SEAT's first Crossover, the family-sized Ateca, directly targets Nissan's Qashqai in this growing segment and looks a strong proposition. Jonathan Crouch checks out what's on offer.
SEAT's Ateca looks a strong proposition in the family Crossover segment. It's well priced, sharply-styled and offers the sporty feel the sector seems to want. In fact, you wonder why it took the Spanish brand so long to bring us a car like this.
Not before time, the Volkswagen Group is properly getting on board with the current market preference for Qashqai-style Crossover models. We'll see a whole series of cars like this from the conglomerate over the next few years: here's SEAT's take on the concept, the Ateca. Named after a traditional Spanish town, the Ateca shares much with its Volkswagen Tiguan cousin but, says SEAT, offers a sportier, more lifestyle-orientated approach to this kind of car. And a more affordable one too. Sounds promising.
The Ateca delivers a line-up of petrol and diesel engines ranging in power from 115 to 190PS, with the initial range built around three petrol units and three diesels. Things kick off with a 1.0-litre TSI 115PS Ecomotive petrol variant that sits just below a 150PS 1.4-litre TSI EcoTSI option, plus there's a 2.0 TSI 190PS powerplant. Diesel models start with the 1.6-litre TDI 115PS derivative, plus there are also 150 and 190PS versions of the Volkswagen Group's familiar 2.0-litre TDI diesel. 2.0 TDI 150PS buyers get the option of DSG auto transmission and '4Drive' 4WD, but if you go for the top 190PS variant, you have to have both. We expect the 2.0 TDI diesel engine to be the one many buyers will target and it's a strong engine that pulls willingly from low speeds, though isn't the most refined powerplant of its kind. The Ateca rides firmly - in line with SEAT's preference to make it 'sporty': that's something potential buyers will need to like. The lofty driving position will please them, as will the way that all the major controls are clustered around you. Not so good are the thick, angled C-pillars that block rear three-quarter vision. An optional park assist system and birds-eye camera help with tight spaces.
Under skin, the Ateca sits on the same MQB platform as its more conventional Leon stablemate and uses most of the same mechanicals found in Volkswagen's very similar Tiguan model. Inside, it's also very similar to the Leon - which is no bad thing. The fit and finish is of high quality, though the plastics get scratchier the farther down you go. In the front, there's decent room for two adults on supportive seats. It's the same in the back, though it's disappointing to find that the rear seats don't slide or recline like they do in the Volkswagen Tiguan. The boot's a bit smaller than that pricier Volkswagen rival model too, though will easily swallow a couple of big cases and a pushchair. You access it via a tailgate offering the option of power operation: it's one of those you can activate by waving your foot beneath the bumper.
Ateca's pricing starts from around £18,000 and there's a choice of four trim levels - 'S', 'SE', 'FR' and range-topping 'XCELLENCE' where variants sit in the £24,000 to £30,000 bracket. Standard equipment across the range includes air conditioning, a 'Media System Touch' five-inch touchscreen with USB and SD connectivity, a leather steering wheel and gearknob, plus split-folding rear seats with reclining function. On the outside, there are 16-inch 'Design' alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights. The mid-range 'SE' version features upgraded infotainment and an eight-speaker stereo and larger 17-inch wheels. And 'XCELLENCE' models include a Connectivity Hub with a wireless 'phone charger, plus the 'SEAT Drive Profile' system that allows you to tweak steering feel, throttle response and gearchange timings to suit the way you want to drive. The extensive array of technology options extends from full-LED headlights to a broad portfolio of assistance systems, like an innovative Traffic Jam Assist set-up and an Emergency Assist feature, to a package of latest-generation infotainment systems with eight-inch touchscreens and Full Link connectivity. The infotainment screen functions with MirrorLink and Apple CarPlay connectivity and the system will also read out new text, Twitter and Facebook messages and let you dictate a reply. It's even got the capability to let you set up your own screen gestures to shortcut to your most popular commands.
Typical Ateca owners will go for the economical diesel models but even the petrol variants should be relatively frugal thanks to advanced TSI technology. The 1.0 TSI Ecomotive variant puts out a very reasonable 123g/km of CO2, while the 1.4-litre EcoTSI powerplant delivers a 125g/km CO2 reading. Switch to diesel and the 1.6 TDI Ecomotive derivative manages 112g/km. Expect the volume 2.0 TDI diesel 150PS model to deliver nearly 60mpg on the combined cycle and a CO2 return of 114g/km in 2WD manual form. There's no real penalty for choosing the super-smooth DSG automatic gearbox either. Go for the 190PS 2.0 TDI version that has auto and '4Drive'' as standard and you're looking at 131g/km and a fuel return very little affected. What else? Well there's SEAT's usual three year/60,000 mile warranty. That's unexceptional when rivals like Toyota and Hyundai offer five years of cover as standard and Kia offers up to seven years. However, the SEAT deal is extendable, so you might be able to negotiate on that. And it includes two years of Europe-wide roadside assistance.
SEAT's first effort in this segment looks to have been worth waiting for. The Ateca isn't quite the size of a Tiguan - but then it's much more affordable. And there's a dash of spirit and character here that we think potential customers will like. In summary, if you were just about to buy a Nissan Qashqai or something similar, an Ateca is certainly worth a look.