Seat Ateca: Perfect package
Seat's Ateca is a top-of-the-class family SUV, says William Scholes
WITH SUVs homing in on a whopping 40 per cent of Europe’s new car market, it’s clear that any serious manufacturer needs to have more than one high-riding wagon in its line-up if it’s to compete for sales, writes William Scholes.
Most mainstream makers of family cars now offer SUVs of different sizes, generally following a small, medium and large pattern.
Seat is no different in this respect, though its punchy trio of SUVs - rising in size from Arona to Ateca and Tarraco - are among the most accomplished on sale.
We spent time with the Tarraco earlier this year and were impressed by its blend of refinement, practicality, style and driving pleasure; it’s perhaps the best of the seven-seat, large family SUV breed.
The Tarraco is Seat’s newest SUV, and it followed the small Arona. The bedrock of Seat’s SUV offering remains, however, the mid-size Ateca.
It arrived in 2016 to kick-start the company’s SUV plans. That meant that, much like its Volkswagen Group siblings, it was relatively late in joining this burgeoning market, but it was immediately clear that the Ateca was one of the best of a competitive bunch that included rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and Hyundai Tucson.
Several years on, and despite a flurry of new rivals, the Ateca remains in the upper echelons of the family SUV class.
That’s because it’s a great package. It manages to tick all the boxes - practical, safe, frugal, well equipped, solidly-made and versatile - but is elevated by its sharp styling and value for money price tag. It’s also one of the best family SUVs to drive.
The Ateca is available with one of the widest range of engines and transmissions in the sector.
Several years after its launch, and despite a flurry of new rivals, the Ateca remains in the upper echelons of the family SUV class
Things start with a 1.0-litre three-cylinder petrol and rise to 2.0-litre petrol and diesel units - the excellent 1.5-litre 148bhp petrol 'evo' engine is worth singling out - and include front-wheel-drive, four-wheel-drive, six-speed manual and seven-speed double-clutch automatic gearbox options.
Trim levels are similarly broad. The cheapest Ateca is a 1.0-litre SE, priced from £22,645, and the range rises to the £35k-plus full-house 2.0-litre diesel automatic four-wheel-drive 'Xcellence Lux' via SE Technology, FR, FR Sport and Xcellence.
Even in base SE form, the Ateca is well equipped. Metallic paint and alloy wheels are standard, as are an eight-inch colour touchscreen, electric-folding door mirrors, LED daytime running lights, roof rails, touchscreen, park assist, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and a high level of safety equipment - the Ateca is a five-star Euro Ncap car.
SE Technology cars gain LED headlamps, sat-nav and larger 18-inch alloys; FR denotes Seat's sporty trim, with a racier bodykit and sports seats; FR Sport cars have tasty 19-inch alloys, leather-trimmed sports seats and a ‘digital cockpit’ dashboard; and the Xcellence models are luxury orientated range-toppers.
A raised driving position and gently elevated cabin height are key to the reason SUVs have become so popular.
This might give the driver and passengers a better view of their surroundings and easier access than a comparably sized conventional hatchback, but the flip-side is a certain inherent dynamic inferiority.
The laws of physics mean that your average SUV has a higher centre of gravity than a regular family hatch, with all the negatives that implies for handling and responsiveness. They tend to be heavier, too.
Seat deserves credit for mitigating these disadvantages with the Ateca, which is one of the best to drive of its ilk.
The steering is precise and has decent feedback, and there’s bundles of grip to lean upon in more spirited driving.
Compared to its supple Leon sibling, the Ateca offers a ride on the acceptable side of firm.
The Seat also feels refined, with road and wind noise subdued for a car of this sort.
In a crowded market the Seat Ateca manages to stand out for its sheer all-round competence
The brakes are strong, the clutch well weighted and the gearchange precise; collectively, the controls have that well-oiled feeling of consistency familiar from countless other Volkswagen Group products.
The driving positon is hard to fault, too. There's an abundance of space for the rest of the family too.
Three-abreast for adults is comfortable enough in the back seat, though getting three child or booster seats installed would be a challenge.
The Ateca does not have sliding back seats such as those found in the Volkswagen Tiguan or Kia Sportage, nor can the rear seats be removed altogether as they can in the Skoda Karoq.
Still, for most people the large, square-shaped boot with its flat floor and low load lip will be more than sufficient.
The volume differs between front-wheel-drive and all-wheel-drive models, with 510 litres playing 485 litres because of the extra hardware associated with the four-wheel-drive system.
The Ateca has also won praise for its towing abilities, winning the 1,400kg-1,549kg category at this summer’s annual Tow Car Awards; judges praised the Seat’s “stability, punchy performance and overall practicality”.
In a crowded market the Seat Ateca manages to stand out for its sheer all-round competence. That it’s also value for money, good to look at and nice to sit in means it should definitely be on your check-list if you’re in the market for a family SUV.
AT A GLANCE
Seat Ateca SE Technology 1.5 TSI EVO
Engine and transmission: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo, front-wheel-drive, six-speed manual gearbox; 148bhp, 184lb.ft
Performance: Top speed 123mph, 0-62mph in 8.5 seconds
Fuel consumption and CO2: 40.4mpg-42.8mpg (WLTP combined), 126g/km
Car tax: £170 in first year, then £145 annually
Benefit in kind: 29 per cent
Euro Ncap safety rating: Five stars (93/84/71/60), 2016