Seat Ateca long-term test

The Ateca remains one of our favourite family SUVs, even after two years on sale. We're set to find out whether it's still got what it takes to stand out against newer rivals...

Seat Ateca long term
  • The car Seat Ateca 1.5 TSI Evo 150 Xcellence DSG
  • Run by Allan Muir, managing editor
  • Why it's here To find out how the Ateca distinguishes itself in a sea of outwardly similar family SUVs
  • Needs to Be notably more enjoyable to drive than any of its peers, without sacrificing practicality and comfort

Mileage 82 List price £28,270 Target Price £25,858 Price as tested £28,385 Options Space-saver spare wheel (£115) Test economy 31.1mpg Official economy 40.4mpg (WLTP) Contract hire £289 per month Insurance group 18 Typical insurance quote £562 per year

6 February 2019 – The Seat Ateca joins our fleet

Anyone who considers a family SUV to be more than just a tool for getting from A to B is likely to gravitate towards the Seat Ateca. There may be more practical cars in the class, but none in our experience is as enjoyable to drive as the relatively sporty Ateca, and that will be as important for some buyers as interior space, comfort, fuel economy or equipment when choosing between a number of outwardly similar models. Certainly, it’s one of the reasons why I’ve chosen to run an Ateca for the next few months, despite the fact that I could have had a very well-equipped Skoda Karoq – our favourite family SUV for less than £30,000 – instead.

Seat Ateca long term

Although there are now three SUVs in Seat’s line-up, the Ateca was the first to arrive, in 2016, and it’s already evolving, with the original 1.4-litre turbo petrol engine being replaced by the cleaner, WLTP-friendly 1.5-litre unit that powers my car. Driving the front wheels, the 148bhp 1.5 TSI Evo is not only the cheapest way into an Ateca in all trims apart from bottom-rung SE (which kicks off with a modest 1.0-litre turbo), but it also offers lively performance, reasonable refinement and a relatively light thirst, making it our preferred choice over the more powerful 2.0-litre petrol option and the more expensive diesels. Like the old 1.4, it’s able to deactivate two of its four cylinders when cruising to save fuel.

Seat offers the choice of a manual or automatic gearbox with this engine, so I’ve gone for the latter, upping the price by £1380 but making for mostly smoother and easier driving than is the case with the three-pedal version. I say ‘mostly’ because the seven-speed dual-clutch ’box tends to be a bit jerky at very low speeds and hesitant when pulling away. The rest of the time, though, it’s smooth and quick-shifting and therefore preferable, in my book, to a manual.

Seat Ateca long term

I’ve bypassed the FR trim that we usually recommend and gone for lavishly equipped Xcellence, one rung down from the top spec. This trim includes niceties such as keyless entry and start (packaged with a wireless phone charger), alcantara upholstery for the seats, adaptive cruise control, a heated windscreen and its own style of 18in alloy wheels, giving the car a slightly more upmarket look in comparison with the aggressive FR versions. That’s over and above all the stuff that most Atecas get, including an excellent 8.0in touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, voice control and Seat’s Full Link smartphone mirroring package.

As is often the case with smaller VW Group models, it took me a little while to adapt to the Ateca’s driving position. Although there’s a wide range of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel, the positioning of the pedals is such that I have to push the seat well back to be able to brake comfortably, and that means I’m right at the limit of steering reach adjustment. The steering wheel has to be set higher than I’d normally consider natural if I’m to see all of the instrument dials, too. Otherwise, the driving environment is fundamentally sound, with a logical layout to all the controls and a superbly comfortable and supportive seat.

Seat Ateca long term

The boot is a good size, although, as I’ve said, the Ateca isn’t quite as practical as the best of its rivals, with conventional 60/40 split-folding rear seats that don’t slide, recline or come out like those of some Karoqs, for example. It’s also a shame that you can no longer specify an adjustable boot floor; the load bay looks as though it still has one, but there’s an optional space-saver spare wheel (£115) under the floor of my car instead.

First impressions are that the Ateca is indeed much more enjoyable to drive than you might expect of a family SUV, with agile, well-balanced handling and smooth, nicely weighted steering. The ride is firm but not uncomfortable, although the loud thudding and clattering that you sometimes hear as the wheels traverse bumps and potholes might be an issue for my sensitive ears, along with road noise generally. All in all, though, I’m really pleased with my choice so far.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read our full Seat Ateca review >>

More long-term tests >>