► First Seat SUV proves crossovers don’t have to be dull
► Smallest engine’s a 1.0 petrol; 148bhp diesel suits it well
► Expected to cost upwards of £18,000, on sale from May
Joining the ever-burgeoning ranks of mid-sized SUVs is the Seat Ateca, the Spanish brand’s first foray into the crossover arena.
Forget the Leon X-Perience and Altea Freetrack 4, the Ateca’s the real deal. SEAT’s done its corporate homework and launched a car that’s going to immediately trouble the Kia Sportage, Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar for class honours.
Isn’t it just a Leon in hiking boots?
Certainly, the Ateca follows VW Group’s well-trodden path of riding on the modular MQB architecture, utilising the ‘A1’ version that’s more closely aligned to the Leon – rather than the larger ‘A2’ edition.
That latter derivative underpins the second-generation VW Tiguan and the production version of the Skoda Vision S concept revealed at the Geneva motor show.
Consequently, the Seat will only be a five-seater, albeit one with a generous 510-litre boot in front-wheel drive form. Atecas with the 4Drive all-wheel-drive system lose 25 litres of capacity thanks to the driven rear axle and different suspension arrangement.
While two-wheel drive Atecas employ a simpler torsion beam set-up at the back, all-wheel drive versions – expected to make up around 15% of Seat’s UK allocation – feature a more complex multi-link arrangement.
Is it fit for the rigours of family life?
Adults will generally find the Ateca comfortable, although the fifth occupant in the central rear seat will feel cramped, rather than cosy. Headroom in the back is impressive, though; six-footers won’t have to crick their necks negotiating a coupe-like roofline.
Sensibly, for a car designed to accommodate the requirements of kids and their associated clutter, there’s a wealth of storage cubbies, cup holders and compartments in all four doors. You can also have your tailgate and optional tow bar electrically powered should you wish. A variable-height boot floor will also be available, bolstering the Ateca’s practicality further.
You’ll have already spotted that the dashboard’s effectively been lifted from the Leon, save for a few brown-hued details and appliques on high-end models. The Ateca is the first Seat to be available with the eight-inch infotainment touchscreen upgrade already seen elsewhere within the VW empire, however.
Presumably the handling’s not as keen as a Leon’s?
The Ateca rides more firmly than rivals but not to the point of it being irritatingly fidgety, even on the optional 19-in rims available fitted to the flagship versions. Disappointingly, there’s no sign of adaptive dampers finding their way onto the Ateca any time soon, which may have provided a wider breadth of talent.
Despite sitting 13cm higher than you would in a Leon, there’s little drama or amplified body roll as you hustle the Ateca through bends – in fact, you’re only really aware of your commanding vista when in close proximity to more conventional cars, with your eye line elevated to their roof height.
While the Ateca stays true to your intended line through corners, there’s a tad less communication about what the front wheels are up to than we’ve become accustomed to from Seats of late – perhaps as a result of the need to make it reasonably adept off-road.
Clearly it’s not a go-anywhere, all-terrain vehicle but it’s pleasingly competent off-road, easily dealing with rugged landscapes, and it has a useful ground clearance of 187mm. Six driving modes are selectable from a dial set behind the gear lever; on front-wheel-drive Atecas there are four programs to choose from. Hill decent control is fitted, too, making off-road excursions easier.
Not every hatchback buyer migrating to a crossover wants to lose the inherent sportier dynamics of the car they’re leaving behind and it’s this in particular that Seat’s honed in on, with an SUV that remains enjoyable to drive. It bodes well for the more powerful FR versions which have engineers hinted will be made available later.
Turbochargers all round
Three diesels and a pair of petrols will be offered in the Seat Ateca from launch, all featuring turbocharging for both performance and economy purposes. The line-up is as follows:
- 1.0 TSI: 3-cyl petrol, 113bhp @ 5000rpm, 148lb ft @ 2000rpm, 113mph, 54mpg, 121g/km
- 1.4 TSI: 4-cyl petrol, 148bhp @ 5000rpm, 184lb ft @ 1500rpm, 125mph, 52mpg, 125g/km
- 1.6 TDI: 4-cyl diesel, 113bhp @ 3250rpm, 184lb ft @ 1500rpm, 114mph, 65mpg, 112g/km
- 2.0 TDI: 4-cyl diesel, 148bhp @ 3500rpm, 251lb ft @ 1750rpm, 126mph, 64mpg, 114g/km
- 2.0 TDI: 4-cyl diesel, 187bhp @ 1750rpm, 295lb ft @ 1750rpm, 132mph, 56mpg, 131g/km
All the engines are familiar from other members of the VW Group stable, although you won’t find the 1.0-litre triple in the forthcoming Tiguan. Then again, it’s heftier than the lightest Ateca, which reputedly tips the scales at 1280kg.
There’ll be no all-wheel-drive petrols featured in the UK line-up; Seat expects the FWD 1.4-litre TSI with ACT cylinder shut-off and the lower-powered 2.0-litre diesel to be most popular.
Seat’s 148bhp 2.0 TDI, when coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox, proved to strike a sensible balance between real-world performance, reasonable economy – the trip computer suggested a decent 49mpg – and refinement.
If you’re looking for a self-shifter, the seven-speed DSG ’box is available on the 1.4-litre TSI, the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI and as standard on 187bhp 2.0-litre TDI with 4Drive.
Should I hold off buying a rival offering?
Unless you’re in an immediate need to chop in your current car, the Seat Ateca’s worth waiting for. Prices for the three-tier line-up will be confirmed in May, but Seat’s confirmed they’ll start at £17,990. Even if you order one then you’ll be waiting until September – at least – before you can take delivery.
Seat may have arrived later than ideal at the SUV party but the Ateca’s more memorable – and more fun – than most in this segment.
New Seat Ateca crossover in pictures: Spanish rival for Qashqai SUV