► Bored of Qashqai et al?
► New Ateca enters crossover fray
► Tempts with tech, polished drive, low prices
The Nissan Qashqai has never had so many good-looking rivals lining up at the gate trying to steal its crossover crown. There’s the chic Renault Kadjar, the rugged Ford Kuga and now this, the angular, bronzed Seat Ateca.
The Ateca has plenty of substance too - despite being the Spanish brand’s first venture into the SUV market, it promises an entertaining drive, loads of tech and a price that threatens to undercut its established rivals.
Ateca sounds a lot like Altea…
Pure coincidence, but now you bring it up, Seat’s last crossover offering (the Altea Freetrack 4) does seem to have been swept under the rug. This is a proper SUV though, not a plastic-clad hatchback.
Its name is shared with a Spanish village, and that’s an important slice of Latin identity for a car based on a smaller version of the German VW Tiguan’s MQB platform, and constructed in Skoda’s factory in the Czech Republic.
The multinational thing goes on - even us Brits have had a small part to play in shaping cars we’ll get over here, thanks to a limited run of 200 First Edition models with a specification (in part) fettled by data crowd-sourced from UK customers.
Three standard trim levels but no FR cars
Standard cars come in S, SE, and Xcellence specifications, and we’ve got the latter on test. You can’t currently have a sporty FR trim like on the Leon and Ibiza, and there’s no Cupra, although stranger things (Evoque convertible?) have rolled off a production line.
Still, for now the top-spec is certainly generous, and Seat reckons it’ll be the big seller thanks to things like LED headlights, 18-inch alloys and sat-nav, plus a wireless phone charger and eight-colour ambient lighting scheme for the interior.
Another cool feature on this trim is a pair of bright LED puddle-lights beaming down from the door mirrors. These feature a silhouette of the car and the word Ateca, in case your neighbours get confused and think you’ve bought a Tiguan.
Fewer drivetrain options for the petrol engines
The 1.4-litre petrol unit in our test car is equipped with cylinder-on-demand technology that helps boost its efficiency under partial load. As such it produces 125g/km of CO2 and promises 52.3mpg. If you want (marginally) better figures then there’s a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder motor we’ve yet to sample.
Regardless, you can’t have four-wheel drive or an automatic gearbox with either petrol engine, but as they are more likely to be used for shorter trips and town driving that doesn’t really matter.
With 148bhp on tap and just 1349kg to shift, this version of the Ateca feels punchy at low speeds with 0-62mph arriving in 8.5 seconds. Plus it’s smoother, quieter and more refined on the motorway than the default-choice diesels. The six-speed manual is a standard VW ‘box, light but springy with a definite slot for each ratio.
Drive-mode selector but no adaptive dampers
Top-spec cars get Seat’s Drive Profile, accessed through a rotary dial to tune the throttle, steering and, in automatic cars, the gearshift map.
In our manual 1.4 this perks up the engine response and adds welcome weight to the steering, which is light and non-communicative when left in normal mode. Conspicuous in their absence here are adjustable dampers – you can have them on a VW Tiguan, but not on Ateca.
Pick a four-wheel drive model and you automatically get fancy multi-link rear suspension but two-wheel drive cars make do with a torsion beam. This is hardly a deal-breaker on an urban runaround and besides, there’s a 25-litre boot-benefit for front-drivers, packing 510 litres in total. It's big back there.
Regardless of rear axle fitted, the Ateca pulls off the usual Seat trick of being firmer than you’d expect but not to the detriment of comfort on a long haul. Plus, that stiffness means it feels more planted than a sumo wrestler and despite its size it resists bodyroll just as well too. It proved to be a real ally on the winding roads near Barcelona that we tested it on. In a nutshell? It felt just like a big Leon.
A starting price of £17,990 may get you through the doors of a Seat dealership but once you’ve climbed the engine and trim ladder a car like ours will cost £23,905 and beyond, trust us.
Still, it’s well equipped for that money and in two-wheel drive layout provides all the tall-riding crossover talents you need for tooling around town.
For our money though, the 2.0-litre diesel engine in either 148bhp or 187bhp tune felt like a more natural bedfellow, providing you do the miles to justify it. Order books for the Seat Ateca are open with deliveries due from September 2016.