Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
The entry-level 1.0-litre petrol (badged 1.0 TSI 115) delivers adequate performance without you needing to rev the engine hard; it’s ideal if you spend most of your time in town. However, we reckon the 148bhp 1.5 turbo petrol (the 1.5 TSI Evo 150) is the best choice for most buyers. Outright acceleration is more than brisk enough, but it's the ease with which you can build speed from low revs in any given gear that really impresses.
The petrol engines are so good they make the diesels largely redundant. That said, if you do well above average miles and have your heart set on a diesel, the 148bhp 2.0-litre (badged 2.0 TDI 150) is worth a look. Straight-line performance is pretty brisk no matter whether you choose the six-speed manual gearbox or the optional DSG auto.
If you want even more power then the 2.0 TDI 190 and 2.0 TSI 190 can both do 0-62mph in less than 8.0sec, although they're very expensive. There's also the crazy 300bhp Cupra Ateca that you can read about in our bespoke review.
Suspension and ride comfort
Family SUVs have a tough brief: despite their raised stance, they're expected to corner without leaning too much while still offering decent ride comfort. Fortunately, the Ateca strikes a reasonable balance.
True, it's firmer than some rivals, including the Qashqai and Karoq, so it can feel a bit fidgety at low speeds. However, because the body stays well controlled over larger disturbances, such as sleeping policemen, the Ateca doesn’t continue to bounce and jostle you about long after the bump has been and gone. The only time you feel a jolt is over sharp-edged ridges and potholes.
As is often the case, you’ll find that smaller-wheeled models ride better more smoothly than those fitted with large wheels; we'd advise avoiding the optional 19in alloys. And it's worth noting that the lighter petrol models are generally more forgiving than the diesels.
Let’s not get carried away; tall SUVs never handle as well as equivalent hatchbacks, so it’s no Ford Focus – but the Ateca does prove surprisingly good fun to drive down your favourite stretch of road. It’s certainly well ahead of direct rivals, including as the Nissan Qashqai and even the closely related Skoda Karoq.
The suspension is firm enough to ensure you don’t get too much body lean when cornering, helping to make the Ateca feel agile. Meanwhile, the steering is precise and offers decent feedback, making it easy to place the nose of the Ateca just where you want it.
There’s plenty of grip, too. Put simply, if you like driving and want to buy a family SUV in this price bracket, the Ateca should be at the top of your list. The direct rival that comes closest is the Toyota C-HR, but that's available only with a weedy hybrid engine.
Noise and vibration
In the main, the Ateca impresses with how quiet it is. The petrol engines are hushed, even more so than in the rival Karoq, particularly the 1.5 EcoTSI. The 1.0 TSI is a little thrummy when you accelerate hard but never uncouth.
The diesels are less impressive. The 2.0-litre engines sound a bit gruff at tickover and get a bit boomy above 3000rpm. There’s enough poke that you’re unlikely to venture that high up the rev range too often, though, and you feel less vibration though the controls than in an equivalent Qashqai or Kia Sportage.
As for the 1.6 diesel, it's even boomier when you rev it hard, although not unacceptably so by class standards. Whichever engine you choose, road and wind noise are well contained, despite the Ateca’s upright stance – and the clutch and manual gearshift have smooth and precise actions. That said, if you opt for one of the DSG automatic models, the gearbox can be jerky at very low speeds – a bit of nuisance when parking or crawling in stop-start traffic.
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