Seat makes up for lost time in the SUV segment by releasing an absolute star
Seat’s launch for the new Ateca featured a drive-in movie theatre complete with giant screen, popcorn and a big-budget trailer for the all-new compact SUV.
It was a suitably showy event for such an important vehicle for the Spanish manufacturer. The Ateca aims not just to tick a box in the compact SUV category but to become the brand’s “third pillar” alongside the Ibiza and Leon.
It’s a big ask, the market is dominated by the long-term poster-car for compact SUVs – the Nissan Qashqai – and is crowded with serious contenders such as the Kia Sportage, Renault Kadjar and Hyundai Tucson.
The good news for Seat is that their latecomer looks to be a star in the making.
Seat Ateca XCELLENCE 2.0 TDI 4Drive
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel
Transmission: Six-speed manual driving all four wheels
Top speed: 122mph
0-62mph: 9 seconds
Fuel economy: 55.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 129g/km
It’s certainly got movie-star looks. A family resemblance to the sharp-looking Leon does it no harm but squared-off wheel arches and deep bumpers give it an unmistakable SUV style. The sharp lines and creases from the trapezodial headlights back also give it a clean, classy look, leaving it vying with only the VW Tiguan for the best-looking small SUV crown.
Ride and handling
Of course, to be a real movie star you can’t just look good, you’ve got to be able to glide along the red carpet like you own it.
In the Ateca’s case for red carpet read rutted, pock-marked disaster zones that are most British urban roads.
The ride is obviously more pliant on smaller wheels but even on the top-spec Excellence’s 19-inch alloys it is acceptable, dealing better with rough city surfaces than some rivals, and feeling noticeably smoother than the Tiguan, with which its shares the VW Group’s MQB platform.
On faster A roads it continues to dampen most shoddy surfaces while maintaining good body control.
Engines and performance
The Ateca comes with a choice of two petrol – 1.0-litre 114bhp and 1.4-litre 148bhp– and three diesel engines – a 1.6-litre 114bhp and a 2.0-litre in 148bhp or 187bhp tunes.
The 1.0 is probably suited only to drivers who rarely venture beyond the urban limits – its relatively lowly output being exposed on faster roads. The 1.4, on the other hand is a more refined and rounded prospect and cylinder shutdown technology means it promises up to 53.3mpg on the combined test cycle.
Of course, the diesels offer better economy – as much as 65.7mpg from the 1.6, with emissions of 113g/km. The 148bhp however, is expected to be the best-seller. As with every VW Group car in which it appears, in the Ateca the 2.0-litre diesel offers the ideal blend of refinement, pulling power and economy for almost any buyer.
A six-speed manual gearbox is standard but buyers of the 2.0-litre diesels can specify the smooth-shifting seven-speed DSG auto as well as the latest-generation Haldex four-wheel-drive system, although Seat only expect around 15 per cent of buyers to bother with this.
Acknowledging how competitive the segment is, Seat is aggressively chasing buyers by ensuring the Ateca packs in the latest equipment.
Every model gets a package of safety features that includes front assist with emergency braking and pedestrian protection, multi-collision braking, hill hold control and an XDS electronic differential lock.
At a starting price of £17,990 the S undercuts its rivals and is on a par with the Qashqai in terms of equipment. Renault’s most basic Kadjar Expression+ and Kia’s Sportage 1, however, pack more in for their slightly higher starting prices.
Stepping up to an Ateca SE, however, brings a wealth more equipment, with an eight-inch colour touchscreen, parking sensors, cruise control and dual-zone climate control among the key upgrades for the extra £1,600, although sat nav is still only an option.
A limited-run First Edition with a spec decided upon by the public ladles on tech, much of which is shared with the top-of-the-range Excellence. This includes DAB radio sat nav, keyless entry, wireless phone charging, hands-free boot release and a reversing camera.
Even fully laden, a four-wheel-drive 148bhp Excellence will cost you less than £30,000 and Seat claim that across the whole range the Ateca is an average three per cent cheaper than its rivals.
Interior and practicality
Whichever trim you go for the Seat’s interior outshines its rivals. It’s a lesson in classy looks, ease of use and quality materials and leaves the likes of the Qashqai and Kadjar for dead.
It’s also airy, comfortable and ahead of its competitors when it comes to passenger and luggage space. Leg, shoulder and head room are good and behind the seats there’s 510-litre boot.
So, with style and substance and plenty of talent the Ateca looks likely to be a box-office star.