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