When is a SEAT Ateca not a SEAT Ateca? When it’s a Cupra Ateca, of course. The name isn’t new – the badge was previously used for performance versions of the SEAT Ibiza and SEAT Leon – but the Ateca is the first release to wear the sub-brand’s tribal logo.

SEAT has gone to great lengths to remove all traces of the company’s badge from the Cupra Ateca, but the fact remains that this is essentially a repackaged version of the excellent SEAT Ateca SUV. Other bespoke Cupra models will follow in the future, but for now, this is our first taste of the Cupra brand.

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And it’s a good start. Power comes from the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged engine you’ll find in cars such as the SEAT Leon Cupra, Volkswagen Golf R and Golf GTI, and here it delivers 296bhp and 400Nm of torque. As a result, this SUV with hot hatch aspirations will sprint from 0-62mph in 5.2 seconds.

It’s a testament to the work of the engineers and designers that Cupra’s take on the Ateca feels wildly different to that of SEAT’s. And ‘wildly’ is a good choice of word, because the car is a riot to drive. In fact, we think it’s one of the finest handling cars in its class.

Not that the Cupra Ateca plays in a particularly large playground. The Spaniards reckon the Cupra Ateca is without rivals, and to a certain extent, this is correct. The Skoda Kodiaq vRS is also trying to grab a slice of the performance SUV pie, but the Cupra feels like a budget Porsche Macan or Audi SQ5 in comparison.

It’s not cheap, mind. While a top-spec SEAT Ateca will set you back around £34,000, Cupra prices start at £36,000, increasing to as much as £41,000 when both the available options boxes have been ticked.

That’s still cheaper than an entry-level Macan, however, and Cupra hasn’t skimped on the standard specification. Every car comes with 19-inch diamond-cut alloy wheels, metallic paint, full LED headlights, wireless phone charging, a host of safety and connectivity technology and a digital dashboard.

296bhp and sharp handling combine to create one of the most exhilarating SUVs you can buy

Reasonable fuel economy for a performance SUV, but VED will be expensive if you go overboard with options

The use of high-end materials and a digital dashboard give the Cupra Ateca a premium feel

Practicality is almost on a par with the SEAT version, but the boot is slightly smaller

The Cupra Ateca is likely to be as reliable as the SEAT version, with buyers treated to a personalised service

The digital dashboard uses the same technology as Audi’s Virtual Cockpit, and the Cupra is the only version of the Ateca to feature this excellent display. A £2,000 Comfort & Sound pack adds additional safety items, a space-saver spare wheel, electric tailgate, Beats audio system and heated front seats.

A Design pack costs just under £3,500 and features 18-inch Brembo brakes, 19-inch copper wheels and black interior styling. You could add both packs, but this nudges the Cupra Ateca into the higher rate of VED.

The Czech-built Cupra Ateca will be sold via 25 Cupra specialists in the UK, while the car’s first three scheduled services are included in the price.

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