Seat Ateca 1.4 TSI 150 FR DSG
List price £26,340
Target Price £25,109
Our Small SUV of the Year has proven impervious to all challengers thus far.
Skoda Karoq 1.5 TSI 150 SE L DSG
List price £25,815
Target Price £25,815
Looks similar to the Ateca, right? That’s because this new Karoq is based on its Spanish rival.
Unless you’ve been hibernating these past few weeks, you’ll doubtless have seen news of another Catalan revolution in the offing.
We say ‘another’, because it was only last year that Barcelona-based Seat introduced the Ateca and revolutionised the SUV market, knocking our long-term class favourite, the Nissan Qashqai, off the top spot.
Consequently, these two cars are similar in many ways. That said, the Ateca is set up in line with Seat’s sporty philosophy, while the Karoq is more biased towards comfort, with Skoda’s usual attention to practicality woven in, too.
Performance, ride, handling, refinement
One difference is their engines. While the Ateca uses the Volkswagen Group’s established 148bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol unit, the Karoq has the company’s next-generation turbo 1.5. Although larger, it makes identical power and torque to the 1.4, so you’d presume there would be barely anything in it when it comes to performance.
Except that isn’t the case. The Ateca always feels a little more potent and pulls harder when you squeeze your right foot. As well as sounding wheezier past 4000rpm, the Karoq’s 1.5 motor feels less energetic from mid to high revs – a point proven in our acceleration tests; the Karoq sprinted from 0-60mph in 9.2sec, whereas the Ateca took just 8.4sec.
With both cars having optional seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearboxes fitted, a knock-on effect of the Karoq’s less enthusiastic engine is that when you put your foot down, its gearbox tends to change down one or two more gears than the Ateca’s, forcing the engine to rev harder. On the move, both cars’ gearchanges are mostly slick and quick, but they can get a mite jerky in stop-start traffic.
We mentioned that the Karoq was designed with comfort in mind, and that’s how it pans out. The Ateca stays on the right side of comfortable but is firmer over ridges and potholes, particularly around town. The Karoq irons out such imperfections more adeptly, but the trade-off with squishier springs and dampers is more bounce over peaks and troughs.
Being softer also means you get more body lean through corners in the Karoq. Factor in its lighter, slower-geared steering and it’s the less agile car, but it’s still a tidy-handling car by SUV standards. The Ateca is downright sporty; this is a car that you can enjoy down a winding road, drawing confidence from its tauter body control and emphatically more alert steering.
The Ateca is a little more refined, too. There’s less suspension noise around town and less background engine, tyre and road noise on motorways. That said, both cars can eat up the miles with ease.
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