Posts

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.

Read more

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

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read more:

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?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.”

Read more:

Seat with Amazon Alexa

“Alexa, find the nearest Seat dealer” – Amazon Alexa now available in Seats

Seat with Amazon Alexa

Seat is the first automotive brand in Europe to launch Amazon Alexa in its cars. The cloud-based voice control system will give users the ability to change music, manage personal schedules, get directions and more.

Alexa, launched in 2014, has accrued more than 45,000 ‘skills’ via the Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) with which developers have actively worked to grow Alexa’s range of abilities.

Seat claims the integration of Amazon Alexa should make using the car’s features safer, too. The usual multi-step navigation process of button-pressing and menu-jumping is reduced to a simple press of the control button followed by a vocal command for Alexa to follow. Great, if it works…

The availability of the service goes back to cars manufactured after May of 2018 (MY19 cars) and fitted with Sat Nav High, so if you’ve already taken delivery of your car but it’s still fresh out the box, there’s a chance you can get Alexa.

Seat

Finding a balance

Much like Apple’s CarPlay and Android Auto, Amazon Alexa could serve as the purpose-made replacement for features that in-house development couldn’t fully realise. Voice control has been around in cars for years, as have multi-media interfaces. Only recently has the integration of systems from dedicated technology companies elevated in-car media experiences up to the standards we enjoy on our other devices.

Alexa will hopefully do the same thing for voice control as smart UIs did for in-car entertainment.

“As functionality and connectivity levels increase, we have to find a balance between usability and safety. Introducing Amazon Alexa helps us find that balance,” said Seat president Luca de Meo.

“With just a tap of the steering wheel, customers will be able to ask Alexa for music, points of interest and much more without taking eyes off the road.”

Read more:

Seat Arona

Top tips: How to pack the car for your holidays

Seat AronaWe don’t often think to hard about how we pack the boot with luggage before we go on holiday. The excitement and, more often than not the rush, mean the process isn’t completed with the precision it deserves or indeed requires.

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

The KonMari Method (trademarked, don’t you know) 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. Five different shampoos are probably not an essential
  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? Well, an efficiently packed boot is a tightly packed boot, and a tightly packed boot 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.”

Read more: 

Cupra Ateca

Seat’s sporty new Cupra sub-brand: 9 things we’ve learned

Cupra Ateca

The new Cupra sub-brand has made its official debut ahead of its public launch at next month’s Geneva Motor Show. From now on, all new sporty Cupra models will be badged solely as Cupras, without any Seat branding.

It comes as the sporty offshoot reveals its first new model in the form of the new Cupra Ateca SUV, which made an appearance at a glitzy event in Barcelona yesterday. The event – attended by media from across Europe and a number of senior executives from the Cupra brand, gave us an opportunity to find out more about what the firm stands for and how it’s going to work. Here’s what we learned.

1: Seat has an image problem

Would the Seat badge put you off buying a car? According to marketing chiefs, some people will never buy a Seat – no matter how good it is. “We could [make] the best product in the world, but for some people who are more image-sensitive, they will not take one of our cars,” Seat boss Luca de Meo told Motoring Research.

We’re not sure that’s entirely true in the UK. Sister brand Skoda hasn’t been the butt of jokes for years now, and Seat has never really been viewed as a brand to avoid. Indeed, our quick straw poll reveals that two thirds of people don’t think Seat has an image problem. Clearly, that’s not the case around the world.

“You still have, in some markets, a certain level of rejection of the Seat brand,” explained de Meo. “Starting from scratch with something new [means] we can attract customers who will not, in other cases, buy Seat.”

It’s a simple idea – some people won’t buy Seats, so removing the Seat badge and swapping it with a Cupra badge is one way of attracting new customers and charging them more money for cars. However…

2: Cupra isn’t premium

Cupra Ateca

You might think this smacks of Seat going upmarket, but doing so would tread on the toes of fellow VW Group brands Volkswagen and Audi.

“There are enough [premium brands] around and the traditional, prestigious, premium [market] is occupied,” said Seat’s sales and marketing vice president, Wayne Griffiths. “I don’t think these classical, prestigious, premium values speak to these young people.”

Cupra says it plans to attract customers from between the mainstream and premium segments, but it’s reluctant to name brands that it intends to rival. Seat already has a high level of conquest (new customers coming in from other manufacturers account for around 60 percent of sales in the UK), but the firm expects this will be even higher for Cupra.

Bosses predict around 80 percent of Cupra customers will come from other brands, moving from mainstream cars but not yet feeling ready to buy an old-fashioned premium car such as an Audi or Mercedes-Benz.

3: Cupra will be a money maker for Seat

Griffiths isn’t shy about his hopes for Cupra. “We want to double sales,” he says. “Within five years.”

That’s quite a target for a brand that’s only just separating itself from its parent company, but Griffiths points to the current figures.

“We did 10,000 [Cupra models] in 2017,” explains Griffiths. “We want to do much more than 20,000 when we have the Ateca and some other models later. But that’s in the short-term… we have to because this brand is only going to fly if it’s visible. And you’re invisible if you’re below 10 percent of the mix.

“It will be an important profit-driver but also volume for as well,” he adds.

Despite this, numbers will be deliberately limited to aid residual values and allow tempting finance and leasing deals to be offered. “The only way to make residual values better is not to build more cars than you can sell,” said Griffiths.

4: A Cupra Ibiza and Arona could be in the pipeline – but not a Mii

The brand is being launched with the 300hp Cupra Ateca SUV – but there are seven new cars planned within the next three years. An Arona and Ibiza are both being considered, but Cupra hasn’t decided whether they’ll reach production. We suspect both are likely.

“[The Ateca] will be a great opportunity for us to position the brand but we’re looking for more product as well – so, more Cupra models, because if this brand is to be sustainable in the future than it needs a product base,” said Griffiths.

“We have the Leon, we have the Ateca, we are looking at other cars in [Seat’s] range that we could do a Cupra car of – whether that’s Arona or Ibiza – or, in the future, even go as far as launching a car purely as a Cupra car. Somewhere in the future our product range will be suitable for doing that.”

When asked whether the affordable Mii city car could be on the horizon, Griffiths said: “It wouldn’t be something I’d focus on at the moment. I think there are other segments that are more profitable and more fitting with the Cupra values.”

5: Electrification will happen

Although Cupra insists there’s a future for the internal combustion engine, future models are likely to feature some sort of electrification in a bid to reach tightening emission targets.

This doesn’t mean they’ll be boring to drive, insists Cupra.

“[They’ll feature] electrification in a sporty way, not electrification in a driving fun limiting way,” said research and development chief Dr Rabe. “That means a plug-in hybrid. It’s going to be much more sporty [than current plug-in hybrids].”

Griffiths also touched on electrification – saying that Cupra will take inspiration from motorsport in a bid to lower its emissions.

“The whole issue of motorsport will move to a future where they’ll be ecological – whether that’s with electric motor sport cars you might see in the near future – or plug-in hybrid, performance hybrid or using CNG-powered cars.

“We are working in parallel to make sure this new brand is sustainable as a performance brand in an ecological environment where we have to fulfill CO2 requirements.”

6: The logo is meant to look like a tribal tattoo

Cupra Ateca

The logo, which was revealed last month, is intended to feature two back-to-back Cs while also looking like a tribal tattoo, explains Griffiths.

“It would be great to have a wonderful explanation about where [the logo] came from but it’s difficult, because it doesn’t really have a history. The brand is brand new, so there’s no heritage, it’s not trying to get something from the past which, when you look at Abarth or other brands do… all of them are trying to make their sports brands out of the past and heritage but we want to look to the future.

“It should stand for a tribal tattoo… for people who want to belong to something special without having to show off. It doesn’t have to be a star or a four rings or whatever, it’s something different. And we think this tribal thing could be a brand that attracts the younger target group.”

Although the brand goes short of insisting its customers get genuine Cupra tattoos, Griffiths hinted that all customers could be given a bracelet to make them instantly recognisable as Cupra tribe members.

“To be able to recognise these customers, we want to introduce a Cupra ID, perhaps with this bracelet, so we know who is part of this Cupra world and so that we know we can treat them properly and in a different way.”

7: One in five Seat dealers will become Cupra specialists

Although all UK Seat dealers will be able to sell new Cupra models, around 20 percent will become Cupra specialists. These will have the cars on display and available for test drive, while ‘Cupra masters’ will be on hand in the showroom and workshop to take care of customers.

“My dream is, in certain areas where there is a big Cupra demand, I can imagine having specific Cupra showrooms,” said Griffiths, adding that Cupras account for as much as 10 percent of Leon sales in areas such as Munich, which would be a sufficient demand for a Cupra-specialist dealer.

All Cupra models will come with a four-year warranty and a service and maintenance package included in the deal.

8: There’ll be a Cupra Line

Cupra Line

Can’t afford or don’t want a hardcore Cupra? The brand will also be used to sell parts for Seats. You’ll be able to buy Cupra accessories for your cooking-spec Seat.

“Why not offer [Cupra Line] to some of the Seat products?” asks Rabe. “That’s not so much performance – maybe a wheel package, maybe an interior package or something like that.

“But first of all we want to establish a brand. You will not see this spread to other cars within this year. It will come later.“

Cupra’s marketing chiefs also revealed that it’s working with fashion and sunglasses companies, meaning you’ll even be able to dress in Cupra-branded clothing.

9: You’ll be able to drive a Cupra every day

Anyone who’s driven the Cupra R will tell you that it feels a rather extreme hot hatch. Fortunately, for those of us who want to drive a Cupra every day, future cars from the brand will not be much more extreme.

“I don’t want to get rid of the daily drivability [of Seat’s Cupra models],” explains Rabe. “It is important to have that balance. The Cupra customer wants to be excited every day while driving, and therefore that balance should be there. That means on the comfort and daily-drive side, I want it to be at least the same as today, but why not go a little bit more on the edge of the sporty side?”

He adds that engineers were allowed to go a little more focussed with the Cupra R as it was a flagship model for the brand, but the Cupra Ateca will cater for a different market and won’t be as extreme. In the future, Rabe expects to offer Cupra and Cupra R versions of the same models to cater for different tastes.

In pictures: Cupra Ateca

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Read more:

The Seat Leon Cupra R is sold out in the UK

The Seat Leon Cupra R has sold out in the UK

The Seat Leon Cupra R is sold out in the UK

£35,000 for the fastest Seat ever. People scoffed. And now it’s sold out.

Yes, there’s just 24 coming to the UK, and finding 24 dedicated hot Seat fans probably wasn’t that difficult. But it’s hard to ignore the strength of its competitors: the Honda Civic Type R is just as fast and considerably cheaper, while in-house rival the Volkswagen Golf R is faster and cheaper.

“We’ve simply been blown away by the amount of interest it’s generated,” said Seat UK’s director Richard Harrison, not holding back.

“I’m delighted, and not the least bit surprised, that the UK-bound cars all found homes in such a short space of time. I’m sure their lucky owners will enjoy many years of great driving in this exclusive series.”

If you’re keen, we’re sure a handful of examples will appear on the secondhand market for inflated prices soon after deliveries begin this month (which begs the question: just how much will people be willing to pay for a souped-up Leon?).

Just 799 Leon Cupra R models will be sold worldwide – in case you’re really desperate to get your hands on one, with all UK-spec models powered by the same 310hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine as the Golf R. That’s paired with a six-speed manual (nope, you can’t have DSG) with power going through the front wheels (hence its 0.7-second 0-62mph shortfall compared to the Golf – 5.8 seconds compared to 5.1).

There’s a fancy sports exhaust system along with a rear spoiler which, Seat says, provides 20kg of downforce to aid traction. Brembo brakes will bring it to the stop, while there’s no shortage of external upgrades to tell the world you’ve spent £35,000 on a Leon. We’re talking carbonfibre detailing, ever-so-slightly flared arches and 19-inch black alloy wheels.

Buyers only get a choice of two colours: grey or black. Inside, meanwhile, has bits of Alcantara, front bucket seats and various copper highlight around the cabin.

Read more:

Seat Ateca FR

Opinion: This £32,000 Qashqai-rival proves Seat has lost its way

Seat Ateca FR

There was a time when £32,000-worth of sporty Seat was an exciting prospect. VW’s Spanish division was the king of hot hatches, capable of injecting flair into the most mundane of everyday cars.

Seat’s lost its way somewhat in recent years, though. While cars such as the Mii, Leon and last-generation Ibiza have all been perfectly good, they’ve lost that bit of panache traditionally associated with the ‘Spanish Alfa Romeo’. Why would you buy any of them over the equivalent model from in-house budget rival Skoda?

Back in 2013, Seat’s managing director at the time told Motoring Research that Seat’s future was in the mundane: “Anything that suggests they are niche and radical will not lead to further growth,” Juergen Stackmann told MR at the 2013 Frankfurt Motor Show.

Seat’s certainly been true to that statement. But things haven’t been easy for the brand. It’s only just back in the black after a decade of unprofitability – reporting an operating profit of €143.5 million last year. A year earlier, it reported a €7.3 million loss.

The manufacturer’s hopes for drastic change from being Volkswagen Group’s black sheep are pinned on one car: the Ateca. Seat’s first SUV went on sale last year, aiming to tempt Nissan Qashqai buyers and treading the way for the smaller Juke-rivalling Arona.

While a hot Cupra version of the Ateca is on its way, the sportiest version of the Ateca you can buy today is the FR model. Watch our video below to find out what exactly Seat’s done to make it sporty, but in short: bling 19-inch alloys (optional), adaptive dampers (optional) and various sporty trinkets such as a rear spoiler, aluminium pedals and beefed up wheelarches (all standard on the FR).

Even to the casual crossover enthusiast, the Ateca FR looks brilliant, especially in the sparkling Nevada White of our test car. I can understand it would seem like overkill to some, but it looks infinitely more eye-catching than its arch-nemesis, the Qashqai. That could be more to do with the Qashqai’s ubiquity than anything else, though.

It’s a shame, then, that the Ateca FR’s appearance banks cheques it can’t cash in the driving department. Many buyers are likely to opt for the 150hp 2.0-litre turbodiesel we’re testing here. While it’s fine, it’s nothing special, and even selecting Sport mode does little more than make it a touch noisier and firmer.

Four-wheel drive adds a touch of confidence on cold or wet roads, but the handling is as you’d expect for a crossover of this size. That is: predictable, safe, boring.

Too harsh? Probably. There’s little doubt about it: objectively, the Ateca is the best car Seat’s ever made. It’s practical, feels upmarket and offers good value for money, unless you go overboard on the options. But the FR’s appearance reminds us that Seats can be ultra-desirable, while the driving experience is, well, just like Volkswagen Group’s take on the Qashqai. Which is exactly what it is, and exactly what buyers want.

The sheer number of Atecas we’re already seeing on the road suggests this will definitely be the car to take Seat further into profit. And we understand why people will buy it. Heck, if I had any need for a Qashqai-shaped car, I’d probably buy an Ateca myself. But not the FR, though… if I wanted a sporty crossover, I’d wait for the Cupra.

Watch: 10 ways Seat has made this family SUV sporty

In pictures: 2017 Seat Ateca FR

>NEXT: Seat Ateca SUV revealed – can it take on the Qashqai?

Retro Road Test: SEAT Leon Cupra R

SEAT Leon Cupra R review: Retro Road Test

Retro Road Test: SEAT Leon Cupra R

It says a lot about how much the hot hatch segment has changed that the 2010 SEAT Leon Cupra R is considered ‘retro’ just four years after production ended. Sharing its engine with the Volkswagen Golf R and Audi S3, the Cupra R was one of the most powerful hot hatches money could buy back then. With depreciation bringing this model close to the £10,000 mark, should it be on your radar – or does it feel old-fashioned in 2017?

What are its rivals?

Alongside the closely-related Audi S3, Volkswagen Golf R and Volkswagen Scirocco R, the Leon Cupra R was sold at the same time as the Ford Focus ST and Honda Civic Type R (FN2) – all of which can be bought for similar money today. When this Cupra R was new in 2011, it cost £27,520 including options (£25,995 before), which made it somewhat a bargain alongside the near-£32,000 Golf R.

Which engines does it use?

Under the bonnet is the VW Group’s 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine, producing 265hp. That’s 25hp more than the regular Cupra, thanks to an ECU remap, a higher pressure fuel pump, a new intercooler and a revised exhaust system. Turbo pressure was increased, too – resulting in a 0-62mph time of 6.2 seconds. Top speed is limited to 155mph.

What’s it like to drive?

What’s it like to drive?

All that power goes through the front wheels – a brave move when the Golf R had resorted to four-wheel drive, and most front-drive rivals had a reputation for being extremely frisky under acceleration. While, naturally, the Cupra R is happy to light up its front tyres if you’re ham-fisted with the throttle, it’s no Mk1 Focus RS.

There’s no old-school limited-slip diff, but instead an electronic system that uses the ABS to apply the brakes to spinning wheels and reduce understeer. It works well: while understeer could still be an issue on-track, onBuckinghamshire B-roads we didn’t find ourselves wishing we were in the four-wheel-drive Golf.

Body-roll is well contained – despite the slab-sided MPV-esque looks – and even in the age of 300hp-plus hot hatches, it still feels very quick. Power delivery is linear, with oodles of torque available from around 2,500rpm.

Reliability and running costs

The Cupra R is too new for any big reliability issues to come to light, but it should be a fairly safe bet. Make sure you get an insurance quote before parting with any money, and don’t expect much more than 30mpg in day-to-day use. SEAT servicing should be reasonable, but obviously it’ll cost more to maintain than a regular 1.2 TSI.

Could I drive it every day?

Could I drive it every day?

Yes, of course you could. There are all the creature comforts you’d expect from a modern hot hatch (including luxurious quilted leather seats), while later models from mid-2011 got a (now a bit dated) infotainment system, Bluetooth connectivity and bi-xenon headlights as standard. It’s a practical car, with plenty of room in the back and a generously-sized boot. Kids might tire of the hard ride, though.

How much should I pay?

This is the sort of car that might be driven hard and neglected, so it’s worth paying more for a good example. We reckon a budget of around £13,000 will get you a very tidy one.

What should I look out for?

What should I look out for?

Look out for signs that it has been driven hard. This isn’t an obvious track car, but some owners may have taken their Cupra R on track days. Check the condition of the tyres (and make sure they’re a good brand) and look closely at the alloys as they’re fairly easy to kerb. Also, make sure it’s been serviced regularly.

Should I buy one?

Not everyone will be taken by the people-carrier looks, but the Leon Cupra R represents excellent value for money alongside the more expensive Golf GTI. It’s rarer, too, and we think it looks rather special in the Chrono Yellow seen here. It’ll make you grin almost as much as the latest hot hatches, but for a third of the price.

Pub fact

Pub fact

Although SEAT continues to stick with front-wheel drive for the Leon Cupra, it did briefly produce a 4×4 version of the Mk1 Leon. It was sold between 2000 and 2002, but in left-hand-drive markets only. Power came from VW’s 2.8-litre VR6 engine producing ‘more than 200hp’.

Women, know your place: the SEAT Mii by Cosmopolitan

Women, know your place: the SEAT Mii by Cosmopolitan

Women: are you afraid of the big, bad cars that haunt the city streets? Do you cower in fear at the mere thought of getting behind the wheel of the car owned by your husband or boyfriend?

Fear no more, because SEAT has built a car for ‘active young women who are really going places’. And by ‘places’, we suspect SEAT means the shops. Or cookery classes. Or the kitchen. Step forward: the SEAT Mii by Cosmopolitan.

That’s right, ladies, if you want your time spent behind the wheel to be as ‘engaging and exciting as every other facet of [your] busy, fun and fearless’ life, this is the car for you. And no, you haven’t woken up in the 1950s.

Of course, as a woman, you know your place. And right now, SEAT hopes that place is behind the wheel of ‘a car that understands the feminine side and lifestyle of the fun and fearless Cosmo girl’.

women

This feminine side extends to the ‘eyeliner-shape’ headlights, which are ‘emphasised in the same way as make-up emphasises the eye’. Even the alloy wheels offer a ‘surprise sparkle’. It’s like reading an extract from a Boots cosmetics catalogue.

Being a woman, your macho partner might not have explained the ins and outs of a car, so this handy guide to some of the Mii’s key features might help. You’ll find a Bic ‘For Her’ in the bottom of your handbag, in case you want to make some notes.

  • Hill Hold Control: to prevent roll-back
  • Air conditioning: to keep you cool
  • Optional parking sensors: to assist with that devilishly difficult activity

This is a major leap forward for equality and, as this recent SEAT promotional film reveals, ‘the woman driver can be very good’. Indeed, the film even claims that ‘when they’re good, they’re just as good as men’.

Hard to believe, right? Just watch for men ‘wobbling about’ and be sure to keep your ‘temper when the lights go red’.

The SEAT Mii by Cosmopolitan goes on sale early next year. If you have any further questions, you’ll find us in the drawing room, talking about politics and football. You know, man’s stuff.