When news of the new SEAT Ateca first leaked, many of us wondered whether the world needed yet another crossover/SUV. Of course, we were looking at the problem from the wrong end of the telescope; the answer has to be ‘yes’, if for no other reason that the crossover is wildly profitable.
You doubt me? While direct comparisons are (presumably deliberately) hard to make, the SEAT Leon, with which the Ateca shares the majority of its chassis and mechanical components, is significantly cheaper than a similar Ateca – though before you rail against SEAT for its greed, I would point out that every other manufacturer does the same, and some of them do it on a far grander scale.
Yet if we go along with the assertion that a crossover really does offer something its hatchback sibling doesn’t, the Ateca is a bloomin’ good car.
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Making the ordinary look appealing
It’s a handsome thing for a start. It doesn’t have a single bad angle and is, to my mind at least, possibly the best looking car of its type. SEAT has a flair for making the ordinary look far more appealing than it has any right to, and the Ateca continues that proud tradition.
The interior is just as nice, neatly illustrating that an attractive ambience doesn’t mean spending a fortune or relying on the leather ‘n’ wood cliché of some of its rivals; it’s fresh and clean and minimal and all the better for it.
What is there is of good quality and there are no extraneous fripperies to clutter the place up.
It’s not quite as nice as that of a VW or Audi - both of whom are, along with Skoda, part of the same group - but that’s brand differentiation for you. (Nor, we should remember, does it cost anywhere near as much as either of its German equivalents…)
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A strangely unappealing engine
The 1.4-litre petrol engine I drove first was a standard-issue 150-ish horsepower unit that delivered the goods (8.5 seconds to 62mph, a top speed of 125mph and average fuel economy of 53.3mpg) as well as any of its competitors but was strangely unappealing. If you really do need the extra performance it brings to the party then you’re unlikely to be disappointed, but then nor will you be delighted.
For that you need the 999cc, three-cylinder engine, which fairly fizzed and crackled with character. Sub-one-litre engines are quite the thing these days and SEAT’s contribution to the genre is as good as any and far better than most.
It remains to be seen whether it lives up to its promise of 54.3mpg in reality but the on-road experience was joyous.
Plenty of torque and a slick gearchange
Of course, such a small, relatively low-powered engine does need to be rowed along on the gearbox if you want to make decent progress, but there’s plenty of torque there and a lovely slick gearchange, so that it isn’t as much of a drag as it might sound.
And if you’re content to bimble along, as so many of us are forced to on today’s crowded roads, that same torque can be relied upon to haul the old girl to respectable speeds, even if it takes a little longer to do so than it would if you’d bothered to change down.
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A well thought out machine
Kit levels are good and this is at heart a very well thought out machine so there’s no need to over-order to compensate for lazy thinking. The SE trim level seems to me to be the sweet spot in the range with 17-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, air-con, a decent touchscreen and rear parking sensors.
I’d probably add sat-nav for £525 too, so you’ll need to budget for a total bill of £20,000 or so, depending on what sort of deal you can thrash out in the showroom. It’s too soon to give you any idea of the sort of savings that others have been able to make but I’d be surprised if you couldn’t wrangle 10% out of them once the dust has settled.
Mind you, the Ateca would be worth buying even if you had to pay the full showroom price; the Renault Kadjar might be ever-so-slightly nicer to drive but it isn’t as rounded, making the Ateca the new medium-sized crossover King.
Power – 113bhp
Torque – 148lb ft
0-62mph – 11 seconds
Top speed – 114mph
Kerb weight – 1,205kgs
Official average fuel consumption – 54.3mpg
CO2 emissions – 119g/km
VED class – Band C
Towing capacity (braked) – 1,500kgs
Towing capacity (unbraked) – 640kgs
Warranty – 3 yrs/60,000 miles
Price – £19,590
Price as tested - £22,465
The SEAT Ateca is fresh and bold and a genuinely lovely thing.
The best of the rest
The Renault Kadjar is great to drive, and well worth your consideration, but isn’t quite as nice as the Ateca.
The Suzuki Vitara S is let down by its second-rate interior but it is wonderful to drive and offers far more off-road ability than anything else in its class.
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