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Seat Ateca long-term test: the EcoTSI that's finally living up to its name

Published: 02 August 2017

► Seat Ateca long-term test review
► A new Xcellence 1.4 joins CAR
► We live with the SUV for half a year

Month 3 living with a Seat Ateca: economy improvements

We need to talk about fuel economy. Because, for once on a long-term test, I’m happy with it. On daily commutes and a weekend trip to Longleat, the Ateca petrol has kept improving to 35.1mpg – and then I found the Eco button mid-April.

This could be labelled ‘Emasculation’ in some cars, but it has modest impact in the Ateca: feeling like it restricts the throttle opening without making the pedal feel disconnected, and improving air-con efficiency.

Given summer is still around the corner, I’ve further improved air-con efficiency by keeping it off. Throw in more measured driving, plus two cylinders shutting down under light load, and I eked 38mpg out of a tank. That’s 4mpg more than I averaged in the Disco Sport diesel.

By Phil McNamara

Logbook: Seat Ateca Xcellence 1.4

Engine 1395cc 16v turbocharged 4-cyl, 148bhp @ 5000rpm, 184lb ft @ 1500rpm  
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive  
Stats 8.5sec 0-62mph, 125mph, 123g/km CO2 
Price £24,440  
As tested £28,650  
Miles this month 2023
Total miles 5334
Our mpg 34.8
Official mpg 52.3 
Fuel this month £318.37
Extra costs £0


Month 2 living with a Seat Ateca: first impressions

I’ve quickly got the measure of the Ateca, both good and niggling. Most importantly, it’s fine dynamically, handling like a sorted estate rather than a roly-poly SUV.

Compare it with Ben Miller’s Ford Edge daily driver: the Seat’s responsive and the consistent steering shames the Ford’s. The Seat can’t match its languid ride though. And with my last four cars having run diesels, the 1.4 petrol’s smooth civility from idle to 4000rpm is welcome.

No point revving it harder as it becomes strained, and short-shifting boosted mpg to 34.6 this month. There are snags, though. The DAB radio loses reception four or five times per commute and this Ateca is sensitive to crosswinds. And despite following the manual’s tips, I can’t get the mirrors to automatically fold when parked. 

By Phil McNamara


Month 1 living with a Seat Ateca: the long-term test review introduction

Show me a person with a clear definition of a crossover and I’ll show you someone who works in car marketing. Now that most SUVs have unibody construction, and given you can buy two-wheel-drive Range Rovers and Jeeps, the boundaries have become a wee bit blurred. But if ever there was a crossover, it is our new Seat Ateca

Seat Ateca long-term test review by CAR magazine

It looks like an estate car after a vigorous session on the rack, with the torturer rearranging its wheelarches too and ramming in 19-inch rims. You will search in vain for a propshaft; only the 2.0-litre diesel can be had with four-wheel-drive capability. This is a slightly higher-riding, taller passenger car weighing 1349kg – a mere Hollywood starlet of mass more than a Leon ST estate.

So we felt we could foresake a diesel’s grunt for the flagship petrol, a 1.4-litre EcoTSI with 148bhp. This turbocharged VW group engine claims to be the world’s first four-cylinder with active cylinder shutdown. Lift-off to cruise and the little ‘eco’ message in the binnacle is the only indication fuel-saving witchcraft’s at work: cylinders two and three have downed tools. 

In the lab, the Ateca EcoTSI returns 52.3mpg. My first month of mostly motorway commuting averaged 32.3mpg. Just the cool 20mpg difference, but only 1.5mpg worse than my previous car – a diesel Land Rover Discovery Sport – managed during its year at CAR.

Seat claims the engine delivers 184lb ft of torque at 1500rpm – clearly by Royal Mail though, because forward momentum can be gentler than a Roy Clarke punchline south of 2000 revs. Things pick up fizzily thereafter: the Ateca 1.4 recovers to an 8.5sec acceleration time. Our transmission is a six-speed manual with a springy, eager action; the seven-speed, DSG double-clutch automatic costs an extra £1350. 

Inside the Seat Ateca cabin: ours is Xcellence trim

The Ateca range kicks off at £17,990 for a 1.0-litre three-cylinder S. Waltz up through SE and SE Technology trim levels to find our £24,400 Xcellence (sic) model. If this was a paella, it would include truffle oil, lobster and caviar. Uniquely standard items include heated sports seats upholstered in black leather, tinted glass, automated LED headlamps and wipers, rear-view parking camera, keyless entry, a choice of eight interior light colours and wing mirrors that shine Ateca branding by your feet. 

We added the £1225 Xcellence pack to our Xcellence model; Seat product planners must be big Bill and Ted fans. The 8-inch colour touchscreen then relays a top-view rendering of the car while manoeuvring (useful for checking you’re within a bay’s outer limits); automated parking and the endlessly amusing ‘virtual pedal’ also figure.

Waggle your foot under the bumper, and the electric tailgate opens and closes. My verdict so far: works fine on the way up, not so well on the way down. You wouldn’t fly with an airline that uses that motto. 

Browse Seat Ateca for sale

Standard safety equipment includes radar-based forward collision-warning which can automatically brake the car, and a tiredness recognition system. Both these dozy driver systems are unobtrusive, unlike in some test cars. They contribute to the Ateca’s five-star Euro NCAP rating.

Spend £630 on the Driving Assistance Pack to layer on lane departure warning, speed limits relayed onto the sat-nav screen and blind spot detection. We also added the £1100 panoramic sunroof, for an options total of £4210 and £28,650 all in. Puts the previous incumbent’s £46,615 into perspective, regardless of the Land Rover’s four-wheel drive and seven-seat benefits.

First impressions are of a compact, agile car with slick, linear steering, and a generally comfortable gait undermined by the big rims and slender sidewalls transmitting road imperfections. This petrol crossover feels like a zeitgeisty car to run. With a big question mark over the diesel engine, is this petrol engine a genuine alternative? And what about this VW group car that’s built in the Czech Republic epitomises Seat’s Spanish values? We’ll find out over the next five months.

By Phil McNamara

Seat Ateca: CAR magazine's long-term test review

Logbook: Seat Ateca Xcellence 1.4

Engine 1395cc 16v turbocharged 4-cyl, 148bhp @ 5000rpm, 184lb ft @ 1500rpm  
Transmission 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive  
Stats 8.5sec 0-62mph, 125mph, 123g/km CO2
Price £24,440  
As tested £28,650  
Miles this month 1173  
Total miles 1260  
Our mpg 32.3  
Official mpg 52.3
Fuel this month £201.34  
Extra costs £0

More Seat reviews by CAR magazine

By Phil McNamara

Editor-in-chief of CAR magazine

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