Donít adjust the dial, Iíve swapped from our Honda CR-V long-termer into the SEAT Ateca this month for another European trip. I guess you could say the snowboarding bug bit hard this year, so a cheap last-minute deal on Easter snow was too tempting to resist.
Even though Iíll only have the Ateca for a few months, the drive to the French Alps was also a great opportunity to spend lots of time in a model that weíve praised so highly. After all, the Ateca has not only come second in our Car of the Year awards, itís literally flying out of showrooms. Matt might have reported not seeing too many on the road, but I can confirm deliveries are in full swing, and on one recent trip I saw three in a row. Which brings me onto something I wasnít expecting: our Ateca is a real head-turner. In fact, not since I last tested a tasty new sports car have I noticed so many people looking over. With television advertisements running and the rest of SEATís marketing machine in full swing, the Ateca must be at the zenith of its time in the spotlight ñ and the fact that ours is finished in bright Samoa Orange with piercing LED headlights means itís effectively a billboard on wheels. Iíll admit I wasnít sure about the colour at first, but now itís won me over to the point that other options seem a bit dull.
So, how good is the Ateca? Well, not far off five-stars, but happily even the Ateca isnít perfect, so I wonít hang up my reviewing hat and retire just yet. In fact, letís just get the negatives out of the way first. The 1.6-litre diesel engine is quite vocal, even under light bursts of acceleration. If youíre being kind, you could say this ties in with the SEATís sporty nature, or you could just find it frustrating. Next on the hit list are the front seats, which have quite a flat base in our SE-specification Ateca, but are no doubt better in upper trim levels like the newly announced Ateca FR, with its tasty Alcantara sports items. And, last of the major gripes, the rear seats donít fold flat with the floor. Yes, Iíve been spoilt by the CR-Vís massive boot, but it robs the Ateca of a fair bit of carrying capacity and means longer items ñ like snowboards ñ get snagged on the hump.
And thatís about it. If you can live with those ñ the first two of which can be rectified by choosing a different version ñ the Ateca is a truly compelling SUV. I was worried the 114bhp Ecomotive-tuned engine would feel slow after the 158bhp CR-V, but the fact that our Ateca weighs more than 250kg less than the range-topping Honda makes the power gap a lot less pronounced. In terms of its handling, the Ateca is one of the most car-like SUVs Iíve ever driven, feeling more like a well-sorted Golf than an off-roader. And, on first impressions, the Atecaís other stand-out feature is its infotainment system. The eight-inch screen and navigation system costs £525 for this SE trim level, but thatís money well spent, because this really is a fantastic device which works seamlessly with my Android smartphone.
Date arrived 27th September 2016
Fuel economy 65.7mpg (combined) 50.5mpg (on test)
A great infotainment system is invaluable nowadays and the Ateca’s system delivers.
I’m not sure if it’s trying to be sporty, but the engine likes to make itself heard.