SEAT Ateca review

Our Rating 
4
4.0/5.0
2016 model
By jumbo-bg Test TeamComments

The SEAT Ateca crossover delivers sharp looks, fun handling and a practical, solid cabin

For 
Stylish exterior, great to drive, decent value for money
Against 
Not much kit on basic models, ride can be a little firm, slightly bland interior

SEAT's first SUV had to be a good one, and the Ateca has scored a direct hit. More than that, its combination of style, space, quality, driving enjoyment and value earned it the title of Crossover of the Year 2016 at our New Car Awards. SEAT has since launched a smaller model called the Arona, and there's a Skoda Kodiaq-rivalling large SUV called Tarraco on the way, too.

The Spanish brand's sharp design language ensures that the SEAT Ateca is one of the smartest-looking cars of its kind. There's substance underneath, too, with a wide range of punchy and efficient engines and a well-tuned chassis making the Ateca one of the best in its class to drive.

A lack of kit for the cheapest models and slightly dull interior may deter some, but the impressive space on offer, general air of solidity and availability of front or four-wheel drive gives the Ateca all it needs to be a front runner in the crossover class.

Our Choice 
SEAT Ateca 1.0 TSI SE Technology

Crossover buyers are spoiled for choice in 2018, but the SEAT Ateca is one of the best models on sale. While it was SEAT's first entry into the class, it uses tried-and-tested features from the Leon hatchback and other models within the VW Group family, and the end result is a convincing crossover package.

Like the majority of crossovers, it comes in a single body style with five doors and a five seat layout. In many ways it's the SUV equivalent of the Leon, as the sharp lines and creases of the bodywork look largely the same as the hatchback. There's method in this, because not only does the Ateca have a corporate look, it shares much of its running gear with the Leon, too.

• SEAT Ateca vs Renault Kadjar

As a result, the engine range features a range of turbocharged TSI petrol and TDI diesel units. Petrol units come in 1.0 115PS, 1.4 150PS and 2.0 TSI 190PS guises, with 113bhp, 148bhp and 187bhp respectively. The 1.0 TSI is badged Ecomotive to promote its fuel efficiency and has a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive.

The 1.4 has the same transmission (a seven-speed DSG auto is optional), but is badged EcoTSI, as it features cylinder deactivation to boost economy. As a result it returns 53.3mpg, compared to 54.3mpg for the three-cylinder 1.0 TSI. At the top of the range, the 2.0 TSI comes with the seven-speed DSG box and 4Drive four-wheel drive as standard.

Go for a diesel engine, and your options are narrower. The 1.6 TDI 115PS has 113bhp, while the 2.0 TDI 150PS and 190PS have 148bhp and 187bhp respectively. The 1.6 TDI and the lower powered 2.0 TDI come with a six-speed manual gearbox as standard, while the 190PS version features the seven-speed DSG box with 4Drive 4WD. In addition, you can add the 4x4 system to the 2.0 TDI 150PS.

Later this year, SEAT will launch its Cupra performance sub-brand with a new version of the Ateca featuring a 300bhp 2.0 TSI petrol engine, 4Drive 4WD and bespoke suspension settings tuned by SEAT's motorsport division.

The current Ateca range comprises S, SE, SE Technology, Xcellence and FR models. Not every engine is offered in every trim, but there's enough crossover between trims, drive systems and powerplants to ensure there's an Ateca to suit your budget.

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All cars come with air conditioning, a responsive touchscreen infotainment system with USB connection, a leather trimmed steering wheel and split-folding rear seats with reclining seat backs as standard. Go for a Technology model, and you get sat-nav and LED headlights, while FR models add a sporty bodykit and Dynamic Chasis Control that can switch between comfort, eco and sport driving modes.

Prices for the Ateca range from just over £18,000 to nearly £32,000, so it matches its crossover rivals for cost. The Ateca is one of the class leaders, though, and we'd recommend it alongside the Skoda Karoq and Peugeot 3008 at the top of the crossover tree. Other models that come close to this trio are the Mazda CX-5, Renault Kadjar and Nissan Qashqai, while the Volkswagen Tiguan is a pricier alternative, as are Toyota's RAV4 and the Honda CR-V. The Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson are also worth considering, as is the updated Ford Kuga.

Engines, performance and drive

4.4
Great to drive for an SUV, with good body control and punchy engines

The focus for an SUV is usually on practicality and usability, but the Ateca is also very convincing from behind the wheel. This dynamic set-up for the car is probably down to the fact that SEAT is known as the sporty brand with the VW Group. The Ateca is based on the VW Group’s MQB platform, which underpins everything from SEAT’s new Ibiza supermini to the Audi TT sports car and Skoda’s seven-seat Kodiaq SUV – highlighting the versatility of the modular chassis.

For the Ateca, the ride height has been raised to give it an SUV-like stance, and you feel like you’re sat high. The first thing you notice from climbing behind the wheel is how flexible the driving position is. The is a huge amount of adjustment in the seating position and the steering wheel can be adjusted for reach and height; a driver of nearly any size will be able to get comfortable behind the wheel.

On the move the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine does have a bit of characteristic diesel clatter at lower speeds, but it pulls strongly from low revs and when paired with the seven-speed automatic gearbox it makes for smooth progress. The 1.0 TSI is a better bet, proving plenty punchy enough for most and remarkably refined at high speeds.

After just a few corners you realise the Ateca is a sportier crossver to drive. Alongside the gearbox, it offers weightier, more precise steering, making the most of the extra grip the MQB chassis provides. However, you pay a price for this engagement and precision when it comes to ride comfort. The SEAT feels firm and it doesn’t float over nasty tarmac or have the compliance of some rivals over rougher roads. 

It’s more unyielding, which is transmitted through to the passenger compartment, impacting comfort. Even on the motorway it jiggles and fidgets more than some cars that move with the road a little more harmoniously.

The steering has a nice weighting and a great connection to the road – it’s the best choice if you value driver involvement above all else, but in this class comfort and refinement are likely to be more important.

The Ateca doesn’t hit the heights of the Peugeot here because the firmer set-up means you feel more from the road surface when on the move. It’s not as compliant over country roads, either, and while the SEAT retains good composure thanks to a level of grip that would rival a hatchback, it doesn’t smooth out broken surfaces as adeptly as the 3008.

The noisy 1.6 TDI makes the Ateca less rela on a cruise, while the lack of torque only compounds this. You have to work the engine and gearbox harder, revving it more, so the diesel drone is all the more apparent.

Top spec 187bhp Ateca TDI models sprint from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds, but in reality doesn't feel that fast. If that’s not enough, there is also a performance-based Cupra model on the way with a 296bhp 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

Engines

SEAT predicts the most popular choice of engine will be the 148bhp 2.0-litre TDI model, but the 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel engine will also appeal to those who like to keep an eye on running costs. The latter is a little noisy when extended, but it offers enough performance for most needs and rarely feels sluggish. The top-of-the-range 2.0 TDI gets 187bhp and sprints from 0-62mph in just 7.5 seconds.

When we tested the 1.6 TDI it wasn’t as refined as a Peugeot 3008 1.6 BlueHDi or Nissan Qashqai 1.6 dCi. And with only 250Nm of torque (the least of the three), it also wasn’t as quick in gear at the test track. The Ateca took 15 seconds to accelerate between 50-70mph in sixth, although it was faster than the Nissan in the lower gears.

Good traction off the line and a lovely, precise six-speed manual transmission meant the Ateca was actually the fastest car over the 0-60mph benchmark sprint, clocking 10.4 seconds. The gearbox allows you to make up time going up the ratios, whereas you have to be slower and more methodical in the other models.

The petrol engines will serve the needs of some buyers but the availability of the 113bhp 1.0-litre turbo will stand out due to its low list price. The three-cylinder unit isn’t as smooth or quiet as a four-cylinder, but it is eager and pulls well, with the SEAT taking an impressively sprightly 13.1 seconds to accelerate between 50-70mph in sixth. It sprints from 30-50mph in fourth, with a time of 6.4 seconds – while some rivals can't manage that in less than seven.

It’s even pretty quiet on the motorway, and the sharp gearshift and more mechanical feel to the way the SEAT drives means it’s actually very enjoyable to push along twistier roads. If we're honest, this 1.0 TSI is actually our pick of the range. It’s responsive, more refined than the diesels and won’t break the bank to run.

We've also tried the 1.4 TSI and 2.0 TSI models with the DSG automatic gearbox. Both are relatively swift, but in town the powertrain is jerky and slow to react. It's a shame, because the package is otherwise very tempting. The manual models are much more enjoyable to drive overall. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs

4.2
Over 65mpg for the Ateca’s most efficient engines will keep running costs down

The majority of engines available in the SEAT Ateca are adopted from the existing Leon hatchback range. There are six in total: three petrol and three diesel.

The most interesting is the option of the 113bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo. SEAT claims it will return up to 54.3mpg and emit 121g/km of CO2 on the combined cycle, which is impressive for such a small engine in a relatively large car. Another petrol option is the larger 148bhp 1.4-litre four-cylinder turbo, which is capable of 52.3mpg and 125g/km of CO2, while the range-topping (for now) 187bhp car should return 40.4mpg and 159g/km CO2 emissions. It is worth noting that it only comes as a 4x4 auto – meaning real-world running costs might be higher.

For some buyers, the diesel engines will look more appealing. The 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel will be the most economical model, with SEAT claiming 65.7mpg and 112g/km of CO2 combined. The more powerful and punchy 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel isn’t far behind, however, and will return a claimed 64.2mpg in mixed motoring. The flagship 2.0 TDI 190 (187bhp) is the fastest Ateca on sale – but even this version should return 53.3mpg with 135g/km CO2 emissions. Again, it's only available with SEAT's 4Drive all-wheel-drive system and the DSG auto box.

Insurance Groups 

Insurance groups for the Ateca start at 8 and rise to 21, which is an almost identical showing to the Leon hatch. It’s not surprising as they both use a lot of the same mechanical components. Those insurance groups are also similar to rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai and Renault Kadjar, but none should be too pricey to insure.

Depreciation

No SEAT Ateca is forecast to lose more than about half of its value after three years or 36,000 miles. That's a really strong showing, and proves how in demand these cars are at the moment. According to our data, the two most popular models will be the 1.0 TSI and the 1.6 TDI - both in SE Technology spec. These cars will retain more than 54 per cent of their value, which is more than most rivals.

Interior, design and technology

4.3
The Ateca looks great on the outside and has a clean, minimalist interior, although it's a bit bland in places

In the same way it did with the engines and the chassis, SEAT has looked again to its tried and tested Leon when it comes to the exterior and interior of the Ateca. That means smart, clean and well-proportioned looks on the outside, with the usual smattering of rugged body cladding and a raised ride height that typifies an SUV.

The Ateca feels very much like a jacked-up Leon, and this extends to the cabin design, which is carried over almost unchanged from the well finished hatchback. The materials used across the top of the dash are soft and high quality but look lower down on the centre console and the doors and you'll find a few hard and scratchy plastics. It's not a deal-breaker though, especially given the price: The level of quality in the VW Tiguan is better but that's a considerably more expensive car.

Entry level S models don’t come with a huge amount of kit, with air-conditioning, 16-inch alloy wheels, a five-inch touchscreen and seven airbags. There is also autonomous emergency braking, however, which is good to see for this price of car.

Still we'd recommend stepping up to SE spec, as SEAT throws in larger 17-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone climate control, cruise control and rear parking sensors. These versions also come with SEAT's Full Link smartphone connectivity system, which is compatible with Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and MirrorLink. 

FR cars get a sportier bodykit, bigger wheels and body-coloured trim, while top-spec Xcellence models come with a full leather interior, LED headlights and reversing camera. SEAT expects the most popular trim to be mid-spec SE, which offers the best in terms of value for money. 

Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment

The infotainment system used in the Ateca will be familiar to anyone who has been in a Skoda, VW or SEAT before. The system is very intuitive to use and can be operated by the dials on the dashboard or with the touchscreen itself. 

Those who go for an entry-level model will be disappointed by the fact that their Ateca will only come fitted with a tiny five-inch display that looks rather small on the dashboard. It also means navigation is not even an option on entry-level cars. Above that, the SEAT's optional sat-nav is reasonably priced when compared to rivals, at around £550.

SE Technology adds sat-nav as standard to the Ateca’s 8.0-inch Full Link infotainment system, which gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard. Smartphone integration is so good that there’s a case for only using your mobile device’s functions, with apps such as Spotify and Maps supported. DAB and Bluetooth are standard across the range, too.

The SEAT’s touchscreen is easy to use, but the graphics aren’t quite as sharp, so it looks a little grainier. However, it doesn’t ever lag behind your inputs like the Peugeot 3008’s system sometimes does. It’s clearly not as advanced, though, as the Ateca doesn’t get a full digital dash, even as an option, which means it feels a step behind the Peugeot here.

Voice control is standard and works across all areas of the system. It functions fairly well, too, as you don’t have to go through many frustrating procedures to confirm your commands. 

Practicality, comfort and boot space

4.3
A larger boot and more passenger space than most rivals will be a big selling point

The Ateca uses the same platform and shares the same wheelbase as the Leon hatchback, which means it isn’t one of the most spacious when it comes to rear passenger space.

While the SEAT isn’t the largest car in its class there is around the same amount of space inside as you’ll find in the Qashqai. A Renault Kadjar is slightly larger and offers more room for those seated in the back, but the differences are marginal.

The tall body means there is plenty of headroom, though. The driver’s seat has lots of adjustment and up front the door bins are a good size. Only the glovebox is a little on the small side.

Size 

The Ateca is a mid-sized crossover and proportionally it shares the same wheelbase with the Leon but it is taller. It’s almost identical in size to the Qashqai, but the Kadjar is fractionally larger and it shows inside.   

Leg room, head room & passenger space

Leg room only slightly larger than what  you get in the Leon hatchback, which means there’s good but not exceptional knee space. The taller crossover body does mean headroom is very good, however. Even the lankiest of adults will be comfortable in the rear.

Boot

While rear passenger space may not be as generous as some rivals, the Ateca does have a large boot. In front-wheel drive models luggage capacity is measured at 510 litres, which is considerably more than the Qashqai can offer, although it does concede some usability to the Peugeot 3008.

Models fitted with four-wheel drive require a different driveshaft to be fitted beneath the car and that does impact capacity, reducing it to 485 litres. However, that is still more than the Nissan and Renault offer in front-wheel-drive form.

The rear seats also split 60:40 but once flat they do leave a noticeable lip, so loading long or bulky items may be tricky. There is also a shallow but wide storage area hidden beneath the boot floor. Clever features include levers in the boot to fold the seats from the luggage area. Do this and you’ll reveal 1,604 litres of space – 66 litres less than in the Peugeot 3008, but six litres more than in the Nissan Qashqai.

Towing

All SEAT Atecas can tow at least 1,500kg, but the maximum braked towing capacity sits at 2,100kg. If you want the most towing power, you are limited to the 187bhp 2.0-litre TDI 4Drive with DSG gearbox. However, there is a 2.0-litre petrol capable of towing 2,000kg of braked mass, should you not wish to go diesel.

Reliability and Safety

4.2
Five star Euro NCAP rating is as good as it gets, while raft of safety kit is available

As the Ateca shares so much of its running gear, including engines, gearboxes and other technology with other models in SEAT’s range we can expect high levels of reliability. The parts are tried and tested in models across the VW Group range.

The Ateca is too new to have made it to our latest Driver Power survey, but the Leon finished fourth in our 2015 satisfaction survey. It also finished 10th for reliability – so buyers of the Ateca should have very little to worry about. 

Thanks to a raft of safety tech and airbags the Ateca has scored a full five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests. For adult passengers the Ateca scored 93 per cent, while for child occupants the crossover scored 84 per cent for safety. However, for pedestrian safety the rating fell to 71 per cent. Key safety kit includes lane-departure warning and adaptive cruise control.

Warranty

The Ateca doesn’t arrive in UK showrooms until September 2016 so final details of the car have yet to be announced. However, we do expect the Ateca to carry on SEAT’s three-year/60,000 mile warranty, which is industry standard.

Having said that, virtually all of the Ateca’s rivals come with more comprehensive cover. The Kadjar comes with a seven-year warranty, while the Kia Sportage and Hyundai Tucson both come with five-year cover.

Servicing

Like with the Leon, SEAT recommends the Ateca is serviced every 10,00 miles or every 12 months – which ever comes first. 

Last updated: 20 Apr, 2018