Seat Ateca SUV (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.
Interested in buying a SEAT Ateca?
How good does it look?
The Seat Ateca was 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 LED daytime running lights, a honeycomb grille design, sporty body kit and satin chrome highlights all contribute to the Ateca’s classy sophistication. This family car stands out when compared with more conservatively styled rivals such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, with which the Ateca shares its core shape and mechanicals.
Entry-level SE cars ride on 17-inch alloy wheels and come with metallic paint, while the SE Technology trim adds 18-inch wheels and brighter full-LED headlights, as does the FR model which also comes with a gloss black grille. The FR Sport has big 19-inch wheels, while the Xcellence trim reverts back to 18-inch wheels but adds a chrome double exhaust. Xcellence Lux brings back the 19-inch wheels with a new design.
What's the interior like?
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.
How practical is it?
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. 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 movable boot floor to create a flat loading bay.
What's it like to drive?
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, if you're running the 18-inch or 19-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.
How powerful is it?
Performance figures in the Seat Ateca are never going to re-shape your family’s face (unless you look at its sister car, the Cupra Ateca), 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 - Seat's parent company - and the 150-horsepower 2.0-litre engine found in the Ateca is proof of that. The 1.6 TDI diesel, with 115 horsepower, continues in the same vain and although it may sacrifice a little bit of refinement at idle, it manages a much more impressive fuel economy. The smaller diesel doesn’t like to be rushed, but is more than punchy enough for everyday driving
Still, it's the 1.4-litre petrol engine that is arguably more impressive. It produces the same amount of power as the 2.0-litre diesel, boasts a quicker 0-62mph time 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.
Another petrol engine, a 1.0-litre unit with 115 horsepower, is also available. It's decent once you're up and running, but it lacks a bit of oomph at lower revs, which can result in you jumping around the gearbox to find more power. If you regularly haul loads or several passengers, you might want to consider something with more poke.
How much will it cost me?
The Ateca is more expensive than rivals like the Nissan Qashqai or Hyundai Tucson, but benefits from strong resale values that will go a long way to offsetting that up-front expense. Fuel economy is very reasonable compared to rivals, and the Ateca benefits from several choices of engine to suit different requirements. While on paper the Qashqai looks a better financial choice, the Ateca certainly doesn't disgrace itself.
How reliable is it?
Seat has a good reputation for reliability, as proved in the 2018 JD Power Vehicle Dependability Study, which saw the company place near the top of overall manufacturer performance. 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.
How safe is it?
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 child seat mounting 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 included on top-spec models, 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.
How much equipment do I get?
There are six trim levels available within the Ateca range; SE and SE Tech, FR and FR Sport and Xcellence and Xcellence Lux. The entry-level S model, introduced when the Ateca first launched, has now been discontinued, which means that the Ateca is well kitted out from the very start of the range.
The SE gets an 6.5-inch infotainment screen with Bluetooth connectivity and voice control, as well as Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and Mirror Link, but no DAB digital radio. You'll also get dual-zone climate control, cruise control, 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 an 8.0-inch screen with satellite navigation and DAB, and some extra USB charging points.
The sporty FR trim upgrades from the SE by including a rear spoiler and the larger screen with sat-nav and DAB, as well as front sports seats and a few jazzy cosmetic bits and bobs, while the FR Sport adds a digital dashboard in place of analogue instruments, an electric driver's seat and leather upholstery.
The most expensive Xcellence trim level includes keyless entry and start, adaptive cruise control and a rear view camera. For maximum kit, the Xcellence Lux adds features including the digital dashboard and leather sports seats.
The Seat Ateca is right up there with the best vehicles of this type. 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. 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.