Undoubtedly, a large part the Ateca’s appeal is down to its contemporary styling and the fact that it looks far more expensive than its modest ticket price would suggest. Triangular daytime running lights, a honeycomb grille design, a sporty body kit and satin chrome highlights all contribute to the Ateca’s classy sophistication, and will no doubt help it stand out when compared with more conservatively styled rivals.
Inside, the Ateca’s dash is almost a carbon copy of the Leon hatchback’s, with its mixture of fast-reacting touch-screen infotainment system, clear graphics and classy-looking instrumentation. The driving position is typical Volkswagen Group, with plenty of adjustment for both the seat and the steering wheel, so most folk should have few issues setting up a comfortable perch. However, the rising waistline and elevated door trims do mean little ‘uns sitting in the back may struggle to see out. There’s also a sense that those relegated to the back row are sitting in the cheap seats, as the cabin plastics don’t look or feel as plush as those up front. At least there’s loads of leg- and elbow room.
A fair bit has been made of the fact that the Ateca misses out on the sliding rear bench that’s found in the the closely related Volkswagen Tiguan. However, it’s a sacrifice we’ll happily accept, given the Ateca’s significantly cheaper list price; and, to be honest, the Ateca’s rear seat backs split-fold to create a fairly substantial load area that will be more than enough to cope with most folk’s daily requirements.
Ride and handling
The excellent body control means the Ateca is one of the more engaging SUVs to drive
Most Atecas use a pretty basic rear-axle arrangement – only the four-wheel-drive cars get multi-link rear suspension – along with some pretty sizeable alloy wheels and keen damper rates, so it’s perhaps not surprising that the ride occasionally borders on the tough side. The trade-off for this firmness is excellent body control, which means the Ateca is one of the more engaging SUVs you can buy. With a decent amount of steering feel and fairly brisk reactions, it tackles challenging bends with great poise and control. What’s more, the Alteca is also one better mid-priced SUVs at isolating road- and wind noise, so it’s also a pretty civilised long-distance tourer.
No manufacturer is currently making more refined diesel engines than the Volkswagen Group
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, no manufacturer is currently making more refined diesel engines than the Volkswagen Group, and the 148bhp 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine found in the Alteca is proof of that. With just a trace of combustion rattle at tickover and the merest suggestion of vibration pulsing through the cabin floor when lifting the revs away from idle, the Alteca’s motor is a proper smoothy. For the most part, it’s also pretty decent at avoiding turbo lag, and consequently it pulls strongly and smoothly right from the off, and generates a huge amount of mid-range pulling power. As an upshot, once you’re up to cruising speed, the motor rarely requires more than a single downshift to summon up a strong burst of acceleration. By contrast, the 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine may look a bit weedy at first glance, but it actually produces the same amount of power as the 2.0-litre diesel, as well as being smooth, free-revving and surprisingly flexible.
Like most cars these days, the Ateca is fitted with a stop/start system and energy-recuperation as standard, which helps the best-selling front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre diesel car emit 126g/km and achieve an official average fuel economy of 64.2mpg, Plump for the same engine coupled to four-wheel-drive, however, and those figures take quite a clout, driving CO2 emissions up to 128g/km and dropping fuel returns to 57.6mpg. On the other hand, not only have strong residuals been predicted for Seat’s first ever SUV – with the 148bhp diesel expected to retain the largest percentage of its value – the Ateca is also excellent value for money when compared to its closest rivals, offering similar engines and technology to the VW Tiguan it is based on, but for a lot less money.
The warranty is only three years, rather than the five- or even seven-year cover provided by some rivals
There’s no reason to imagine the Ateca will be any less reliable than other model in the Volkswagen portfolio. It shares much of its mechanical technology with the Volkswagen Tiguan and by association the Volkswagen Golf. The engines have all been blooded in a wide range of cars, so should be free from any hidden faults. Seat offers fixed-price servicing to keep the cost of maintenance reasonable, but the standard warranty is only three years, rather than the five- or even seven-year cover provided by some rival manufacturers.
The Ateca has earned the maximum five stars in Euro NCAP crash tests, scoring well in the front- and side-impact tests, as well as providing good protection against whiplash in a rear-end impact. All versions are fitted with stability control, as well as twin front-, side-, curtain- and driver’s knee airbags. There’s also hill hold assistance and an electronic system that brakes an inside front wheel if it spins during hard cornering, improving traction. Across the range, the standard safety package includes autonomous low-speed braking, lane-departure warning, and driver-fatigue monitoring. Adaptive cruise control is an option, as is blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep and high-beam assist, along with rear cross-traffic monitoring.
There are three levels of equipment available within the Alteca range; S. SE and Xcellence. The basic S-trimmed models come with air-con, a 5.0-inch touch-screen infotainment system, and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Step up to SE, as most folk will, and you’ll get an 8.0-inch infotainment screen, Bluetooth connectivity and voice control, along with dual-zone climate control, cruise control, heated folding mirrors, a central rear armrest, boot-mounted release levers for the folding rear seat and a storage compartment under the driver’s seat. Those inclined to a spot of flash can plump for Xcellence trim, which includes puddle lights in the door mirrors, aluminium roof rails and scuff plates, chrome window surrounds, multi-colour ambient lighting, an electric tailgate, leather upholstery and heated seats. Be careful what you wish for, however, as Xcellence trim also costs the best part of two grand over SE trim.
If you’re after a good-looking alternative to some of of the rather bland-looking crossovers and SUVs, then the Ateca is well worth consideration. It’s an enjoyable drive, with a natural agility and flow that make it more akin to an accomplished hatchback than a lofty SUV. While the smart, spacious cabin may not be finished to the same standard as its Volkswagen Tiguan cousin, excellent safety features, high levels of standard equipment and competitive pricing all boost the Ateca’s appeal.