Sleeker, more technically, advanced Ibiza will boost Seat’s image, claims UK boss
The latest Seat Ibiza is the first car to be built on a new platform that’s crucial to the success of future Volkswagen Group superminis and small SUVs.
Sleeker, more technically, advanced Ibiza will boost Seat’s image, claims UK boss
The latest Seat Ibiza is the first car to be built on a new platform that’s crucial to the success of future Volkswagen Group superminis and small SUVs.
On the one hand, the fact the Seat Ateca is such a blindingly good car is a formbook-shredding shock. Seat has never built a crossover before. Frankly, it’s several years late offering a model in the world’s fastest-growing car-sales battleground. A place where it’s increasingly difficult to innovate, stand out or upset the established order. Well, the Ateca does.
There seems little doubt that the Seat annals will mark 2016 as the year of the Ateca, the thorough, appealing and well-rounded compact crossover that (if there’s any justice) ought to significantly fatten the slender profit reported by the Spanish brand recently. Nevertheless, an update to its family-sized Leon should not be understated; the Ateca maybe the tree branch with all the blossom on it, but it is only there by the grace of the hatchback trunk.
The bearpit of intense competition that is the current SUV-crossover scene is new territory for SEAT. Not for its Volkswagen Group cousins, though. VW has the closely related Tiguan, Skoda does very well with the highly-regarded Yeti, and Audi weighs in with the Q3. Even VW-owned Bentley is in on the SUV scene with its vast Bentayga. Until now, though, SEAT has been absent from this fast-growing sector, but no longer, and although a relatively late arrival, it has now come in with a highly credible contestant in the Ateca. First we need to know how to pronounce it: as A-tech-a, not as A-tikka. “It’s not a curry”, was the stern message at the car’s UK launch. What it is, happily for SEAT, is a well-proportioned, stylish and good-to-drive crossover model that is reasonably priced against some tough competition. Although elevated seating and general practicality are what has wooed many buyers into crossovers, driving calibre hasn’t always seemed a strong priority. So what instantly pleases about the Ateca, from the first few minutes behind the wheel, is how taut and relatively sporty it feels. SEAT’S crossover handles with aplomb, has good body control and pert steering.
The re’s not much lean on the bends, and it tucks in very nicely when you push it hard along a country lane.The set-up prioritises handling precision ahead of ride comfort, because it thumps rather firmly across some of the potholed back roads, but that’s a tolerable drawback in a car that is clearly engineered to be a driver-pleaser.
Because of the calm handling and very modest body movement on the bends, the Ateca impresses as a car in which the driver can have a bit of fun behind the wheel without making the kids sick in the back.The 114bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine does a very sturdy job of powering a car that is slightly lighter than some rivals.The Ateca feels much more zestful with the bigger 2.0-litre diesel unit, but you also pay a penalty in an increase of engine noise. The cabin design is smart, with big air vents and a navigation-infotainment screen nicely positioned high in the dash, above a downward-curving centre console.The upper fascia is squidgy to the touch and nicely tactile, but elsewhere the plastic surfaces are unyielding and look a bit cheaper. It’s a roomy-feeling cabin, though, with plenty of headroom and pretty fair leg space all round. At 510 litres the boot is bigger than those of many key rivals. A Qashqai’s is quite a bit smaller at 430 litres, aTiguan’s is 470 litres, while the Renault Kadjar has 472 litres. The Ateca looks well priced, although it climbs steeply as you move up the range, and inevitably the 4×4 versions are costlier.
All models from the base level S upwards come with alloy wheels, air conditioning, a five-inch touchscreen. Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, autonomous emergency braking, driver drowsiness detection and split-fold back seats. Move up to mid-specification SE and there’s a larger eight-inch touchscreen, power folding door mirrors, cruise control, rear parking sensors and dual-zone climate control, while on SE Technology versions there’s also full-LED headlights, DAB radio, a navigation system and 18-inch bi-coloured alloy wheels. The top-of-the-range Xcellence model also features rear privacy glass, leather upholstery, wireless mobile phone charging, keyless entry and start and a reversing camera, as well as automatic headlights and wipers and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
The model we test here was created as a result of crowdsourcing and the most popular items of equipment, according to public opinion, were used to create this short-run First Edition version. Similar in equipment to the SE Technology model, it also features an electric rear tailgate, reversing camera and rear privacy glass, and is paired exclusively to the 1.6-litre TDI Ecomotive engine. As a latecomer to the crossover arena the Ateca needs something a bit special to elbow its way in, and it has it in a driving calibre that deserves to get it noticed. Just don’t pronounce it like a curry if you decide to book a test drive.
To make a good seat you need a minimum of three legs, but at present Seat is relying on just two. The Ibiza and Leon make up the majority of sales here in the UK, but after a modest 2015 the Spanish arm of the Volkswagen Group is striking out, starting with the Ateca.
We’ll ignore the Altea-related false starts and say that the Ateca is the first genuine SUV to come from Seat, sharing some crucial underpinnings with the latest generation Tiguan and the Skoda Kodiaq. It’s the first step on a product offensive that will also include a B-segment SUV, proving that Seat is serious about broadening its scope. It’s necessary too and something that buyers are keen on; Seat says it’s the first car it’s had orders for even before it’s reached the UK.
Despite the shared innards, the Ateca and Tiguan don’t obviously appear related at first glance. With heavy influence from the Leon the Seat looks a little taller and wears its edgy flanks well, giving off an air of off-road toughness. That the closest an Ateca will get to the countryside is carrying a repro of The Hay Wain in the boot is irrelevant; it at least looks ready to get its boots dirty.
Inside there’s more apparent carryover from the Leon, although there’s nothing wrong with that. The layout is refreshingly straightforward and easy to figure out, with clear ventilation controls and the touchscreen taking care of almost everything else. Entry-level S models get a humble mono five-inch effort but SE and above get the larger eight-inch version that adds Bluetooth and voice control, with MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay fitted to suit all religions. There’s a stack of additional tech to choose from, including wireless phone charging and bird’s-eye cameras – even the highest grade navigation system is only £915.
Better still, the Ateca is generously spacious. From the box seat the low scuttle gives a good view out, even if you jack the seat all the way to its lowest setting, while the high sides help you ignore the outside world. Head and legroom up front are excellent and in the back it’s equally impressive; you can even shove a normal-sized adult behind a giant without breaching human rights conventions. The same goes for the boot, which is just a couple of six-packs short of the class best and the cabin is dotted with useful storage cubbies in which to lose your stuff.
Fire up the expected best-selling 1.6 TDI Ecomotive model and the worst four-cylinder diesel grumbles are filtered out. With a little more weight to carry than in the Leon performance is adequately brisk – 0-62mph taking 11.5 seconds – but you’ll want to avoid thrashing past 4000rpm as the 113bhp unit makes itself heard. But there’s useful torque beyond 1500rpm and the six-speed manual offers a chunky but pleasing shift action.
Less impressive is the ride quality, which fidgets over small bumps while managing bigger undulations without fuss. Four-wheel-drive versions get a multi-link setup at the rear which copes better, but it’s an expensive upgrade to solve a minor quibble. The silver lining is that the Ateca has no qualms should you turn hooligan, with little bodyroll and enough grip to keep you out of trouble.
Crucially for most the Ateca is bang on the money when it comes to pricing and spec. This SE model has 17-inch alloys, cruise control, dual-zone climate and LED lights front and rear yet squeaks under £22,000 where most rivals fall the wrong side. Like Leon and Ibiza, the Ateca is strong enough to stand on its own four wheels and not just a Seat spin on a group product.
Seat Ateca SE 1.6 TDI Ecomotive
Engine: 1598cc turbocharged diesel 4-cyl
Power: 113bhp @ 3250-4000rpm
Torque: 184lb ft @ 1500-3250rpm
Transmission: 6-speed manual, front-wheel drive
Top speed: 114mph
On sale: Now
Good enough to cancel the Qashqai
The Spanish town of Ateca has only 2000 residents, so it’s on the small side. It also suggests that some thought has gone into the naming of the Seat Ateca, but don’t let that fool you into believing that this isn’t a roomy family car, because it is.
The Ateca is a small SUV in the same mould as rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportagc.
For many, diesel would be the default engine choice in a car like this, but the 1.4-litre petrol version looks like an interesting alternative. Firstly, it develops a worthy 148bhp. Secondly, with cylinder-on-demand technology that lets it run on two cylinders on a light throttle, it’s pleasingly efficient. So much so, in fact, that it incurs less company car tax than the diesel.
“It’ll happily sing to 6000rpm when you need to put on a spurt”
This engine feels like the perfect fit for the Ateca. You can ride the swell of torque that builds from 1500rpm onwards when you wish for relaxed progress, or it’ll happily sing to 6000rpm when you need to put on a spurt. It sounds good, too: slightly gravelly but never grumbly or coarse.
It’s available solely with a six-speed manual gearbox, but unless you are absolutely wedded to the idea of an auto, you won’t mind. The shift action is slick and the clutch is light and positive; throw in the progressive brakes and there’s a welcome fluidity to it even in snarled-up traffic.
That said, on freer-flowing roads and motorways you are aware of some wind and tyre noise,but then you could say the same about any of its rivals. All in all, then, the Ateca is a pretty relaxing motorway cohort.
But why sit on the motorway when Seat has done such a fine job of making its SUV scoot through corners? It’s no hot hatch, true, but compared with its rivals, the Ateca is quite the twinkle toes. It changes direction with zeal, helped by the rack’s accurate gearing and intuitive build-up of weight as you pile on lock. Feel through the rim isn’t great, but then looking at the class as a whole, we weren’t really expecting it to be.
The spring and damper rates feel nicely honed, so instead of demonstrating the usual SUV trait of bucking like a bronco over crests and dips, the Ateca stays on a tight leash. It’s a similar theme through any roundabout or bend taken with vigour; despite its height, the Ateca doesn’t lurch like a weeping willow caught by a hefty gust.
There is, of course, payback for this: the ride is firm. With 17in wheels, the Ateca deals with lighter surface undulations admirably well but inevitably jolts over larger, sharper-edged intrusions. However, avoid the optional 19in wheels, which really exacerbate the problem, and it’s an acceptable compromise.
The Leon-derived cabin isn’t the most imaginative piece of interior design, but the upper materials feel pleasantly squidgy. Lower down, that plush ness gives way to harder, scratchier plastics, but at this price point that’s not uncommon.
The steering wheel and seats have enough movement – including driver and passenger seat height and lumbar adjustment – to adapt to different body shapes, and there’s plenty of head and leg room.
There’s ample leg room for two tall adults in the rear, while head room is impressive. And you can fit three across the rear bench in reasonable comfort, provided your trio accepts some shoulder rubbing. In fact, the only real flaw is that there’s no sliding or reclining rear bench like you find in a Volkswagen Tiguan; then again, the Ateca is a much cheaper option than its VW Group stablemate.
The boot is a fraction bigger than a Qashqai’s, so you’ll have no problems fitting in a couple of large suitcases or fold-up buggies, but do go for the optional dual-height boot floor, which lets you separate out delicate items and reduces the step left when you fold down the rear seats.
The Ateca is as good as it gets for the class: it’s practical and has a fine blend of ride and handling. We’re road testing the 1.6TDI soon, but if you’re even the slightest bit dieselphobic, pick this 1.4 TSI150.
It’s cheaper on company car tax and offers way more performance, but if you’re doing a lot of miles, just bear in mind that it won’t quite match the diesel’s overall fuel economy.
Engine: 4cyls, 1395cc, turbo, petrol
Power: 148bhp at 5000-6000rpm
Torque: 184lb ft at 1500-3500rpm
Gearbox: 6-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1349kg (est)
Top speed: 145mph
Economy: 53.3mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 122g/km, 21%
Rivals: Nissan Qashqai 1.2 DIG-T, Kia Sportage 1.6-T GDI
Model tested: 1.6 TDI Ecomotive SE Price: £21,900 Power: 114 bhp Torque: 184lb ft 0-60mph: 10.5sec
Fuel economy: 50.2mpg C02 emissions: 113g/km
It seems hardly five minutes ago that the perennial Seat-related question was not a matter of shiny new product but whether the Spanish car maker could possibly hope to survive its seemingly endless non-profit status. Last-chance survival plans and borrowing end- of-lineAudi machinery have featured in the manufacturer’s recent past, as has filling itsMartorell factory with Q3 production in an effort to finally make it a cost-effective operation.
Now,though,the future looks suddenly bright. The firm actually claimed a wafer-thin profit for last year, evidence that its latest business plan was on the right track – a track leading inexorably to this, the proclaimed light at the end of the tunnel: the Ateca. It’s possible to overstate the importance of the introduction of a crossover into some manufacturers’ 1ine-ups, but probably not in Seat’s case, where the chronic lack of anything SUV-shaped meant that the brand was virtually absent from half of the current car market.
The Ateca plugs that hole in style. Closely related to the Volkswagen Tiguan and the upcoming second- generation Skoda Yeti, this Spanish interpretation of the SUV looks mildly sensational and, with a very small petrol engine aboard, can be had for less than £18,000. That makes it cheaper to buy than the equivalent entry-level Nissan Qashqai, the car Seat is obviously hoping to blow from the water.
While harbouring that same ambition has not resulted in a host of other manufacturers overcoming Nissan’s superstar, recent group testing has already revealed the top-spec Ateca to have all the makings of a new class leader. Now, though, we descend into the fleet-biased nitty gritty: road testingthecar not with the more powerful engine and drivetrain to which Nissan doesn’t really possess an answer, but with the far more modest front-wheel drive/small diesel combination that it most certainly does. The mid-spec 1.6TDI SE model we have here starts at£21,900 – practically the same money that buys you a Qashqai 1.5dCiAcenta. Game on.
It is to the Ateca’s good fortune that the current generation of Leon has always been considered something of a looker since its launch in 2013 – because, rather conspicuously, that car is the design inspiration here.
A ‘big brother’ is the description apparently favoured in Martorell, and that’s largely the way it transpires in the metal, with the crossover sporting a similar quota of sharplines and high shoulder creases.
There is a sibling relationship with the Tiguan, too, that car being the firs SUV outing for the omnipresent MQB platform underneath both it and the Ateca, but this association is kept firmly under wraps. For one, the Ateca is noticeably shorter than the larger-scale VW, and for another, it’s decidedly more sporty-looking.
This, of course, is no accident.
In keeping with the rest of the interior, there’s often a nagging feeling that you’ re not getting quite as slick an experience from Seat’s menu interface as you would Volkswagen’s, despite the fact that it’s mostly just a retread of the same software.
SE trim has the Media System Plus set-up, meaning it gets the 8.0in colour touchscreen with the proximity sensor that changes the display options depending on how close your hand is. Voice control, Bluetooth audio streaming and eight speakers are included (all are missing from the 5.0in Touch system that features in entry-level cars) but DAB is not. For that, you’ll either need to fork out an additional £525 for the Navigation system (as ticked on our test car), or else opt for the SE Technology trim, which has it built in to the higher sticker price.
Aside from its cut-price nature, the set-up, which is another modular piece of MQB kit, is a solid piece of tech. Don’t expect any problems connecting your phone, finding your way about or getting a DAB signal – as long as you’ve paid the premium.
Being a tinybit sportier is Seat’s long-standing raison d’etre, and the firm says the identity extends to the slightly different way its crossover has been tuned. We’ll come to that later, but in hardware terms the Ateca adopts the established MQB characteristics.
There is a choice of two petrol engines (the three-cylinder 1.0 and four-cylinder 1.4TSIs) and two diesel lumps (the 1.6 TDI tested and the 2.0 TDI, available in both 148bhp and l87bhp configurations). Most drive the front wheels exclusively, a though both the larger oil-burners come with the option of a Hadex clutch-based four-wheeldrive system, with those models also benefiting from the more sophisticated multi-link rear suspension already tested in the Tiguan.Without a driven rear axle, all other Atecas make do with a cheaper torsion beam at the back.
Trimming niceties from the bottom line does at least tend to help with a car’s kerb weight. The lightest Tiguan clocks in at 1490kg; Seatclaims 1280kg for the three-pot model. Our test car, fully fuelled, recorded 1408kg on our scales – almost exactly the same a s the Qashqai 1.5dCi.
All versions currently come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, save the 2.0-litre diesel, which gets a seven-speed DSG dual-clutch automatic, either as an option or standard if you opt for the higher-out put version. And except for the entry-level model, all Atecas receive Seat’s Drive Profile dial, which (as the suspension is passive) is generally limited to tweaking the throttle and electric steering feel – although in the all-wheel-drive versions it adds Snow and Off-road modes.
The necessary positioning of Seat as a brand has left some of its products feeling short-changed inside. The Ateca’s slightly starchy, unadorned cabin is much like those of its stablemates – notably the Leon – and explicitly less affluent in appearance than the equivalent Volkswagen.
Nevertheless, while there is precious little to get excited about while looking at the predominantly matt black dashboard, there is nothing significant to grumble about, either. The Ateca is built in the same Czech factory that turns out the Skoda Superb and Yeti and inherits a similarly durable build quality. In keeping with most MQB products, everything is where you’d expect to find it and functions impeccably.
Marginal infractions are observable – Seat’s new Drive Profile wheel could do with being a bit less flimsy, for example – but you need to go looking for them. Generally speaking, with its legibility, ease ofuse and ergonomics beyond reproach, the Ateca is exceptionally good at making you feel right at home.
It is also acutely well sized. Being slightly shorter inthe wheelbase than the Tiguan does not prevent the Ateca from providing ample, family hatchback levels of rear leg room. The sense of space is amplified further by the amount of rear head room available, with the car’s bearskin-swallowing roofline being what really distinguishes the Ateca’s cabin from the otherwise similar-sized Leon.It is significant enough to be the feature most likely to sway any parents torn between the two.
That and the well-proportioned boot, which, with a 510-litre capacity, is not only 130 litres larger than the Leon’s but also 80 litres more generous than a Qashqai’s. Seat doesn’t quote a total load capacity, but the near-flat space appears suit ably commodious once the 60/40 split seatbacks are flopped forward by the two pull handles in the boot.
Storage options elsewhere inside are less impressive (the glovebox is pitifully small) but the larger cubby in the centre console and roomy door bins are decent enough.
Any suspicion that Volkswagen’s downsized 1.6-litrediesel engine might not be quite up to the job of satisfactorily lugging around a shapely new crossover prove largely unfounded. The Ateca’s venerable 1.6 TDI may not qualify as spring chicken, nor particularly accelerate like one, but a life cycle pockmarked by tweaks and updates means that the unit’s performance is never less than dutiful – an impression corroborated by a recorded 10.5sec 0-60mph time that is a full second quicker than advertised.
As is the case in this engine’s other applications, wide throttle openings are required to keep up a modest head of steam; sagging much below 2000rpm is generally fata1 due to the engine’s tendency to wilt when not being subsidised by its turbocharger. Given that this tends to occur at 40mph in the predictably long final ratio, it can make economical driving seem a bit more tiresome than in the more giving 2.0-litre variant. But as it revs keenly enough and comes furnished with the snappy gearchanges of the Volkswagen Group’s six-speed manual’box, it’s rare that you feel yourself getting grouchy with the quality of progress.
Such a reaction is best reserved instead for the amount of noise the engine generates. The core strength of the current Qashqai is its striking refinement, the cabin being very well isolated from the combined racket of road and engine. In the Ateca, it’s less easy to disassociate yourself from the background drone, and while it never becomes so unruly as to disrupt quiet conversation, its presence is audible at idle and downright insistent at higher revs. Our noise meter recoided a 3dB penalty at 70mph versus the 1.5dCi Qashqai we drove in 2014 and a 6dB difference at big crank speeds in third. Although not ruinous, the highish noise level is a chink in what is otherwise convincing armour.
Sequestered as they are between proper SUVs and peppy hatchbacks, compact crossovers’ default dynamic characteristic is usually to be neither one thing nor the other, resulting in something that is neither desperately tall and pillowy nor precisely nimble or engaging.That has clearly suited the target buyer, but we’ve tended toward faint praise for the segment as a whole and long bemoaned the absence of anything resembling a driver’s car. The Ateca doesn’t entirely resolve that, but it comes closer than any before in plugging the gap between soft-roader aesthetic and handling aptitude.
Fundamentally, it makes this leap by taking a familiarly short, logical step and seeking to do nothing more than drive like a hoisted-up Leon.
The trick here is that Seat has made the frequently proclaimed intention work. Rather than adopt the slightly bigger-skin feel that VW has grafted onto the Tiguan’s platform, the smaller Ateca takes full advantage of carrying less weight on its simpler, mildly stiffer chassis. Its positive feel is complemented by the credible heft and direct ness of the electric steering, in turn delivering much the same assured driving style we’ve credited to practically every MQB derivative since its introduction.
Certainly the Ateca remains a crossover – a fact obvious enough in its body movements – but there is easily enough Leon in its adroit turn-in and abundant grip to keep you interested in pushing on. The relationship between the two is redolent of the blood tie between the Jaguar XF and F-Pace – and that’s meant as praise from the top drawer. Only the sneaking suspicion that the torsion beam rear axle is striking obstacles at speed with slightly less sympathy than the multi-link set-up would gently inhibits the front-drive version’s appeal. That’s forgivable, though, given the all-wheel-drive car’s premium, and in all honesty it barely dents the lasting impression of the first-rate compromise struck here in the cooking model.
Two factors keep the Ateca reasonably priced. One is the state of the market: Seat is rather late to the game, so there are many household names already jockeying for attention and coaxing buyers from their Renault Kadjars,Ford Kugas, Kia Spoilages and,yes, Qashqais, and a compelling reason to buy an Ateca is required beyond its sharp looks and shrewd drive.The other consideration is the positioning of the Tiguan. With it occupying VWs traditional upmarket place in the mainstream, Seat’s offering – as ever – can be quietly acknowledged as the more affordable understudy.
Thus the Ateca’s fourtrim levels – S, SE, SE Technology and Xcellence – start at £17,990 and inch beyond £30k by the time you’ve added paint to the range-topping 2.0 TDI.
The entry-level model misses out on the 8.0in touchscreen and Bluetooth so is likely to be ignored, but the as-tested SE trim includes them and adds 17in wheels, cruise control, rear parking sensors and dual-zone climate control into the bargain. The Technology version incorporates bigger wheels and sat-nav, while Xcellence brings more styling bling.
The 1.6 TDI will underpin t he Ateca’s fleet quota, where its failure to replicate the 1.5dCi Qashqai’s 99g/km (or even 103g/km) will have been noted. Nevertheless, a 113g/km output still puts it near the head of the field and is easily efficient enough to assuage most buyers as they weigh up its other advantages. Not least of those is the 50.2mpg that was returned during TrueMPG testing – a surefire sign that the Ateca’s respectable kerb weight has helped to offset the less friendly aerodynamics of a crossover’s taller profile.
ollowing the VW Tiguan’s successful debut, we expected much of the Ateca. Frankly, much is needed of it if the brand’s aspirations of steady profitability are to come true. Happily, Seat’s first crossover is an assured accomplishment, instantly establishing its place in a popular, margin-rich segment while also surpassing second and third-generation rivals to boot.
Its success ultimately brings to mind the introduction of the VW Up. The likeable city car – also offered as the Seat Mii – didn’t reinvent the class or prove particularly innovative; instead, it shrewdly met buyer expectations in the key areas of practicality, usability, appearance and fuel economy, then neatly exceeded them when it came to the chronically undervalued business of actually driving it. By adopting the same approach, Seat has produced an SUV we both like for the sake of useful comparison and admire full stop. With a family in tow, we’d not only choose it over a Nissan Qashqai but would also be inclined to buy it ahead of a Leon. Which really says it all.
While many manufacturers have ill been enjoying years of success with an ever-growing crossover range. It’s taken SEAT a little while longer than most to dip its toes into SUV waters. Bosses wanted to wait until the Ateca was just right before launching head-first into Europe’s most competitive market.
Now, we’ve taken the keys to a powerful 1.4 TSI petrol, to see if the dependable turbo engine is as capable here as it is in its VW Group siblings. It has long offered a pleasing blend of performance versus running costs on the brand’s family hatchbacks, but how does it compare in the Ateca’s bulked-up body?
On paper it shaves three seconds off the diesel’s 0-62mph time, and feels quicker away from junctions and down motorway slip roads. Maximum torque figures are identical, with the 250Nm available from l,500rpm giving the TSI suitable in-gear grunt. Power delivery is smoother than in the diesel, and it’s more refined under hard acceleration.
The petrol car’s sophisticated nature continues at motorway speeds, where the engine is barely detectable when cruising at 70mph. The large 19-inch wheels and low-profile tyres on our test car gave a grumble, but this is improved on smaller rims. Wind noise isn’t an issue given the SUV’s increased profile.
As with the diesel, SEAT engineers have made the petrol-powered Ateca handle like something half its size. There’s very little in the way of body roll, while the steering feels direct and it has no problem changing direction with urgency. The slick six-speed gearbox is identical to that in the TDI, but the longer ratios and boosty turbocharger allow you hold on to the gears for longer.
Those big wheels do compromise ride comfort, though, seeking imperfections on more rutted roads. It’s a similar complaint: it appears to create tiny little bumps that are otherwise invisible to the eye, It’s far from uncomfortable, but unless you really need the £670 optional 19-inch wheels, we’d stick with a more modest size. Ifs not like the Ateca requires any additional visual impact, after all.
You’d expect the diesel to trump the TSI petrol on running costs, and in some areas this is true. This car claims 52.3mpg compared with the TDI’s 64.2mpg – while CO2 emissions of 125g/km place it one VED tax band higher than the diesel.
However, if you’re a company car driver, the three per cent diesel surcharge puts this petrol in the same Benefit in Kind bracket. If you don’t cover huge mileage, this faster petrol could stack up. Either way, it’s cheaper to run than Nissan’s more powerful Qashqai 1.6 DIG-T, which promises 47.1 mpg and 138g/km of CO2. Cylinder deactivation tech helps it beat the Renault Kadjar, too.
“This top-level XCELLENCE version is likely to prove popular with those looking for a well equipped family SUV”
With the allocation of First Edition cars almost entirely sold out, this top-level XCELLENCE version is likely to prove popular among those looking for a well equipped family SUV. It gets LED lights and SEAT’s tried-and-tested sat-nav system, while every Ateca benefits from Full Link mobile phone connectivity and rear parking sensors.
Interior quality is good across the range – nowhere more so than in our top-spec test car. While the materials don’t have the expensive quality feel found in a VW Tiguan, the Ateca is well built inside and out.
Top-of-the-range cars come fully loaded with 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights and sat-nav – but even the SE features Full Link connectivity and rear parking sensors
Big 510-litre boot beats the Nissan Qashqai’s (430 litres) hands-down. Top-spec diesel 4×4 models sacrifice some versatility, although the difference is marginal
we knew this petrol version had a fight on its hands to match that diesel version‘s blend of handling, fuel economy and refinement. The tried-and-tested 1.4 is an eager and frugal alternative that for some may prove just as cheap to run. It feels lighter, and offers the same style and practicality as other models In the range. This top-spec XCELLENCE is well priced too, with loads of kit fitted as standard.
Engine: 1.4-litre 4cyl turbo
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive
0-62 mph: 8.5 seconds
Top speed: 125mph
On sale: Now
OPTIONAL (£470) top view camera helps with parking
The launch of Seat’s all-new Ibiza supermini and Arona baby SUV next year will drive profits and give the Spanish brand time to define its future, according to boss Luca de Meo. Both the Ibiza and the Arona, a Nissan Juke rival, will sit on the Volkswagen Group’s new MOB AO platform. The Ibiza is set to be the first car in the whole group to be launched on it next summer, with the Arona following by the year’s end. De Meo said: “It is a key opportunity for us, to have not just the latest platform but also the latest powertrains, dynamic tuning, infotainment -everything that comes with it. For a time, we will have the best car in this class from the group and possibly the segment. “It also means we will have three strong legs to stand on: the SUVs, the Ibiza and the Leon.
That’s a broad base that gives us opportunities to grow sales around the world.” With Seat posting profits for the first time in eight years even prior to the Ateca’s arrival this autumn, de Meo sees even greater sales success as the opportunity to develop a longer-term strategy for Seat. That strategy includes not just new vehicles but also new approaches driven by digital opportunities and disruption. “The most important thing is to show profitable numbers again. It is positive not just for us but dealers and analysts, too,” said de Meo. “Combined with the new models coming in the next three years, it should give us momentum, too, which buys us time to think what we do next. For years, we have been forced to be on a diet.
With profits, we can power forwards again and focus on what Seat means to the VW Group and to the market. “When you are our size, with less to lose and much to win, you can afford to position yourself as a front runner in areas that appeal to you and follow in other areas.
We can see that we have by far the youngest average age of buyers in the VW Group, for instance, which means we can be a gateway for group sales.
“I see a clear demand for making things easier to experience. All of the megabrands of the past 15 years have facilitated access – be it EasyJet, Netflix, Spotify or Google – and I can see some areas where this philosophy can benefit Seat. Making a simple, accessible proposition is a nice philosophy that I hope we can pursue.”
SEAT’s forthcoming baby SUV will be called the Arena when it arrives in the middle of next year.
An exclusive image for Auto Express shows how the car could look, but the name was confirmed at the Paris show by SEAT boss Luca De Meo, who said: “The Leon, the Ibiza and the new Arona, together with the Ateca, are all going to strengthen the SEAT brand from a commercial financial and image standpoint.”
The Nissan juke rival will be launched following the introduction of an all-new Ibiza supermini, while both will be based on the smallest version of the VW Group MQB chassis.
As with other SEAT car names, Arona is an area of Spain – a municipality in Tenerife.
SEAT has spruced up its first ever SUV by unveiling a new Ateca X-Perience concept ahead of its debut at the Paris Motor Show this week. The rough and ready crossover is only a concept car for now, but bosses will use the event to gauge public reaction before deciding whether to put it into production. Changes over the standard Ateca are more comprehensive than you may think, with scuff plates front and rear as well as tough body cladding on the bumpers and side sills. There are some chunky offroad tyres and unique alloy wheels, too. SEAT says the Ateca X-Perience is a car that can “surpass any limit”, while lending itself to “the most adventurous off-road situations”.
Despite only being a concept for the time being, the newcomer gets six drive modes – including snow and off-road – as well as a complex Haldex four-wheel-drive system, which splits the engine’s power between the front and rear wheels. Hill Descent Control has also been added for great off-road ability.
In addition to the black body cladding and 18-inch alloy wheels, the X-Perience comes with special non-scratch paint, as well as chrome roof rails. Inside, SEAT has used ‘earthy’ colours, complemented by orange stitching for the steering wheel, seats and gearlever. The suede and leather sports seats feature X-Perience logos, while XP badging features throughout.
An eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto rounds off the interior. Under the bonnet is the most powerful 2.0-litre TDI diesel available in the Ateca; it develops 187bhp and 400Nm of torque. The engine is paired with SEAT’S ADrive all-wheel-drive system and a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox as standard.
It also features an XDS traction control system which uses the front brakes to boost agility when cornering. We won’t know the Ateca X-Perience’s fate until after the Paris Motor Show, but a production model is likely, given the market’s current appetite for crossovers and SUVs. If it gets the green light, it’s likely to sit at the top of the Ateca line-up. Models like the Jeep Renegade continue to sell well, confirming the market for SEAT’S beefier Ateca.