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First Drive

First published: 7th October 2016

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First Drive

2016 Seat Ateca SE 1.0 TSI Ecomotive first drive review

SUVs and crossovers have become Britain’s family car of choice, and carmakers like Seat are responding. The Ateca is the company’s first example that aims to steal sales away from the hugely popular Nissan Qashqai.

First published: 7th October 2016
Auto Trader verdict:
Sharp styling, great handling, solid practicality and proven Volkswagen mechanicals help the Seat Ateca move straight to our shortlist of family car favourites. However, while the 1.0 TSI petrol is a surprisingly peppy offering, we’d still be tempted to choose the pricier, yet more flexible 1.4 TSI petrol, which still represents superb value for money.
Need to know:
  • First ever SUV from Seat, available in front- and all-wheel drive
  • Entry-level 1.0-litre petrol version starts from £17,990
  • The style of an SUV with the driving manners of a hatchback
What is it?
The Seat Ateca is the company’s first foray into the ever-expanding SUV-cum-crossover market. While some versions of the Ateca can be specified with four-wheel drive, most versions will be exclusively available as front-wheel drive, hitting the so-called crossover remit. The car has the looks and elevated driving position of an SUV, but maintains the driving style and, more importantly for families, running costs of a regular car.

This includes the entry-level 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine we have on test. Because the base ‘S’ trim level does its best to make a monastery look cluttered, we’ve ventured one rung up the ladder into SE trim, for more creature comforts. This adds bigger 17-inch alloys, a larger 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth audio streaming, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and a reversing camera, though it still doesn’t offer the leather interior and chrome exhaust tips of higher spec Xcellence versions.

The Seat Ateca is aiming at family car favourites such as the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar and Volkswagen Tiguan that all offer style, space and practicality. Interestingly, Seat is part of the Volkswagen Group so a lot of the Ateca’s core structure and mechanicals are based on the pricier Volkswagen Tiguan, which is no bad thing.
2017 Seat Ateca front
2017 Seat Ateca rear
2017 Seat Ateca profile
2017 Seat Ateca Jon Quirk
What’s it like?
Leisurely. The 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine is peppy, quiet and refined when it’s just you in the car, with 0-62mph taking an achievable 11 seconds. You’d think only having three cylinders would bring about a distinctive engine thrum, but the unit is barely audible at cruising speeds.

However, as soon as you start to add people or luggage or hills, progress quickly begins to sound and feel strained, especially when working through first and second gears of the positive six-speed manual gearbox.

It’s still great fun to drive, mind. Most SUVs have a habit of rolling around in the corners or pitching under braking. The Seat Ateca, however, has a natural agility and flow that is more akin to an accomplished hatchback than a lofty SUV, staying composed despite some pretty ambitious corner speeds.

The steering offers more accuracy than a Nissan Qashqai and the body is more resistant to roll than a Renault Kadjar, which will prevent passengers in the back from feeling car sick. Unfortunately, there is a slight trade off in ride comfort, with the suspension failing to smother bigger ruts and bumps in the road.

Driving visibility is great, there are seven airbags as standard, Isofix-mounting points for two child car seats in the back, and the boot offers a buggy-friendly 510-litres of space. There’s also a lever in the back to help you tumble the split-folding rear seats effortlessly, which gives a mountain bike-friendly 1604-litres of space. Just keep in mind you’ll need to pay extra for a raised boot ledge to create a flat loading bay, as well as a space saver spare tyre – items we’d consider essential.
2017 Seat Ateca interior
2017 Seat Ateca rear seats
2017 Seat Ateca engine
2017 Seat Ateca front side
Should I buy one?
Despite ever-increasing competition in the crossover sector, we’re confident suggesting that the Seat Ateca goes straight onto your family car shortlist.

How you use your Ateca will ultimately decide what engine you should go for. The 1.0 TSI is a credible unit for somebody who spends most of their time in town and driving solo, but it could prove quite limiting for any other activities. That’s why we’d suggest the 1.4 TSI petrol, which remains great value while offering a bit more flexibility.
Key facts:
  • Model: Seat Ateca SE 1.0 TSI Ecomotive (115PS)
  • Price: £19,590
  • Engine: 1.0-litre petrol, six-speed manual
  • Power/Torque: 113bhp/148lb ft
  • 0-62mph: 11 secs
  • Top speed: 114mph
  • Economy: 54.3mpg
  • CO2 / BIK tax liability: 119g/km / 20%
  • Boot space: 510-1604 litres
Also consider:
Nissan Qashqai
The original crossover that remains one of the UK’s best-selling family cars. A great option, especially in 2WD.

Volkswagen Tiguan
Has the edge on practicality and interior, but pricier and less stylish.

Skoda Kodiaq
Skoda's new SUV arrives in early 2017 and will be available with five or seven seats.

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