- Updated 17 March 2020
- 7 minute read
- By Gavin Braithwaite-Smith
Arriving early for a party is a really bad idea. Not only will you look like Billy-no-mates with your complimentary glass of prosecco and mozzarella stick, you’ll also miss the opportunity to make a grand entrance.
Better to wait for the party to get into full swing, then burst in and and own the room with your sparkling splendour and radiant smile. This is the approach Seat took when it launched the Ateca SUV years after most rivals had firmly established themselves.
Seat was so late to the SUV party, it was in danger of missing the boat altogether. By the time it arrived, the Nissan Qashqai had perfected its dance moves and the Kia Sportage was getting off with the Hyundai Tucson.
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It was worth the wait. The Seat Ateca made an instant impression, cementing a reputation for being one of the best all-rounders – great to look at, an agile mover and loaded with the latest bling. Talk about hitting the ground running.
It remains one of the best family SUVs you can buy, helped in no small part by keen pricing, a long list of equipment and affordable leasing deals. Read on to discover why it should be on the guest list for your next car.
Okay, the ‘guest list’ thing doesn’t really work, but I’m just trying to squeeze a few more lines out of the party angle. Hey, it’s my party...
Looks, tech and design
This is a good looking car. It’s chiselled, toned and creased in the right places, looking every inch the pumped-up Seat Leon upon which it’s based.
The entry-level Ateca SE looks a little humdrum, but 17-inch alloy wheels add a touch of class. Things get more glamorous with the SE Technology, which adds 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and rear lights, chrome roof rails and chrome window trim. There’s also a snazzy (underused word) welcome light silhouette that projects onto the pavement at night.
There are seven trim levels, including three variants of the FR and two of the Xcellence. In summary, FR is like rocking up at the party in a pair of sneakers, while Xcellence is like turning up in heels. Sporty or posh – you decide.
There’s also a performance Cupra Ateca, which is more a standalone model than part of the Seat range. If chasing down Porsche Macan drivers is your bag, it’s worth a look, but it doesn’t form a big part of this review.
Inside the Seat Ateca you’ll find little in the way of Spanish flair. It’s all a bit ‘Cinderella before she goes to the ball’, and there’s no fairy godmother on hand to dress things up. In fairness, it’s all very clean, clear and, for the most part, well screwed together, but the overriding impression is one of ‘meh’.
Dual-zone climate control is standard across the range, as is Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, an 8.0-inch colour display, cruise control, a choice of driving modes, park assist, and front and rear parking sensors.
DAB digital radio and sat-nav are added to the SE Technology and FR, but you’ll need the FR Sport, FR Black Edition, Xcellence and Xcellence Plus for the digital cockpit. This replaces the traditional dials with a configurable display, which helps add some interest to the otherwise sombre dashboard.
There’s loads of room on the inside, with enough space for five adults. The capacious boot provides 510 litres of luggage capacity, and you’ll find plenty of storage pockets and cubby holes throughout the cabin. It’s worth noting that the boot size drops to 480 litres in the four-wheel drive models, but I suspect you won’t notice the difference.
The four-wheel-drive version is a superior driving experience to the front-wheel-drive Ateca. Although the car is less fuel efficient – more on this in a moment – it comes with a more sophisticated rear suspension set-up. As a result, the ride quality is improved and it corners with more precision.
Unfortunately, you’ll have to dig deep to get your hands on a four-wheel-drive Ateca. It’s only offered on the 2.0-litre versions, the cheapest of which is the Ateca SE 2.0 TDI at around £30,000. So a compromise might be required.
You can start by avoiding the models with 18- and 19-inch alloy wheels. While the ride quality isn’t uncomfortable, it’s noticeably better on cars with 16- and 17-inch rims. The seats are also super-comfy, especially if you opt for an Ateca with heated seats.
Top tip: avoid the leather on the top-spec Xcellence Lux. Not only are the microsuede seats fitted to the Xcellence model more comfortable, they also look more premium. As a bonus, they won’t feel as chilly on a cold morning.
The 1.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine does a more than adequate job of powering the Ateca, but it feels a little weak when travelling with five people and their associated luggage. The 1.5-litre unit is more powerful and more economical, making it the pick of the engines.
There are also two diesel engines: a 1.6 and a 2.0. The latter is the one to choose if you intend to tow anything or need the benefit of four-wheel drive. As for transmissions, the six-speed gearbox is slick enough, but the seven-speed DSG automatic can feel a bit dim-witted. However, I’d still opt for the auto, as it suits the laid-back and relaxed nature of the car.
Overall, it feels like a Leon hatchback on the road, which is a huge compliment. Even if you don’t consider yourself to be a keen driver, you’ll appreciate the Ateca’s sure-footedness and confidence-inspiring cornering ability.
A quick word about the high-performance Cupra Ateca. For around £37,50 you get a 300hp 2.0-litre petrol engine, a 0-62mph time of 4.9 seconds, and performance credentials that will keep a Porsche driver on his toes.
Some of the details are of questionable taste, but it feels surprisingly bespoke for a car that’s based on a family SUV. It’s like popping out for a skinny latte and returning home with a tattoo plastered across your lower back.
Cost and economy
Seat Ateca leasing deals start from £280 for a 1.0 SE, rising to £775 for a 2.0 TDI FR Sport. If you’re buying outright, prices range from £23,000 to £36,500. At its most expensive, the Ateca must engage in a dance-off against some premium players, but it’s more than capable of holding its own.
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If you’re watching your pennies, the 1.6-litre TDI is the most economical, with claim figures of 49.6mpg to 56.5mpg. If you don’t fancy a diesel, I’d opt for the 1.5 TSI petrol, which should return something in the low 40s.
Insurance groups range from 10 for the 1.0 SE to 24 for the 2.0 TDI DSG 4Drive Xcellence Lux.
Seat left it late, but the Ateca is a welcome addition to the SUV party. While some rivals are left drowning their sorrows in the kitchen, the Ateca really has waltzed in and stolen the show.
Now a well established model, it remains one of the sharpest looking cars in its class, which just goes to prove that being fashionably late can pay dividends in the long run. It’s just a shame the interior is so dull.
But if that’s my only gripe, there’s no need to evacuate the dancefloor. Just lease a Seat Ateca and get the party started. Or something.
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