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Road test: SEAT Ateca 4Drive. Image by SEAT.

Road test: SEAT Ateca 4Drive
SEAT's first stab at an SUV is, perhaps predictably, really rather Xcellent. Sorry, excellent...

 



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SEAT Ateca 4Drive

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

Good points: styling, capacious and well-equipped interior, refined driving manners, engine

Not so good: five seats only, dash design still not quite at Volkswagen levels

Key Facts

Model tested: SEAT Ateca Xcellence 2.0 TDI 4Drive 150
Price: from 17,990; Xcellence 2.0 TDI from 27,425; car as tested 30,030
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed manual
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 129g/km (Band C, 0 VED first 12 months, 110 annually thereafter, if registered before April 1, 2017; 160 first 12 months, 140 annually thereafter, if registered after April 1, 2017)
Combined economy: 55.4mpg
Top speed: 122mph
0-62mph: 9.0 seconds
Power: 150hp at 3,500- to 4,000rpm
Torque: 340Nm at 1,750- to 3,000rpm

Our view:

It might have taken a long time coming, but SEAT's first foray into the world of SUVs is a typically superb and likeable machine. Like much of what has come out of the company in recent years, the Ateca is another example of how much the Spanish carmaker's products have improved significantly by using Volkswagen Group technology. Essentially, this SUV is just a MkII Volkswagen Tiguan in a fancy frock, but that doesn't make it any the less impressive as a result.

The Ateca will swiftly be followed by two more SEAT crossover/SUV-type machines, one smaller and one larger, and if they're half as good as this first effort then the firm will be seeing its sales numbers increase dramatically. Like all SEATs, the Ateca has crisp, neat styling that seems to reach something approaching its zenith on the proportions of a C-segment 4x4. Honestly, the Ateca looks great in the metal - particularly in the strong non-metallic Passion Red (250), which sets off the black-and-silver detailing a treat. Optional 19-inch bicolour wheels (670) are a striking option, but the range-topping Xcellence grade model looks fine on its standard 18s.

Inside is another Volkswagen Group triumph, but there's still that niggling suspicion that this is the one area where Wolfsburg definitely keeps SEAT on a tight leash, in order to manufacture some differentiation in potential customers' minds between Volkswagens and anything Spanish. The Ateca's interior is well screwed together and there's simply acres of space front and rear, with a massive 485-litre boot (it'd be 510 litres, but for the additional mechanicals of the four-wheel drive system) out the back, while the quality of SEAT's interior finishing is moving ever upwards; we also like the slick infotainment system, its eight-inch touchscreen and the 320 SEAT Sound system, with a 135-watt amplifier and ten speakers. But there are no show-stopping TFT displays to feast upon here, nor is there much in the way of visual flair - it's a bit like a mid- to upper-range Golf cabin from 2011. No bad thing per se, yet it's clearly the one area where modern SEATs feel like the inferior cousins of Volkswagens.

It comes with a wealth of kit as an Xcellence, though, including leather upholstery with heated sports seats, adaptive cruise control, climate control, keyless entry and go, a full multimedia system with 3D satnav and one of the best 'Qi' wireless charging cradles for a smartphone we've seen. It's a sloped, rubberised tray ahead of the '4Drive'-branded gearstick, of just the right size and shape for the latest-gen phones and an exemplar of simply executed brilliance.

Something that could also be said of the Ateca's driving experience. It does nothing that is particularly outstanding or mesmerising, with very good road holding capabilities (nice steering, loads of grip, minimal understeer, good brakes, fine throttle control) and strong performance from the tried-and-tested 150hp iteration of the Volkswagen Group's 2.0-litre turbodiesel four (which was linked to a lovely, six-speed manual in our test car). Its strongest suit is its refinement, as it majors on having a hushed, comfortable cabin uninterrupted by the chirrup of tyres, swooshing of wind or grumbling of engine, and ride quality that is second to none in this class. And given the 1,548kg Ateca is as easy to thread about town as a Mii would be, you end up with a highly polished all-rounder that is next to impossible to dislike.

If all this sounds like we're damning the Ateca with faint praise, nothing could be further from the truth. In this mid-sized, sub-premium SUV class, there's little better than the SEAT. Apart from its conservative interior styling, the lack of a seven-seat - or even a 5+2 - option might be an issue (at least, until the as-yet-unnamed larger SUV is forthcoming from Spain), while in excess of 30,000 for the car as tested seems steep. Especially as this isn't quite the pinnacle of the Ateca range, that signal honour falling to a 190hp, DSG-only 4Drive diesel.

However, all things considered, the Ateca is easily as good in all departments as the company's strongest product, the Leon, and it could be argued to be even better than said five-door hatchback too. Disarmingly easy to drive without being utterly uninvolving, decent on fuel (we saw a 45.1mpg average across 282 miles and nearly ten hours of driving in total, without any long dual-carriageway or motorway runs to boost that economy figure) and fabulous to look at, the SEAT Ateca instantly vaults to the very highest echelons of this class. We just wonder why it took the company so long to take the plunge into the SUV pool.

Alternatives:

Ford Kuga: just facelifted, but the Ford seems to get slightly less impressive with each successive update. More expensive than the SEAT and doesn't have as nice a cabin.

Mazda CX-5: given an infinitesimal facelift in 2015 (and due a bigger one this coming year), the Mazda remains a strong contender in class because it drives beautifully and looks brilliant. Can be pricey, though, and also only a five-seater.

Nissan Qashqai: you can't review a car of the Ateca's class without referring to the seminal Nissan. Much like the SEAT, it is strong in all disciplines but the Spanish car is just a bit more interesting and classy.


Matt Robinson - 28 Dec 2016









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2016 SEAT Ateca. Image by SEAT.2016 SEAT Ateca. Image by SEAT.2016 SEAT Ateca. Image by SEAT.2016 SEAT Ateca. Image by SEAT.2016 SEAT Ateca. Image by SEAT.

2016 SEAT Ateca. Image by SEAT.2016 SEAT Ateca. Image by SEAT.2016 SEAT Ateca. Image by SEAT.2016 SEAT Ateca. Image by SEAT.2016 SEAT Ateca. Image by SEAT.








 

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