2016 Seat Ateca review: Sharp driving, great value
It’s called the Ateca and it is Spanish firm Seat’s contender in the mid-sized SUV marketplace, a burgeoning segment that is chock full of talented vehicles vying for consumer attention. It leverages know-how from Seat’s parent company, the Volkswagen Group, and is therefore based on the German company’s Tiguan underpinnings. As a result, the Ateca is an extremely strong contender which blends impressive driving manners with great looks, a well-equipped, comfortable interior and reasonable pricing.
|Body Style: SUV
||Seats: 5||MRP from £18,670 - £31,590|
Did you know? Like all Seat models, the Ateca is named after a Spanish locale – in this instance, a small village west of Zaragoza.
It took Seat some time to take the plunge into this lucrative market. But the Ateca was well worth the wait, because it’s one of the most well-rounded, likeable and great value SUVs in the sector. Specify the Ateca correctly and you will end up with a very realistic claimant to the coveted title ‘Best SUV in Class’. Only the Skoda Karoq betters it for value, as well as practicality and dynamic fitness for purpose, although the Skoda doesn't handle with quite the Seat's verve. Ultimately, the Seat is about the most fun SUV at this price point and still functions brilliantly as a day-to-day, practical family car.
|Sharp exterior styling|
|Impressive equipment levels|
We don’t like
|Sober interior design|
Firm ride on larger wheels
|Stepped boot floor with rear seats folded|
Seat is developing a striking exterior styling theme, first displayed on 2012’s Leon hatchback, and there’s a strong case to be made that suggests the Ateca is the company’s best-looking car so far. The SUV features sharp, neat lines on its flanks and plenty of attractive detailing, such as the C-shaped daytime running lamps and the silver bumper flashes on higher models. It’s a really handsome machine.
Such attractive familial packaging has built up Seat’s profile with the buying public, so that the company’s old reputation of simply offering a lot of car for not much money has been replaced with a feeling among consumers that the Spanish firm is offering genuinely high-quality products, at prices that remain very competitive. Increasing UK sales year-on-year and Seat’s growing reputation for providing reliable cars should equip the Ateca with strong residual values accordingly.
If the exterior is distinctive and appealing, the interior is sadly rather staid. While it is perfectly well laid-out within, there’s an abundance of black plastics used that create a monotone ambience. Seat tries to lift things with silver chrome trim and some piano black panels, but all models come with analogue dials (there are no fancy TFT instrument clusters) and it’s all just too visually safe for our liking. The cabin is beautifully screwed together, though, with a real air of solidity and some premium-feeling materials used for key touchpoints.
No complaints on this score, as the Ateca is huge inside. There’s enough space for five adults on board and it has one of the biggest boots in the sector at 510 litres – larger than those found in its main rivals like the Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage and Renault Kadjar. It is worth remembering, however, that opting for four-wheel drive reduces cargo capacity by 25 litres, as the necessary hardware has to be fitted underneath the boot floor.
Good-sized door bins and a reasonable glovebox also help the Seat’s case, although the mismatched cup-holders are an annoyance and the load space floor isn’t completely flat when the rear seats are folded. At least folding the 60:40 split seats is easy enough, as the levers to do so are located in the boot.
The base model Seat Ateca comes with a five-inch monochrome touchscreen in the dashboard and a four-speaker stereo. Much better, then, to step up one trim level, where the full colour eight-inch screen is introduced as part of the Media System Plus, bringing with it eight speakers and voice control.
Sat-nav is another grade up again, but all Atecas with Media System Plus get the Seat Full Link software, which includes MirrorLink, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality. All versions of the Seat SUV have Bluetooth connectivity, steering wheel-mounted audio and phone controls, and USB sockets, while the very top-grade car gets a ‘Qi’ wireless smartphone charging cradle in the centre console as standard. The excellent Seat Sound ten-speaker audio system is less than £350 and is available on all cars bar the base variant.
This is an area where the Seat Ateca really shines in the class. The Spanish arm of the Volkswagen Group is renowned for setting up entertaining cars for keener drivers and, despite its lofty stance, the Ateca is no exception. It has excellent body control during quick cornering, which means there’s much less of the disconcerting lean that is normally associated with high-riding vehicles.
Furthermore, the Seat has fine steering and lots of grip, so it feels far more like a hatchback to drive than a 4x4. It’s also very quiet in the cabin and it has a good ride quality, although steer clear of the largest 19-inch alloys if you want to elicit the Ateca’s best cruising manners.
A range of turbocharged petrol and diesel engines is offered for the Seat SUV, with sizes ranging from 1.0 to 2.0 litres and power from 115 to 190hp. Although it’s an SUV, most Ateca models are actually front-wheel drive, with the company’s all-wheel ‘4Drive’ system only available in conjunction with the 2.0-litre TDI engines at the top of the tree. Gearbox choices are a six-speed manual or a seven-speed DSG twin-clutch automatic.
The Ateca with the predicted best resale value is the 150hp 2.0-litre diesel, but we’d actually advocate the lovely, free-revving and smooth 1.4 EcoTSI petrol as a better option (unless you’re planning on doing in excess of 10,000 miles a year in your Seat). The 1.4 is quick and it also has a neat feature in which it can shut down two of its four cylinders under light engine loads, in order to save fuel.
Recommended engine: 1.4 EcoTSI 150 manual
The Ateca bagged the full five-star rating from EuroNCAP, racking up impressive scores of 93 per cent for adult protection and 84 per cent for child protection. It also posted 71 per cent pedestrian safety, thanks to Front Assist, City Emergency Braking and Pedestrian Protection systems being fitted as standard across the board. The Seat has seven airbags around the cabin and ISOFIX mounting points for child seats in the outermost rear chairs.
Further safety tech includes electronic stability control and hill-hold control, which prevents the car unintentionally rolling backwards when moving off on inclines. Options include adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring, lane-keep and high-beam assist features, as well as Traffic Jam Assist – which can steer, accelerate and brake the car in heavy traffic up to speeds of 37mph. All models get LED daytime running lights, LED tail-lights are fitted to all Atecas bar base cars, and LED headlights are standard on the two highest trim levels.
The standard colour for all cars is a solid hue called Mediterranean Blue, while two more flat shades available are Bila White and Passion Red (around £275 each). Metallic finishes are Lava Blue, Jungle Green, Mato Brown, Rodium Grey, Reflex Silver, Black Magic, and Nevada White (all roughly £575), while Samoa Orange is classed as a special paint and is therefore around £650.
Four trim levels run S, SE, SE Technology and Xcellence. S variants have decent specification, with equipment highlights including air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, Bluetooth and a leather multifunction steering wheel. Step up to SE and many more luxuries are thrown in, such as the eight-inch infotainment system, seventeen-inch alloys, Full Link, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors.
SE Technology is where sat-nav, LED headlights, 18-inch wheels and aluminium roof rails are added, but it’s the Xcellence that shows off the Ateca in the best light – high-end equipment such as leather upholstery, ambient lighting, keyless entry and go, wireless phone charging and a reversing camera are all fitted.
As we’ve already touched upon, we reckon the 1.4 EcoTSI is the best engine, fitted with a manual gearbox and in Xcellence trim, retaining the standard 18-inch alloys (around £24,500). Be adventurous and go for the Seat in one of the bright colours, such as Passion Red or Samoa Orange. It’s a car from a sunny Latin country, after all.
Size & Dimensions
It should do, because it’s not huge – based, as it is, in the C-segment SUV class, it’s not much longer than the average hatchback. Its height and width including door mirrors will be of more concern, although folding the mirrors in reduces the width to 1841mm.
Max towing weight without brake
From 600kg (2.0 JTDM 173bhp TCT) - 1,300kg (1.6 JTDM 118bhp)
Seat fits all Atecas with an automatic engine stop-start system and energy recuperation technology, meaning all versions will return more than 50mpg combined – and the most frugal should give back in excess of 65mpg. Emissions are reasonable too, although not quite as impressive as some variants of the Nissan Qashqai; naturally, 4Drive-equipped Atecas are thirstier than their front-wheel drive siblings.
The company offers two fixed-price servicing plans on the Ateca: two years and 20,000 miles of cover costing around £380, or three years and 30,000 miles for almost £500. If they sound like big chunks of money, you can alternatively spread the cost with monthly payments of £21. Insurance groups are low, too, with the 1.0-litre models down in category 8/9 and the most expensive Ateca residing in group 21.
For a Seat Ateca in S trim with the 1.0 TSI petrol, prices start at less than £18,000, but the rest of the range is in excess of £20,000 and, really, you will be aiming at the £25,000 mark to get the best of the Ateca. SE Technology cars, probably the equipment level that will satisfy the broadest range of buyers, start at less than £22,000 (again for the 1.0), but the stronger engines in this trim are nearer £24,000. Beware the 190hp 2.0 TDI 4Drive, which comes only with the DSG automatic transmission, as this is the only Ateca that has a starting price of more than £30,000 – and there’s still the possibility of adding further cost options and packs beyond that figure.
|New Parents||The 1.6 TDI SE Technology offers easy motoring, good running costs, an inexpensive purchase price and useful, child-friendly kit.|
|Company Car Buyer||Our preferred model of the 1.4 EcoTSI has the best company car BIK tax rates, as diesels incur an extra three percent levy.|
|Tech Junkie||For the full gamut of technology on the Ateca, it has to be the range-topping 2.0 TDI 4Drive DSG 190.|
|Cost Conscious||For the full gamut of technology on the Ateca, it has to be the range-topping 2.0 TDI 4Drive DSG 190.|
|Kia Sportage||Unusual front-end styling, but the Kia is good to drive, well-priced and warrantied to the hilt.|
|Nissan Qashqai||The originator of this class and, while not hugely exciting, it’s very strong in all departments.|
|Peugeot 3008||Hugely improved in second-generation guise, it has striking looks and a futuristic i-Cockpit interior.|
|Renault Kadjar||A slightly more alluring version of the Nissan Qashqai – it uses the same engines and chassis.|
|Toyota C-HR||Daring styling and really good chassis help to make the Toyota an unusual alternative to the class norm.|