The launch of the Ateca is a seismic shift for SEAT. Can the firm's first ever SUV really be a hit? We've given it a full test to find out
What do we have here?
The birth of the Ateca has huge symbolic significance. Firstly, it confirms that the rise of the SUV continues unabated with brands like SEAT, Alfa Romeo and Maserati rushing to join the party.
The second is that SEAT is in rude health and has the full trust and backing of parent group Volkswagen, no longer the recipient of discontinued rebadged Audi models.
But can SEAT repay the trust and investment and how can it put its own spin on the already tried and tested compact SUV Class.
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There is a choice of five engines to pick from, including two petrol a 1.0-litre TSI 115PS and 1.4-litre TSI 150.
Pick from a choice of three diesel engines, a 1.6-litre TDI 115, and two variants of a 2.0-litre TDI with either 150 or 190PS.
All variants get are front-wheel driven, however, four-wheel drive can be selected with the two 2.0-litre diesel engines.
Most models get a six-speed manual gearbox as standard while there’s a seven-speed DSG available as an option.
The Ateca is available in five trim levels; S, SE, SE Technology, FR and XCELLENCE. All models get alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights, 5.0in touchscreen infotainment system and split-folding rear seats. Standard safety systems include front assist, city emergency braking and pedestrian protection.
SE adds 17in alloys, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, rear parking sensors, smartphone connectivity, 8.0in colour touchscreen and Bluetooth.
SE Technology also gets 18in alloys but adds sat nav and full LED headlights.
FR gets sporty looks with unique front and rear bumpers, 18in alloys and an Alcantara interior.
XCELLENCE gets 18in alloys, a wireless phone charger, SEAT drive profiles, keyless entry and go, sat-nav, black leather seats and full LED headlights.
Prices for the entry-level version start at £17,990. We’re testing the 1.4-litre TSI petrol engine with a six-speed manual gearbox in XCELLENCE trim which costs £24,600, however, are test car has £3210 worth of options including; XCELLENCE Pack, Navigation Plus and Driving Assistance Pack.
How does it drive?
This model comes with comfort suspension but do not be fooled as it’s still got sporty handling with a hint of a sporty ride.
The Ateca handles brilliantly, staying flat even through the harshest of corners while the steering supplements this with a creamy feel, is well-weighted and direct. It’s also quick to respond and keen to turn in.
On most roads, the ride is soft and comfortable but it is susceptible to larger potholes which shows up the firmer suspension. It’s not uncomfortable but it won’t soak up the bumps like say a Renault Kadjar will.
The engine is a gem. Performing smoothly and reacting quickly to requests for performance delivered by your right leg.
Being front wheel drive, there is the very occasional wheel slip but on the whole, the grip is excellent and the Ateca barely puts a foot wrong.
The gearbox is another example of excellence, with a stubby lever and short throw. It is precise, mechanical and accurate while the clutch has a short travel and medium weighting.
On the move, the engine is quiet, however, at motorway speeds, there’s some wind noise and tyre roar.
Visibility is very good with pretty thins pillars to the front, medium to the side and a small (if angled) window at the rear helps reduce blind spots. However, this model gets a rearview camera and parking sensors.
What's it like inside?
If you’re familiar with the SEAT Leon family hatchback then the interior design will come as no surprise. Dominated by an 8.0in infotainment touchscreen, the dash is classy, well put together with soft touch plastics in all the right places where your hands, arms and elbows make contact with the car.
Chrome trim and piano black gloss help lift what can only be described as a safe design rather than an exciting one.
In the front, you get a more traditional SUV driving position, more upright like a dentist’s waiting room chair from Ikea, although the leather sports seats are comfortable and supportive.
You get a stop-start button and rotary dial between the seats to control the SEAT drive profile select. Sport, Normal, Eco and individual modes adjust the steering, engine and air-conditioning for fuel saving.
A pump lever offers a large amount of height adjustment for the driver’s seat while a rotary dial adjusts the angle of the backrest with second lever adjusting the lumbar support. In the lowest setting, there is a vast amount of head room. Some tilt adjustment would be useful as end of seat is a little too high.
The steering wheel has excellent tilt and reach adjustment and is wrapped in delicious leather.
There’s a deep and wide door bin, a slide out tray underneath the driver’s seat, sloping phone charger tray ahead of the gear lever complete with USB connectors, two cupholders between the seats with the electronic handbrake release, and a deep but averaged sized bin under the adjustable armrest. There’s also a good-sized glovebox and a glasses holder by the rearview mirror.
Access the rear is via wide opening doors and you settle into very comfortable and padded seats, which are also supportive.
Leg, knee and head room is excellent while foot room is limited by the front seat floor fixings.
In the middle is a well-padded fold-down armrest with two cupholders. There’s a reasonably sized door bin but no charging points.
Round the back, the electronic tailgate opens to a low boot sill, although there is a large lip to lean over to get to the deep boot floor. The floor, however, is large, flat and square.
On either side of the boot, a lever will lower the split-folding rear seats at a single pull, but these do leave a significant step to the boot floor when folded. This is really missing an adjustable boot floor.
The boot also gets a side compartment and two back hooks with a space saving tyre being stored under the floor.
The Ateca is claimed to return 52.3mpg on an official combined cycle.
It emits 123g/km of CO2 which puts it into the 23% BIK tax banding for company car users.
This derivative falls into insurance group 14E.
The Ateca gets SEAT’s standard three-year 60,000-mile warranty.
It’s up there as one of the best compact-SUVs on the market, with lots of kit, good looks and is really well priced.
The Ateca excels at body control, making it fun to drive and the 1.4-litre engine suits it perfectly. It barely puts a foot wrong.
Want something that rides a little more comfortable, then take a look at the Peugeot 3008.