Leon Cupra R ST. Buy the fastest ever Seat and you might not need the caffeine hit.

If you do, the Handpresso is available from any Seat dealer and comes with a 12-month warranty and 15 espresso pods. We’re off to give ourselves a roasting for all those shocking puns. 

The 370hp Leon Cupra R ST is the fastest ever Seat

Seat Leon Cupra R ST

If the ever-increasing range of performance SUVs leaves you a little cold, the hot new Seat Leon Cupra R ST estate should warm your heart. Put simply: this is the fastest Seat ever built.

In standard guise, the Leon Cupra R ST produces 300hp, but for an additional £500, customers can up the ante to a sports car-baiting 370hp. Still want that Cupra Ateca SUV?

The superfast wagon is powered by the ubiquitous 2.0-litre TSI petrol engine mated to a seven-speed DSG transmission. But in exchange for 500 notes, Seat will equip the Leon Cupra R ST with an ABT tuning pack, which sees the power increased to 370hp and the 0-62mph time fall to 4.5 seconds.

The top speed remains limited to 155mph, but the ABT-enhanced Leon is 0.4 seconds quicker to 62mph. Small margins are a big deal in the performance car world.

Leon Cupra R ST Brembo brakes

Throwing Copper

Crucially, unlike the front-wheel-drive Leon Cupra R hatchback, the ST is all-wheel-drive, so you shouldn’t have any problems getting that power down. The special edition also comes with quad exhausts, Brembo brakes, bucket seats and a panoramic sunroof, along with copper and carbon fibre detailing.

The 370hp versions will also feature ABT detailing on the rear badge – we suspect the majority of customers will opt for the upgrade. Well, if you’re spending £37,975 on the standard car, what’s another £500 – especially when it’s spread over a three-year PCP deal.

Blackness Grey is an exclusive colour for the Leon Cupra R ST, but buyers can also opt for Magnetic Tech, Midnight Black or Nevada White. Copper logos and badges and 19-inch alloy wheels complete the exterior makeover.

Seat Leon Cupra R ST seat

Selling The Drama

On the inside, you’ll find illuminated aluminium plaques, an eight-inch touchscreen, Digital Cockpit, carbon fibre and copper detailing, Alcantara steering wheel and gear knob, and bucket seats.

“The Leon Cupra R ST represents our ability to make unique, exciting cars with the most advanced technology ready for the most demanding and diverse of drivers. It’s the amalgamation of the brand’s experience in motor racing and the ability of our design and engineering teams to seamlessly mix performance and functionality,” said Antonino Labate, director of strategy, business development and operations of Cupra.

You can order the fastest-ever Seat from 9 April. While Cupra is now a standalone Seat sub-brand, it will continue to offer go-faster versions of Seat’s existing catalogue. If they’re all as potent as this wagon, long may Cupra continue to reign in Spain.

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Cupra Ateca 2019 review: the Porsche-baiting SUV from Spain

Cupra AtecaSeat has always felt like a square peg: a car company unsure of what it wants to be. Within the Volkswagen Group’s sprawling portfolio of brands, Skoda stands for value, VW represents the mainstream and Audi is premium. Seat, meanwhile, defies such straightforward categorisation: notionally sporty (‘the Spanish Alfa Romeo’), but frequently rather staid and sensible.

That’s where Cupra comes in. The badge has been affixed to Seat hot hatches since 1997, and boasts a proven pedigree in rallying and BTCC. Now it’s become a standalone sub-brand (think what Abarth is to Fiat) and the first fruit of this separation is the 300hp, 153mph Cupra Ateca.

Launching a performance-oriented marque with an SUV seems an odd move. After all, Cupras have traditionally been harder, faster alternatives to the Polo GTI or Golf GTI. However, Cupra the prefix is, we’re told, a different proposition to Cupra the suffix. Seat UK MD Richard Harrington stresses its “uniqueness and sophistication” – thus a family-sized 4×4 apparently fits the bill.

Cynical badge engineering or the start of something special? I spent three weeks with a Cupra Ateca to find out.

First impressions

The first thing you notice is that Transformers-style bronze logo. It’s supposed to resemble a tribal tattoo, reflecting the idea of Cupra owners as bit ‘alternative’. The sort of tattooed, 40-something rebels who’d shun a standard SUV, perhaps.

You’ll spot added visual muscle, too. The Ateca’s front bumper is peppered with air intakes and its new rear diffuser encloses four beefy tailpipes. A spoiler is perched atop the tailgate and 19-inch alloys (also available in copper-effect) sit within the squared-off wheelarches. The overall effect is sporty, yet still relatively subtle.

Fortunately, there’s nothing subtle about how the Cupra goes. The 2.0-litre turbocharged ‘EA888’ engine, also seen in the Leon Cupra and VW Golf R, offers 300hp at 5,300rpm and 295lb ft of torque from 2,000rpm. With a DSG semi-auto gearbox and four-wheel drive (both standard), this 1,632kg newcomer hits 62mph in 5.2 seconds – on par with a Porsche Macan S.

Yet while SUVs such as the Macan, BMW X3M and forthcoming Audi SQ2 rival the Cupra for pace, they don’t in terms of price. At £35,900, the Ateca exists in a curious sector of its own, beneath the bombastic Germans but above everyday SUV fodder such as the Kia Sportage, Peugeot 3008 and, well, Seat Ateca.

In theory that makes the Cupra the best car in its class. But as the standard-bearer for a new brand, it also needs to be a great car full-stop.

Inside the Cupra Ateca

Inside, the Cupra feels more special than its Seat sister. The seats are hip-hugging buckets, trimmed in Alcantara, while the analogue instruments are swapped for a configurable digital display. Select the navigation map between the dials around town, then – when you’re ‘on it’ – blank out everything except the oversized rev-counter.

A dial behind the gear lever offers a choice of six driving modes: Comfort, Sport, Cupra, Individual, Snow and Off-Road. Both Sport and Cupra stiffen the standard-fit adaptive dampers, sharpen throttle response and make the seven-speed ’box hold onto gears for longer.

All cars come with an eight-inch touchscreen media system, rear-view camera, keyless entry and wireless phone charging. Options are mostly bundled into two packages. Design (£3,345) comprises copper alloys, bigger Brembo brakes and black interior styling. Comfort and Sound (£1,930) includes a Beats audio system, adaptive cruise control, heated seats and an electric tailgate. Choose both and you’ll spend upwards of £41,000 (and pay the additional ‘showroom tax’ into the bargain).

One thing identical to the original Seat is the amount of interior space. The Cupra fits a family of five in comfort, and its 485-litre boot swallows enough luggage for a week away – not something you could say for a typical hot hatch.

Cupra Ateca: on the road

There’s no doubting the Cupra’s straight-line speed, but its composed chassis also means serious point-to-point pace. The taut suspension reins in body-roll, while four-wheel-drive traction helps it blast out of bends.

Cupra Ateca

The steering is pointy and direct, if hardly overflowing with feedback, and the DSG gearbox rarely finds itself in the wrong ratio. The growly turbocharged engine is always on-boost and eager, too.

Switching into one of the sportier modes amplifies this experience. The downside is a deterioration in ride quality; I found Cupra mode a little harsh for Surrey’s broken B-roads, usually settling on Sport as a best-of-both-worlds compromise.

Despite borrowing the car in the depths of winter, I never needed Snow or Off-Road modes, but the Ateca’s slimline 40-profile tyres would, frankly, be hopeless on rough terrain.

Cupra Ateca

Overall, the Cupra can’t match the measured composure of a Macan – there’s a point-and-squirt scrappiness to how it flows along a road – but it’s engaging and exciting. Try hard enough and you’ll even hear the exhausts popping on the over-run.

The rest of the time, though, this is just an easygoing 4×4: a car that ticks the requisite boxes for family life. Light steering and sensible dimensions make it straightforward to park, and official fuel economy of 38.2mpg (168g/km CO2) is achievable with a light right foot.

Verdict: 4 stars

The Cupra Ateca has much to commend it. It’s a mid-size SUV well suited to the school run and, when conditions allow, a high-riding hot hatch with a surprising turn of speed.

Cupra Ateca

A leader in a class of one, then? Well, yes and no. It’s true that premium alternatives cost upwards of £15,000 more, especially after you take options into account. But fast estate cars, not least the Seat Leon ST Cupra 300 4Drive and VW Golf R Estate, are similarly priced (£33,260 and £37,485 respectively), equally practical and better to drive. It depends how much you want the elevated driving position and status of an SUV.

As for the Cupra brand, there’s still a long way to go. Convincing buyers this isn’t simply a hotted-up Seat won’t be easy. However, if anyone can build a brand, it’s the Volkswagen Group. It transformed Audi from also-ran to premium powerhouse, and Skoda from the butt of a hundred jokes to the budget benchmark. Perhaps it’s Cupra, rather than Seat, that will become ‘the Spanish Alfa Romeo’ after all.

Five 2019 Cupra Ateca rivals

Porsche Macan 2.0
BMW X3M 40i
Mini Countryman JCW
Seat Leon ST Cupra
Volkswagen Golf R Estate

How much did our test car cost?

Cupra Ateca 2.0 TSI DSG (Comfort and Sound): £37,830

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What do millennials want in cars?

Revealed: the five things young people want in a car

What do millennials want in cars?

What do young people want from their cars? In a market where fewer are keen to get behind the wheel, the industry is scrabbling to conjure up some millennial appeal. Seat did some digging and came up with these answers…

Design

Apparently, what millennials want most out of a car is good looks. Four in 10 buyers aged between 25 and 37 said styling is one of the main reasons for buying a car. A third of under-30s consider a car to be an expression of their personality, according to Seat’s research. They want the car to reflect their individual style.

Connectivity

This is the one we most expect: millennials want connectivity. That doesn’t necessarily mean in-car wi-fi or other such services. What they want is to be able to integrate their devices. A car should be a willing companion in its driver’s technology ecosystem. One in every three millennials reckons connectivity can make or break a car.

From a simple auxiliary input for music or Bluetooth, to Apple Carplay, Android Auto and even Amazon Alexa for smartphone integration. A side note, it seems, is a good set of speakers. What’s the point of hooking up your phone if you can’t enjoy your tunes?

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Size matters

Half of buyers from this generation are very clear in their preference for small models. Just 25 percent of millennials are able to buy cars with their savings, so smaller, better-value cars appeal. SUVs and crossovers have, however, permeated this market, with 20 percent buying into higher-riding models.

Purchase preamble

Millennials pre-purchase rituals are different, too. Being the connected generation, they are no strangers to making good use of the information superhighway. Young buyers tend to research cars on the internet for as long as nine weeks before taking the plunge. That’s according to Enrique Pastor, head of market research at Seat.

Young people are also more open to advice from friends and family. As many as 23 percent consult their inner circle before making a choice. That number almost halves for buyers over 40.

What do millennials want in cars?

How we use our cars

The way millennials are getting around is changing more than any generation before them. They’re the first generation that are entertaining the idea of car-sharing. Enrique explains: “[Car-sharing is] a trend that can be expected to intensify in the future: an estimated 36 million users worldwide will be using car-sharing services by 2025.”

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