New kid on the small SUV block gets turbo-charged 1.4-litre petrol power
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.
The Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 makes perfect sense; it’s spacious, tidy to drive for an SUV and cheap to run
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