For some time, the Nissan Qashqai was king of the sensible family SUVs. Then came along a challenger to the throne in 2016, when SEAT unleashed the Ateca. Endlessly practical yet still a lot of fun to drive, the Ateca offers a real viable alternative for motorists, as well as a more affordable one. Long live the king!
Small SUVs are all about practicality and function, right? For many buyers, though, they’re looking for something more, something a bit sexier. While some competitors like the Nissan Qashqai have got the kind of looks that only a mother could love, the Seat Ateca manages to deliver both practicality and beauty.
Earlier models have more of an understated appeal to them. The newer facelifted model really is a thing of some style. Okay, so you’re fooling no one that your crossover family SUV is a sports car, but you’ll still get the odd approving glance. The Ateca is a lot sharper and prettier than it has any real business being.
Seat Ateca manages to deliver both practicality and beauty.
What’s it like to drive?
These kinds of hatchback/SUV crossovers aren’t exactly known for slick handling, engine power or exhilarating drives. When you turn the key in a Seat Ateca, you do so with very little anticipation. Get ready to be surprised. There’s a fair bit of poke, noticeably keen handling and a real responsiveness at your driving gloves disposal.
True, with a bunch of people and some weight on board, you may struggle uphill a wee bit. This is not a car for rocky terrain or steep inclines. Nor, particularly, is it built for long hauls on motorways. That’s not to say you’ll struggle all that much, we’re really just telling you that Atecas are cars for urban environments. Well, most Atecas, that is. Get one of the two-litre engine models and it’s got your back no matter what you ask of it.
Get ready to be surprised. There’s a fair bit of poke.
One of the best things about the Seat Ateca is the space and positioning given to the driver. It’s absolutely a class leader in terms of driver comfort. Everything is aligned with precision and there’s a level of position adjustment you just can’t find elsewhere for the price.
The Ateca wins no style or design awards for the layout and appearance of the dashboard or cabin in general. There’s a vague feeling of ‘budget’ about the look and feel, especially compared to some of the model’s direct rivals. It’s difficult to get too grouchy at the look and feel of the matt black plastic dash, it’s just all a bit uninspiring is all.
There may not be any fancy trims or luxurious-feeling soft plastics or leathers at your fingertips, but that’s not uncommon with these kinds of smaller family-orientated SUVs. If you want an executive feel, you’re going to have to fork out for the Volvo XC40 or the BMW X1.
Older models will feel particularly analogue, especially given they weren’t all that cutting edge inside when they first left Seat’s forecourts. Newer models have decent infotainment systems that won’t drop your jaw, just quietly please. They’re well positioned, easy to use, responsive and have crisp, clear graphics.
The Ateca is based on Seat’s ever-popular Leon. The main difference comes with the space available inside. There is significantly more head and legroom in the front and back with the Ateca. The interior is a paella for four to the Leon’s tapas dish.
As for boot space, the Ateca doesn’t disappoint. That said, it doesn’t overly impress, either. The pricier Volkswagen Tiguan offer a tad more room. You’ll easily stack up a few suitcases or find room for a week’s shopping in the Ateca. Not to bash the Qashqai again, but the Ateca trumps the Nissan in boot space.
As for clever storage solutions, there’s not much to speak of. The door bins aren’t bad sizes, nor is the central console cubby. You’d better have small hands, though as the glovebox is oddly small.
Running costs and reliability
Naturally, your fuel economy will depend on the size of the engine you opt for and the way in which you drive. Even if you opt for a 2.0l engine, provided you’re sensible with the accelerator, you’ll get more than 50 miles to the gallon out of a Seat Ateca. Not quite enough to make it a class leader, but up there with the best.
What we love
There’s a lot to like about this snazzy crossover SUV. There are a range of engine choices, they handle nicely and are reliably trustworthy. They also look the part, unlike quite a few of their biggest rivals. Let’s also not forget the roominess, of course.
For us, however, the biggest selling point of the Ateca is the drive quality. It’s just a really, really smooth and dynamic ride. That’s not something you can say about too many of the other motors in its class.
If you’re looking for a sizeable but still modestly-sized town or city car, this could be the one for you. If there’s a more perfect family vehicle out there, we can’t think of it off the tops of our heads.
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We like this car. Do we love it? Well, it’s hard to love any of these very practical kinds of cars, in truth. Just because we’re friend-zoning the Ateca a little, that doesn’t mean it’s not a great car. A fun drive, with lots of room, decent fuel economy and a general air of likeability – if it’s not quite the king of its class yet, it's an heir to the throne.
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