SEAT Ateca Hatchback (2016 - ) review
The Seat Ateca is a compact SUV that's available in front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. It's well styled, great value and underpinned by proven Volkswagen mechanicals.
- Sharp looks
- Sporty handling
- Excellent value for money
- Firm ride quality
- Trim on low spec versions
- Annoying cupholders
At a glance
The Seat Ateca is the company’s first foray into the ever-expanding SUV-cum-crossover market, and it jumps out of the blocks with a design that is vibrant, contemporary and full of angles. Triangular daytime-running LED headlights, a honeycomb grille design, sporty body kit and satin chrome highlights all contribute to the Ateca’s classy sophistication. Even without specifying the Nevada White paint, this family car stands out when compared with more conservatively styled rivals such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, on which this car shares its core shape and mechanicals.
Seat is part of the Volkswagen Group where car interiors appear to be hallmarked by clear, high quality instrumentation. Although the design may not be quite as exciting or arresting as outside, everything works with an ease and robustness with the central console dominated by a clear touchscreen infotainment system. The driving position offers plenty of adjustment for both the seat and the steering wheel, but the rising waistline and elevated door trims do mean small children sitting in the back may struggle to have as good a view outside. And despite head- and legroom being generous, you get the sense that those relegated to the second row are sitting in the cheap seats, as the cabin plastics don’t look or feel as plush as those up front.
The Seat Ateca features plenty of storage cubbies up front, with only the small glovebox and a pair of different sized cupholders causing mild frustration. The Ateca’s rear doors have a wide opening to make it easy to install a child car seat, and the seat backs split-fold at the pull of a boot-located lever to create a substantial load area that's big enough to carry a mountain bike without removing the front wheel or a Bugaboo Donkey Duo child car seat. The Seat Ateca does miss out on the sliding rear bench and optional Trailer Assist system that’s found in the the closely related Volkswagen Tiguan, but these are sacrifices we’ll happily accept, given the Ateca’s significantly cheaper list price. The boot also suffers from a large step in the floor, which makes loading heavier items tricky, but this can be remedied by ordering the optional boot floor to create a flat loading bay.
Ride and handling
The Seat Ateca is one of the more engaging and entertaining SUVs to drive. With a decent amount of steering feel and fairly brisk reactions, it tackles challenging bends with great poise and control. What’s more, the Ateca is also good at isolating road- and wind noise, so it’s also a pretty civilised long-distance tourer. However, the trade-off for this excellent body control is a firmness to the ride, which, combined with some sizeable 18-inch alloys makes some roads feel a bit on the tough side. If sharp handling isn't your thing, the Nissan Qashqai or Renault Kadjar may prove to be a more comfortable drive.
Performance figures in the Seat Ateca are never going to re-shape your family’s face, but the range of petrol and diesel units offer flexibility and frugality. 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. The 1.6 TDI diesel continues in the same vain and although it may sacrifice a little bit of refinement at idle, it manages 65.7mpg on the combined run.
Still, it's the 1.4EcoTSI petrol engine that is arguably more impressive. It may look a bit weedy at first glance, but it actually produces the same amount of power as the 2.0-litre diesel, boasts a quicker 0-62mph time of 8.5seconds and remains smooth, free-revving and surprisingly flexible. It’s only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, but unless you are absolutely wedded to the idea of an auto, you won’t mind as the shifts are quick and accurate.
Like most cars these days, the Ateca is fitted with a stop/start engine system and energy-recuperation as standard, which helps the best-selling front-wheel-drive 1.4-litre EcoTSI petrol emit 122g/km and achieve an official average fuel economy of 53.3mpg. Plump for the 2.0 TDI diesel engine coupled to four-wheel-drive, however, and the CO2 emissions figure rises to 129g/km. 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.
There’s no reason to imagine the Seat Ateca will be any less reliable than any 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 seven airbags - twin front-, side-, curtain- and driver’s knee airbags - stability control and hill hold control, which prevents the car from rolling backwards when you're driving away on an incline. There’s also ISOFIX points in the outer rear chairs for installing two child car seats, driver-fatigue monitoring, plus an electronic system that brakes an inside front wheel if it spins during hard cornering, improving traction. Adaptive cruise control is an option, as is blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep and high-beam assist, along with traffic jam assist, which autonomously steers, accelerates and brakes for you at speeds up to 37mph.
There are four core trim levels available within the Ateca range; S, SE, SE Tech and Xcellence. The basic S-trimmed models come with air conditioning, a 5.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and steering wheel-mounted audio controls. Step up to SE 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. SE Tech upgrades include bigger 18-inch alloys, satellite navigation and smartphone integration that synchs with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. The most expensive Xcellence trim levels is also expected to be the most popular and includes puddle lights in the door mirrors, aluminium roof rails and scuff plates, chrome window surrounds, an electric tailgate, leather upholstery and heated front seats.
The Seat Ateca is as good as it gets for the class: it's a practical family car with a fine blend of ride and handling that make it feel more like an accomplished hatchback than a lofty SUV. True, the cabin may not be finished to the same standard as its Volkswagen Tiguan cousin, but excellent safety features, high levels of standard equipment and competitive pricing all boost the Ateca’s appeal. If you’re after a good-looking alternative to some of the rather bland-looking crossovers and SUVs, then the Seat Ateca is well worth consideration.