2016 Seat Ateca 2.0 TDI 150 4Drive review

The Ateca is Seat's first foray into the SUV market and will take on the Nissan Qashqai when it goes on sale late this year. We've driven an early prototype in Spain...

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John Howell
17 March 2016

This is the new Seat Ateca, the first SUV from the Seat brand and a model it hopes will steal sales from the popular Nissan Qashqai, as well as the new Volkswagen Tiguan we tested last month.

Like the Tiguan, the Ateca is based on VW’s MQB platform that underpins everything from the Audi A3 to the VW Golf. However, in line with Seat's sporty brand image, it says the Ateca has been tuned for a more dynamic drive.

Orders for the Ateca can't be made until May, with first deliveries following in August, so here we’re testing some pre-production prototypes. As such some of the details are subject to change, but prices are expected to range from less than £18,000 to just under £30k.

You’ll be able to choose from two petrol and three diesel engines, most of which will be available with a six-speed manual or optional dual-clutch automatic gearbox. Four-wheel drive will only be available on the diesel models.

Three trim levels will be offered, kicking off with S models that’ll come with air-con and seven airbags. SE models add dual-zone climate control and rear parking sensors, while range-topping Xcellence trim comes with leather upholstery and LED headlights.

Depending on what specification you choose, the infotainment system comes with Apple and Android compatibility to operate your smartphone from an 8.0in touchscreen. Other features comprise wireless charging, text readouts and a range of additional app services.

Other options will include a feature that lets the car accelerate, brake and steer itself in slow traffic, plus a safety system that alerts you if you're falling asleep at the wheel, stopping the car in a controlled fashion if you fail to respond.

What’s the 2016 Seat Ateca 2.0 TDI 150 4Drive like to drive?

It’s really very good. Bearing in mind this is a development car with the potential to improve, it already feels well sorted.

The 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel engine sounds a bit gruff, but aside from that it offers easily accessible performance between 2000-4000rpm for relaxed driving. It needs to be worked a bit harder if you’re trying to overtake on faster roads, so if you feel you need a bit more power you could go for the smoother 187bhp diesel.

All the controls feel light and well judged, from the positive brakes to the slick manual gearbox fitted to our test car. The steering is also light enough for town use, but aptly weights up once you are on the move. A mode switch on the centre console allows you to make it firmer if you want, plus sharpens up the throttle response - and gearshifts on models fitted with the optional DSG gearbox – while on four-wheel-drive models like this one, it adds a tailored off-road driving mode, as well.

Driving through all four wheels gives the Ateca plenty of traction off the line and there’s a lot of grip in the corners, but it goes a stage further than many SUVs by feeling quite sporty to drive. In fact, the initial impressions are that it could well end up as the best handling SUV in the class. Body control is most impressive and enables the Ateca to change direction with more zeal than a Nissan Qashqai.

The penalty for this sportiness is that it rides firmly on scarred roads and fidgets over smaller surface imperfections. However, on our Spanish test route, it was never uncomfortable, although it’ll be interesting to see if this continues to be the case on our battered UK roads.

In fact, its most annoying aspect is the flutter of wind noise at motorway speeds because otherwise the Ateca is a very adept cruiser, with reasonably subdued road and suspension noise.

What’s the 2016 Seat Ateca 2.0 TDI 150 4Drive like inside?

The interior styling is clearly an evolution of the Seat Leon, but that’s no bad thing. All the controls are grouped logically around the driver and there’s loads of space in the front. Indeed, occupants of all shapes and sizes should be able to get comfortable thanks to the range of adjustment on offer.

The standard of finish is high and imparts an impression of quality that nudges it ahead of its Qashqai rival, while giving you the sense it’ll stand up to the rigours of intensive family use.

In the back, there’s space for three adults if they’re prepared to cozy up, but for two there’s space to spread out thanks to the generous head and leg room. It doesn't offer the flexibility of the sliding and reclining seats that feature in the forthcoming Tiguan, though.

The boot isn’t as big as the VW’s either, although you’ll squeeze more in the Ateca than you would in a Qashqai, and most other rivals, for that matter. It’s also a good square shape and has convenient levers next to the tailgate to drop the 60/40 split rear seat backs. When they’re down there is a sizable step, but UK cars should get an adjustable boot floor that will help reduce this.

Should I buy one?

We wouldn’t recommend this four-wheel-drive version unless you really need the added grip, but otherwise this 2.0 TDI 150 is highly recommendable. In two-wheel-drive form, it’s even quicker, more frugal, and the emissions drop to 114g/km. That CO2 figure isn't class leading, but it is good enough to offer palatable company car tax bills.

However, it's the Ateca’s wholesome package of affordability, quality, space and driver appeal that make it worth delaying your SUV purchase for. Right now it gets four stars because we haven't got the finer details and haven't driven it on UK roads, but there's every chance that at its first attempt, Seat has created a five-star SUV.


What Car? says...

The rivals:

Nissan Qashqai

Volkswagen Tiguan

Seat Ateca 2.0 TDI 150 4Drive Engine size 2.0-litre diesel Price from £25000 (est) Power 148bhp Torque 251lb ft 0-62mph 8.6 seconds Top speed 122mph Fuel economy 57.6mpg CO2 128g/km