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First drive: Seat Ateca

Date: 07 December 2020   |   Author: Pete Tullin

The freshly facelifted Seat Ateca seems better placed than ever to wrest sales from established favourites such as the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai.
Standard equipment:
Dual-zone climate control, cruise control, LED headlamps with cornering function, roof rails, wireless smartphone link with wireless phone charger, leather steering wheel and gear knob, split folding rear seats (60/40), electric parking brake including auto-hold and hill hold function, front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry, front assist including autonomous emergency braking
Petrol: 115hp 1.0, 150hp 1.5, 190hp 2.0, 300hp 2.0
Diesel: 150hp 2.0
Equipment grades:
SE, SE Technology, FR, FR Sport, Xperience
Six-speed manual, seven-speed DSG auto

Let's not beat about the bush: if you're looking for a more user-friendly alternative to some of the hulking great SUVs that lumber up and down Britain's high streets every day, then you could do a lot worse than consider the newly refurbished Seat Ateca. 

Attractively priced and sharply styled, thanks to the addition of a newly fashioned bumpers and grille treatment, and flavoured with a dash of Spanish driving zip, it's hard to think of too many reasons why you wouldn't.

The subtle facelift also brings a gaggle of retuned engines, most updated with the latest RDE2 emissions regime in mind. 

Choices include a 1.0 three-cylinder unit, 1.5 and two 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engines, and a 2.0-litre diesel engine. 

While most of the engines can be specified with either a six-speed manual gearbox or seven-speed DSG automatic, the more powerful examples also come with a multi-link rear suspension set-up and the option of all-wheel drive. 

For our money though, the sweet point of the range lies more towards the budget end of the spectrum. This is something Seat is also clearly aware of, as our test drive featured the entry-level SE Tech 115hp 1.0-litre three-cylinder-engined model and the Xperience 150hp 1.5-litre four-cylinder version, which is predicted to be the bestselling Ateca.

Despite being underpinned by near identical chassis hardware, and tuned to reflect Seat's preferred sporting bent, it's striking just how different the two cars are to drive. 

While it will come as no surprise to anyone that the Xperience's exceptionally smooth and responsive 1.5-litre engine and slick-shifting seven-speed automatic ensure it feels more alert and significantly more refined than the thrummy three-cylinder version, this really doesn't explain the dynamic divide between the two.

While both suffer from a slightly chastening rear-end shudder over coarser surfaces, body movements in the Xperience version are better controlled, both vertically and laterally, ensuring it has the sporting goods to spear through challenging bends with the type of reassuring control associated with many a hot hatch. 

By contrast, the three-cylinder car's credentials are undermined by notably more side-to-side shimmy when encountering changes in road camber and significantly higher levels of body lean in corners. 

To be fair, the cheaper motor's lighter frontal load helps deliver more fluid steering responses, but throw in a harsher, more combustive engine note and a cabin less well insulated from the elements and the Xperience's premium begins to look like money well spent.

Inside, everything in every Ateca is logically laid out and solidly constructed, including the slick operating switchgear and large rotary dials for the climate control. 

A new 9.2in touchscreen sits slap bang in the middle of the dash and thankfully employs an intuitive, user-friendly interaction, which is refreshingly straightforward compared to many of the multilayered infotainment systems found in the latest VW Group models. 

With ever more restrictive phone legislation due to have an increasing influence on our driving habits, the ramifications for touchscreen interaction seem somewhat inevitably. Hence Seat's decision to upgrade its voice recognition interface. The system allows users to pair smartphones wireless via Apple Carplay and interact with these devices, negating the need to touch the screen. That said, the thought of commanding the system to wake-up by calling out "Hola Hola" may be a step too far for many.

Complementing this ease of use, the Ateca's excellent driving position is simplicity itself to attain thanks to loads of adjustments, both for the driver's seat and steering wheel, while further back there's sufficient leg and elbow room for two, maybe three at a pinch. Even so, that stylised rising waistline does have a rather negative impact on the overall feeling of airiness, while children of limited stature will not be best impressed by the restrictive side view.

As you might expect, the Ateca comes with most of the latest safety systems, including traffic jam assist, which can autonomously steer, accelerate and brake for you at low speeds. Blind spot monitoring with lane keep assist and autonomous braking, helping to prevent low-speed collisions, is also available, while Xperience trims come with side and exit assist, which gives an audible and visual warning if unseen traffic is detected when reversing out of your drive.

Overall, the Ateca is one of the most enjoyable family SUVs to own and drive, but a test drive is essential to identify the sweetest model. It could make the difference between merely excellent and truly exceptional. 

Seat Ateca 1.5 TSI auto Xperience 

P11D: £28,860

Residual value: 41.2%

Depreciation: £16,960

Fuel: £7,525

Service, maintenance and repair: £2,445

Cost per mile: 44.9p

Fuel consumption: 39.8mpg

CO2 (BIK band): 154g/km (33%)  

BIK 20/40% a month: £159/£317

Boot space: 510 litres  

Engine size/power: 1,498cc/150hp


  • Smooth four-cylinder engine
  • Solid build quality
  • Comprehensive safety kit
  • Vocal three-cylinder engine
  • Dingy rear seats
  • Inconsistent driving attributes