By now, we all know that the SEAT Ateca is the brand's first ever SUV. Yes, they had dabbled with 4x4 technology in the LEON X-Perience – which is about as close as you can get to being an SUV… without being an SUV (if you know what I mean?). To many, the Ateca will remind them of the new Tiguan, but this can't take away from the fact that this is an amazing first attempt by SEAT. In fact, the manufacturer has done a great job in giving this SUV the good value character that can be found in the likes of the Leon and the Ibiza. It's like SEAT have been making chunky SUVs for years.
The Ateca feels more spacious than a lot of its rivals, including Volkswagen's Tiguan. The boot is huge, rear leg room is vast, there are no head height issues and the front cabin is laid out well. Yes, the Tiguan has back seats on rails… which would be a nice touch. Of course, we had a high-spec “Xcellence” trim model – which meant we also had a fantastic leather interior with an 8-inch colour touch screen and optional adaptive cruise control (I’ll get back to that).
Our test car also had two USB charge points to the front as well as a 12v socket. The small TFT screen in the instrument binnacle is good and it shows your driving data and your satellite navigation instructions. The infotainment system and some of the car’s other driving functions can be controlled by the easy-to-use steering wheel controls. There is an abundance of heating-system related buttons below the touch screen. Some manufacturers are doing a nice job by cleaning up the dash area and allowing the heating, bum warmers, etc., to be controlled through the touch screen system. This is under no circumstances a reason to be put off the car, because the interior is a refined and very nice place to sit in.
Believe it or not, the first time I ever trusted adaptive cruise control was in the SEAT Leon FR ST. By now most people will know what adaptive cruise control is, but if you don’t, here’s a very short explanation. Adaptive cruise control is like normal cruise control but, the car will maintain a safe distance from the cars in front, which means that the system will apply the brakes if required. Ever since I first tested it in the Leon FR ST, I must say, that I’ve found myself hoping that it’s included in every test drive that I get – I guess this means I’m lazy.
As standard, you will find that the Xcellence trim of the Ateca comes with 18-inch alloys. Our test model came with 19’s, which didn’t unsettle the ride quality. The car deals well with bends and the steering is precise – but seems to be missing a bit of spirit. The car offers a satisfying drive, and while the suspension in the AWD car is a little firm and can be felt on uneven surfaces, it’s still an enjoyable experience.
The 2.0 TDI (190bhp) diesel engine in our test car was loud enough - so too was with the smaller engine that I drove in my first impressions test drive (1.6 TDI 115bhp). Our test drive covered 300km, 160 km of which was on the motorway and the remainder was an even-mix of country roads and city driving. We returned a fuel economy of 8.4 litres per hundred km. SEAT claims an economy of 5.3l/100km. I know that had we driven this car further, and tried to be a bit more economical, that we would have returned a better figure than 8.4. However, I don’t think that we would’ve come close to the claimed 5.3l/100km.
Our test vehicle was mated to a 7-speed dual clutch DSG gearbox, which tended to hold onto gears too long. Of course, there were flappy paddles on the steering wheel which allowed me to go through the gears at my own pace, but I prefer not using them in most cars. The way I see it is, if I wanted to change the gears myself, then I would’ve opted for a manual. I mainly drove the SEAT Ateca in Sport, Normal and Eco modes. There is also off-road and snow drive modes – unfortunately I didn’t have the means to take this vehicle off-road.
Despite any misgivings that I’d have about the gearbox, I do think that the SEAT Ateca is an excellent choice for potential SUV buyers. The test car I was driving aside (which was the highest trim available at €41,881 including options like Adaptive Cruise Control, 19” alloys, Park Assist and more), the Ateca comes with a very reasonable price tag, especially when you compare it to the Volkswagen Tiguan. Prices for the Ateca start from €24,750 (“S” Trim). The second level trim, “SE”, is well-equipped and that starts from €27,920. The entry level price for the Xcellence trim is €31,120 and with this the car is powered by a 1.4 TSI engine, which we are yet to drive.
You get a lot of bang for your buck with SEAT. What I can’t understand is why more of these, and other SEAT vehicles in general, aren’t on our roads. Perhaps people in Ireland don’t fully understand that what the brand offers now is far superior than what they used to offer. Of course, there is a massive amount of competition within the SUV segment in Ireland and other than the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan, the Ateca should also look out for the Qashqai, the Tucson, Peugeot 3008.