SEAT Ateca – First Drive

Tim Barnes-Clay is among the first to sample SEAT's first-ever Sport Utility Vehicle (SUV) – the Ateca – on UK roads.

SEAT isn’t known for producing SUVs but seeing as they are the most in-demand type of car right now, the Spanish motor manufacturer has ushered in the all-new Ateca.

It’s basically a more youthfully oriented – and cheaper – VW Tiguan. It’s also much sexier, and therefore less conservative, than the Volkswagen and other mid-size SUVs. Examples include the Nissan Qashqai and soon-to-be-updated Ford Kuga. The all-new Ateca is likely to stomp these SUVs into the ground with its better looks, fresher colours, and value for money, alone.

I drove the SEAT Ateca in Manchester – arguably the right place to launch such a hip car. Manchester wasn’t called Mad-chester for no reason in the early 1990s. The Stone Roses, Happy Mondays and the Hacienda nightclub were responsible for that moniker, and they’ve all left an indelible mark of awesomeness on the city. And I happen to think the Ateca, which is hitting UK dealerships this month, is pretty awesome, too.

Happily, I got behind the wheel of the flagship 190PS 2.0-litre diesel SEAT Ateca – and on a Monday. A pretty spooky coincidence, or what? In this guise there’s enough clout to ‘step on’ and challenge the sanitary limitations of blue-collar SUV driving.

Fool’s gold this car, isn’t. It’s the real McCoy. The driving position is solid and there’s ample adjustment in the seating and steering departments. At measured pace, the turbo assisted oil-burner emits a diesel rattle, but it soon irons that out when the open road bangs the drums for speed.

The new SEAT Ateca pulls stalwartly from low revs, and when linked up to a seven-speed automatic gearbox, making headway becomes an utter pleasure. With 190 horses chomping at the bit under the finely sculpted bonnet, the 2.0-litre SEAT Ateca charges to 62mph in 7.5 seconds.

The sporting character of the Ateca means there is a tiny trade-off in the form of a hard ride, but never is the SUV uncomfortable. On the more zigzagging rural routes outside Manchester the Ateca expressed how much it likes to cuddle curves. Truly, body control is so sound that there’s no real demonstrable roll in bends, and the steering is beautifully accurate. This means the SEAT Ateca is compelling to drive – which is more than can be said for the bulk of SUVs.

The heady 190PS Ateca comes with all the trimmings, as well as four-wheel-drive and the above-mentioned seven-speed auto transmission. That rich, but possibly fuel-gobbling fusion, gives an unexpectedly decent combined fuel consumption figure of 53.3mpg, while carbon dioxide emissions are a reasonable 135g/km.

Not everything is 'Bob’s yer uncle' with the SEAT Ateca, though. The interior materials, while great quality around the top end of the dashboard, are a bit inferior on the lower portion of the centre console. The tale is the same around the electric window switches and the doors. Furthermore, the Ateca has the same wheelbase as the Leon. This means the SUV isn’t overly generous with space in the rear, but it is on a level with the Nissan Qashqai.

The dealer price for a spanking new SEAT Ateca starts at £17,990. That’s a whopping £4,520 less than the £22,510 entry level Volkswagen Tiguan – and £555 cheaper than the basic £18,545 Qashqai.

In addition, due to a horde of safety equipment, the all-new Ateca has been awarded the full five stars by crash-test safety organisation, Euro NCAP.

At the end of the day, you really can’t pick many faults with the Ateca. It’s a remarkable SUV debut from SEAT and it’s a car that you’ll want to adore from the moment you clap eyes on it.