Span­ish brand set for NZ

Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About - DAVID LINKLATER

New Zealand Volk­swa­gen, Skoda and Audi im­porter Euro­pean Mo­tor Distrib­u­tors (EMD) will add the Span­ish Seat brand to its port­fo­lio in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2017.

Seat, formed in 1950, has been part of VW Group since the 1980s and is of­ten per­ceived as the sporty foil to the more prac­ti­cal Skoda brand.

Seat will be launched in NZ with the new Ateca SUV and Leon five-door hatch­back.

Ateca taps into the VW Group plat­form strat­egy, with the same MQB un­der­pin­nings as the Tiguan and forth­com­ing Skoda Ko­diaq.

Is there room for yet an­other MQB model in such a small mar­ket? Newly ap­pointed Seat NZ gen­eral man­ager James Yates says yes: ‘‘With­out Ateca we prob­a­bly wouldn’t have con­sid­ered it, but that’s the seg­ment that’s go­ing gang­busters.’’

While Seat has flirted with cross­over and genre-bend­ing ve­hi­cles in the past, Ateca is ac­tu­ally its first at­tempt at a con­ven­tional SUV.

Medium SUVs oc­cupy the sin­gle-largest mar­ket seg­ment in NZ.

Ateca is slightly shorter than Tiguan and Ko­diaq, so ex­pect pric­ing equiv­a­lent to Skoda as EMD at­tempts to es­tab­lish this new brand. The model has been praised by crit­ics over­seas for its sporty driv­ing dy­nam­ics com­pared with sis­ter VW Group models, while not­ing that it’s also less prac­ti­cal.

Seat will also have a hero model in NZ in the form of the Leon hatch­back, which will be of­fered in hot-hatch guise with over 200kW from its tur­bocharged en­gine. If you want the slightly naughty ver­sion of a Golf GTi, this could be the car for you.

Other models will fol­low, but it’ll be a gen­tle roll-out for Seat in NZ, with just one Auck­land sales and ser­vice cen­tre planned at launch.

It’s not the first ap­pear­ance of Seat in NZ un­der EMD aus­pices. A one-off ship­ment of 120 Cor­dobas were sold here in 2001. The cars were sur­plus stock from Aus­tralia but well-re­ceived by crit­ics.

Seat sold just over 400,000 cars in 2015, so it’s less than half the size of Skoda and has not thus far been strong on ex­ports out­side Europe. How­ever, the ad­di­tion of Ateca is ex­pected to boost global num­bers con­sid­er­ably.

SUP­PLIED

Hot hatches have been a Seat thing for decades. Ki­wis­pec Leon five-door will boast over 200kW.

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