Seat’s all-new Ateca is very late to the SUV party. James Foxall finds out whether it can make an impact. And, after driving a 2.0-litre diesel version, he's now trying a 1.4 petrol by way of comparison
Our car: 1.4 TSI Xcellence List price when new: £25,790 Price as tested: £27,510 Official fuel economy: 51.4mpg (EU Combined). The same inforamtion for the 'old' 2.0-litre turbodiesel: Our car: 2.0 TDI 4Drive Xcellence List price when new: £27,425 Price as tested: £29,155 Official fuel economy: 55.4mpg (EU Combined)
August 7th, 2017
Overall fuel economy: 40.3mpg
It’s fascinating doing a direct comparison between versions of the same model with different engines. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the most pleasing surprises of this Ateca has been turbocharged 1.4 TSI petrol power. I thought I was going to miss the generous waves of the 2.0-litre diesel’s maximum 251lb ft torque. But the petrol’s 184lb ft starts earlier in the rev range – 1500rpm compared to 1750 for the diesel – and feels perfectly adequate.
What I really appreciate is how quiet the petrol is. At the motorway limit, the diesel always makes its presence felt by humming away. The petrol, however, is almost imperceptible. And the seven-speed DSG gearbox is a work of art. I was concerned that on a long drive to the French alps this summer, we were going to be spending as much time filling with expensive French petrol as on the road. But despite having a 50-litre fuel tank (the diesel’s is 55 litres), we achieved respectable economy and 500-plus miles per fill. Had we been able to maintain the eye-popping mpg figures that driving down mountains brought, the intervals between fuel station visits would have been even longer...
August 1st, 2017
Fuel economy this week:40.1mpg
Within a week of taking delivery of this latest, petrol-engined Ateca, we were off on the Foxall family holiday. It’s the sort of trip that’s guaranteed to show up any potential shortcomings in a car.
As with much of Ateca ownership, it didn’t reveal much to moan about. Switching the light beam for Continental driving was easy: the LED headlamps fall within European tolerances so you don’t have to do anything.
Turning off the alarm for the ferry crossing was a different matter. The Brittany Ferries staff are hot on this, telling every driver to deactivate their car alarm. Many cars have a button on the door pillar that turns off the tilt sensor. So does the Ateca, according to the user manual, although I couldn’t find it. Confusingly, the user manual also says that a double push on the key fob will deactivate the tilt sensor. I did this and nodded obligingly – and hopefully ‑ when the steward asked if I’d turned off my alarm off.
More reassuring was the Ateca’s ability at swallowing luggage. Without the optional raised floor, the boot appears cavernous, with more than enough space for three people’s luggage on top of the cases of wine we’d bought at a Chateau.
July 18th, 2017
You might have noticed diesel’s vilification and waning popularity. And this is reflected in sales: the past few months have been down by around a fifth compared with last year. We’re following the trend and have exchanged our diesel Ateca 2.0-litre TDI for the 1.4 TSI petrol version.
With this model we were given the opportunity to create our own car. I knew I wanted the cheaper petrol engine coupled with the seven-speed DSG semi-automatic gearbox. So I decided to attempt to specify a car with the kit I wanted for the same money as the standard diesel model. That gave me £1,635 to play with reagrading the options.
Initially I toyed with having even more to spend by choosing the less costly mid-range SE spec model. But after a bit of playing with the Seat website’s car configuring tool I realised that it would be cheaper to go for the top-of-the-range Xcellence, which had all the kit I was after as standard.
How to spend the remaining £1,635 then? I chose Samoa Orange as my bodywork colour, which cost £650. Then the 18-inch Puigmal black alloy wheels added £960, while replacing the standard tyre inflation kit with a spacesaver spare wheel was £110. The result was £85 over budget - but that’s still £1,605 cheaper than the TDI I tested previously.
Equipment this car doesn’t have compared with the TDI is the powered tailgate with the ‘virtual pedal’ (you wave your foot under the bumper to open it). I deemed both superfluous and I think I was right. It’s not four-wheel drive either as 4Drive isn’t available with this engine. As I wasn’t aware of the TDI’s 4x4 ever swinging into action and I don’t do any towing or venturing off-road, again, I’m not fussed.
But the switch to the petrol engine is the decision I’m most pleased with. The moment I fired up the silky smooth 1.4-litre I knew that if I was going to buy an Ateca, I would go for the petrol engine every time. It’s fair to say I’m really looking forward to the coming months.
July 11th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 46.8mpg
My time with this Ateca is at an end so it’s time to do some totting up. In the four months I’ve had it, I’ve covered 6,444 miles. According to our fuel check rather than the car’s computer, it has averaged 46.8mpg. That’s a 16 per cent shortfall compared with the 55.4mpg official EU Combined economy figure, which doesn’t seem so bad.
I’ve enjoyed the Ateca’s comfortable and versatile cabin, the torque and economy of the 2.0-litre turbodiesel and the car’s various convenience features, particularly the mobile phone charging plate.
Included on that list should be the keyless entry and the ‘virtual pedal’, which enables you to open the boot by waving your foot beneath the rear bumper. Both these features were great – when they worked. Both seemed a little temperamental.
That, however, is a mere blip. As a car to live with, the Ateca has been brilliant. It’s had everything covered from good looks to practicality. In many ways, it could be described as the perfect crossover: it handles like a hatchback yet has the raised ‘command’ driving position of an SUV.
It will be interesting to see what something the same but a little bit different is like.
July 4th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 47.4mpg
For diesel car drivers, filling up with AdBlue is fast becoming a regular part of motoring. To grossly oversimply, this colourless, odourless liquid is part of Selective Catalytic Reduction. This system works by combining AdBlue which is urea (essentially wee) and water with the exhaust gases. The resulting chemical reaction significantly reduces the harmful nitrogen oxides the car pumps out.
The car warns you when the AdBlue is running low and it’s then a quick trip to a fuel station or motor retailer to buy a bottle. A five-litre bottle costs £12 and that’ll do you for 2,000-3,000 miles according to the Ateca’s trip computer.
Filling it couldn’t be easier. There’s a blue filler cap next to the regular diesel one. You attach the spout to the bottle, push on a simple breather spout that’s supplied and the AdBlue simply glugs into the tank. Job done.
June 27th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 47.7mpg
One of the features the Ateca boasts is the 4Drive four-wheel drive system. This offers the fuel economy benefits of a front-wheel-drive for everyday motoring. But if you select ‘Off-road’ or ‘Snow’ in the Seat Driver Profile menu, power can be sent to the rear wheels if continued forward motion calls for it.
The set-up uses the same Haldex clutch arrangement that Volkswagen employs in its 4Motion cars. It’s a seamless operation, but requires a slippery surface where the front wheels are struggling for grip in order for power to be directed rearwards.
I must confess to having used it precisely zero times. But, if I was towing regularly, I can see how this would be an attractive feature to tick on the options list.
June 20th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 47.9mpg
Part of the skill of the VW Group is its ability to save costs by producing multiple cars using the same mechanical base. Two such models are the Seat Ateca and VW Tiguan. Badge aside, one of the ways VW differentiates itself from its Spanish subsidiary is in a greater level of equipment. Hence, in like-for-like models the Tiguan is more highly specified.
The Tiguan equivalent to our Ateca Xcellence 4Drive is the SE Navigation 4Motion. However, while the Ateca costs £27,425, the Tiguan is £30,470. I had the opportunity to compare them side by side at the local hand car wash the other day. Both are handsome cars.
But I think, of the two, the design of the Seat’s front end is the more distinctive.
June 12th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 47.8mpg
The official combined economy figure for the Ateca in our 2.0 TDI 4Drive specification with the six-speed manual gearbox is 55.4mpg. Obviously, I haven’t got anywhere near that. However, I am getting closer. I zeroed the trip computer when I took delivery of the car a few months ago and the average mpg settled in the mid-40s fairly quickly. Over time, that has gradually improved and as I’m very nearly hitting 48mpg I can at least say I’m in the late 40s now.
What do I put this down to? I think part of it is the 2.0-litre TDI loosening up. But I think mainly it’s getting used to the gearing. The ratios feel pretty short. I barely use fourth, as it’s happy to go straight from third to fifth. And the on-screen gear shift indicator urges you into sixth very quickly, to the point where at the national limit you wish there was room in the gearbox for a seventh speed. Even so, I’m not complaining. Where mpg goes, it’s the more the merrier.
June 5th, 2017
Fuel economy this week:47.1mpg
One of the features I really like about the Ateca – actually make that Seats in general – are the LED Daytime Running Lights, otherwise abbreviated to DRLs.
These take the shape of a distinctive ring around the headlights. Not only do they give Seat a unique visual identity, they also seamlessly transform into turn signals.
How does this work? Do the DRL LEDs extinguish and the indicators come on? Or do the existing LEDs simply turn orange and start flashing? Who knows?
What I do know is that when I see similar signals on other cars, or catch the Ateca’s indicators reflected on a vehicle in front or in a shop window, I think they’re very cool indeed.
May 30th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 46.8mpg
With cars getting bigger and parking spaces staying the same size, some form of parking aid is becoming ever more useful. As well as an audible warning (beeps), the Ateca in the Xcellence trim level of 'our' cars has a rear-view camera. Obviously being able to see what’s going on behind while reversing is handy. But the really clever part is the bird’s eye view that appears on the screen to the left.
This uses the camera lenses in the base of the door mirrors. Throw in some clever programming and it appears there’s a drone with a camera hovering above the Ateca. If, like me you aim to park in the middle of bays, rather than over to one side or at an angle like some people seem to favour, this is your friend. It enables you to see exactly where the car sits in the parking bay without opening your door. Magic!
May 23rd, 2017
Fuel economy this week:45.9mpg
The car makers appear to have decided that electronic parking brakes are the way to go. I don’t have a problem with this. What I used to have a problem with was the implementation - some of these parking brakes were applied by pushing down, others by pulling up.
Since you apply a traditional lever handbrake by pulling it upwards, it always felt counter-intuitive to apply the parking brake with a downward motion.
Thankfully for me, Seat has chosen to do things the ‘right’ way with the Ateca’s parking brake. Like a conventional handbrake, you pull up to apply it.
It also features a hill-hold function for effortless getaways on slopes. Unlike some other cars, this is only automatic once it’s been enabled by pushing a button behind the parking brake. For that I thank Seat.
There are few more satisfying things at the wheel than the perfect hill start and the Ateca still lets me practice that.
May 16th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 46.2mpg
As with many cars, the Ateca is fitted with Front Assist and City Emergency Braking. This springs into action and slams on the brakes if it thinks you’re going to have a crash. It’s clever enough to recognise pedestrians and cyclists and it’ll work at higher speeds, too. However, I am finding it to be quite a nervous passenger.
On a couple of our more frequent routes you drive alongside a stone wall which then follows the curve in the road. There’s no need to brake for either corner, assuming you’re obeying the 30mph speed limit. The Ateca appears to think otherwise. In fact, the first time the loud beeper sounded, followed by the red icon on the dashboard, it scared the living daylights out of me.
On one of these bends, it doesn’t automatically apply the brakes. On the other it does, obviously fearing an imminent impact.
It’s reassuring that the system works. However, I’m not sure following drivers are as impressed. I guess that’s the problem of hybrid technology. On a self-driving car, it would be linked to the steering and know that I’m negotiating the corner and therefore unlikely to crash.
As it is, it just presumes I’m a dumb human heading straight to the scene of the accident.
May 9th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 45.2mpg
The fuel gauge is something that has barely changed over the decades that I’ve been a driver. There’s a portion that’s red and when the needle goes into it, you know it’s time to think about filling up. The Ateca’s gauge bucks that age-old trend. There is no permanent red zone. You have white LEDs that go out as the car drinks fuel.
The last white LED is a clue that the tank is approaching empty. When the car judges that it has 50 miles of range left in it, the white LED turns red, you get a warning on the dash telling you of the range, and the navigation offers to direct you to the nearest filling station.
It’s all very slick and logical. But as my brain has been trained to tell me only to worry about the fuel level when it gets to red, I tend to ignore that last white light. And that means when I get the ping to say I’ve only 50 miles rof fuel remaining, it can be a bit of a shock.
Seems to me like a classic case of fixing something that wasn’t broken.
May 2nd, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 45.2mpg
All might appear normal in the above picture. Except that to the rest of the UK, the time is really 8.46. The Ateca’s clock is supposedly controlled by GPS. When this didn’t change at the end of March I changed the time manually to reflect British Summer Time. The next time I started the car, we were back on GMT. So I changed it again and the same thing happened. Except it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, when I turn the car on, we’re on BST as we should be.
I know that in theory what I’ve described above is impossible. If we’re in BST and the car has a GPS signal it should stay on BST. However, as with the keyless access, the Ateca seems to decide on its own accord what it does and doesn’t do. Generally, it behaves itself, but occasionally it displays a rebellious streak.
April 25th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 44.9mpg
It’s easy to think of the Ateca as a jacked-up Leon. And it does feel similar to the hatchback from the driver’s seat, which is no bad thing. But one area where the Seats differ significantly is boot capacity. With rear chair backs in place, the Leon boasts 380 litres – exactly the same as a VW Golf. The Ateca’s load area meanwhile is 28 per cent bigger, at 485 litres.
And that’s because the model we’re running is the four-wheel drive 4Drive model. On two-wheel drive models the Ateca’s boot is a third (34 per cent) bigger than the Leon’s. When I had a Golf, I always felt the boot was the perfect size for three people, a real squeeze for four. The Ateca’s is pretty much perfect for four people’s bags.
April 18th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 45.3mpg
I love the convenience of so-called keyless cars. As I established early in my relationship with the Ateca, although it appears to have a physical key, it is in fact keyless. That means you can walk up to it, touch an indent on the door handle and - as long as you have the key in your pocket - the car unlocks.
That’s the theory. In practice, how well it works seems to depend on how warm your hands are. Touch the appropriate point on the door handle with a cold thumb and you remain locked out. If your hands are toasty warm it unlocks instantly.
Knowing that, I always have one hand in my pocket on the key fob. This slightly defeats the purpose but does mean if keyless doesn’t work, at least I don’t look like an opportunist car thief.
April 11th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 45.6mpg
My name is James and I’m the bloke who uses the Windows Phone. Actually, I have nothing to be ashamed of. I love my Windows Phone. But aside from the seamless way it integrates with my PC, I sometimes feel like a rather second-class citizen, particularly when it comes to apps ‑ or rather the lack of them.
One thing my Windows Phone does do is charge wirelessly. And that means I can use the charging plate in the Ateca. It’s thoughtfully placed ahead of the gear lever and below the ventilation controls. All you do is drop your phone on to it and it charges.
A message telling you to remember your phone even flashes up on the screen when you turn off the ignition. It is now the latest piece of technology I can no longer live without.
April 4th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 44.8mpg
The Ateca is equipped with something called the Virtual Pedal. The theory is simple and clever: if your hands are full, you wave your leg under the rear bumper and, providing you have the key about your person, the electric tailgate automatically unlocks and opens.
In practice, it’s a little less straightforward. It does work ‑ but apparently only when it feels like it. Sometimes, I stick my leg out, the indicators wink and the boot opens almost immediately, making me look a bit of a flash Harry, at least in my little world.
However, more frequently, I’m left standing precariously on one leg, waving the other leg around like someone from the Ministry of Silly Walks while the boot stays resolutely shut.
Thankfully the conventional handle and button on the tailgate trigger electric opening and closing more reliably.
March 28th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 45.2mpg
We all know that the ‘official’ fuel economy figures are farcical. So it’s hardly a surprise that our Seat Ateca is struggling to match its claimed 55.4mpg EU Combined figure. However, it is quoted as returning 60.1mpg on the extra urban cycle and, on a recent 50-mile round trip, I managed to get very close to this.
I hadn’t set out to break any records, economy or otherwise, but the country road I took to an A-road was all downhill. Then when I joined that single carriageway road I found myself behind a truck doing between 40 and 50mph. And that’s when I thought I’d try to get the economy up.
It’s not hard with the Ateca. The 150PS (148bhp) engine has 251lb ft of torque between 1,750 and 3,000rpm so is relatively flexible. The result is much of my journey was spent in either fifth or sixth gear, depending on what the gearshift indicator and/or instinct told me.
Will I be doing my economy run again? Unlikely. But 58.9mpg is pretty impressive.
March 22nd, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 44.6mpg
One of the first things to impress me about the Ateca has been its handling. Seat set out to create an SUV that feels sporty on the road and it has succeeded. In fact, when you’re at the wheel of the Ateca, you might just as well be in a Leon family hatchback.
No surprises there, because the two use very similar underpinnings. What is surprising is that despite a much taller stance than the hatchback ‑ 1,625mm high compared with 1,459mm – there’s none of the body roll that taller vehicles can frequently suffer from.
The result is that the Ateca feels remarkably assured when you drive it enthusiastically. You can tackle fast, open bends such as motorway slip roads as you would in a hatchback. The downside is a ride that can feel fairly unforgiving over the pockmarked surfaces that pass for roads in the UK. And unlike with the closely related Volkswagen Tiguan, you can’t tick an option to have adaptive damping.
But it’s not uncomfortably firm and it’s a trade-off I’m happy to make for such reassuring handling.
March 16th, 2017
Fuel economy this week: 44.9mpg
My first encounter with the Ateca was actually rather confusing. You see its key is a conventional one, the blade pinging out from the fob flick-knife style as with so many other cars.
So far so familiar. I climbed into the driver’s seat and went to insert the key. Except there was nowhere to put it. Instead, on the centre console a start-stop button was winking at me with a red glow. When I pressed it, the 2.0-litre TDI engine burst into life. No need for a key there, then.
The doors have no keyholes so there’s clearly no need for the key there either. Which begs the question: why does it need a key? After a hunt around the cabin, the only keyhole I can find is the one that disables and enables the passenger airbag.
Presumably Seat hasn’t adopted the keyless fob with the blade a separate part secreted in it because the Ateca is a family car. But even so, deactivating and activating the passenger airbag is hardly a regular occurrence for the vast majority of drivers.
March 10th, 2017
The successor to a VW Passat Alltrack is Seat’s first attempt at an SUV. However, it’s already won awards and has undoubtedly been given a bit of a leg-up by employing the same oily bits as the Volkswagen Golf and Tiguan.
Our version is the 2.0-litre TDI with 150PS (148bhp), a 4Drive four-wheel drive system and a six-speed manual gearbox. With a 0-62mph time of 9sec and claimed economy of 55.4mpg it promises a sensible combination between performance and efficiency.
Its top-of-the-range Xcellence trim means it sits on 18-inch Performance alloy wheels, has satellite navigation and features the Keyless Enter and Go system. In addition, it has the Convenience and Winter Packs as standard, which provides little luxuries such as rain-sensing windscreen wipers, adjustable ambient interior lighting and heated front seats.
Our model also features the £1,210 Xcellence Pack. This includes the top-view camera, which uses lenses in the door mirrors, windscreen and at the rear to beam a bird’s eye image of the car to the central screen. And there’s an electric tailgate with the strangely named Virtual Pedal. This pack includes the wireless charging point for a mobile phone plus the connectivity hub.
With its non-metallic Passion Red paintwork (£250), plus a boot divider net (£155) and double floor (£115), that puts the total price at £29,155. This is a way off the Ateca’s base price of £17,990 but you do get a very well-equipped car. More importantly, you get a model that’s cheaper than the like-for-like Tiguan.
First impressions are very positive. I like the way you sit in it rather than on it: high sides make the driving position feel sporty and low. And although it gives away 40bhp compared with its predecessor the Passat, it doesn’t feel that much slower.
Its handling is also remarkably reassured, although the trade-off is a rather firm ride. Am I going to learn to live with that, or will it prove a pain in the backside? That’s what this test is all about.
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