SEAT Ateca FR
First UK drive of racy 148bhp version of one of our favourite SUVS.
Spanish SUV is pepped up with a dose of racy attitude
LAST month (Issue 1,486) Auto Express reported on details of SEAT’S new highperformance Cupra sub-brand. Among the rumoured new models will be a 300bhp Ateca Cupra, complete with lowered suspension and four-wheel drive.
Until that car arrives, however, SEAT bosses have plugged the gap with a sportylooking FR trim – offering more aggressive body styling, lowered suspension and colour-coded cladding. But is this version worthy of its hiked price? We’ve driven it in the UK for the first time to find out.
Slotting into the range just below the plush Xcellence flagship, the FR commands a premium of around £1,000 over the equivalent SE Technology model. It’s available with 1.4 or 2.0-litre turbo petrol engines, as well as a pair of 2.0 TDIS.
The FR gets stiffer springs and a 15mm drop in ride height compared with the standard Ateca. That makes it marginally firmer over rough surfaces and a little more fidgety on all but pan-smooth tarmac. A Peugeot 3008 is more comfortable – even in Gt-line spec. The thing is, the Ateca was a fine-handling car to begin with, and the FR tweaks do little to improve the way it drives.
The FR steers as sweetly as always, with very little body roll and plenty of grip. The normal car’s already-stiff structure makes it fun to drive, while the supportive seats hold you in place on twistier roads. Thankfully, our test model was on the standard 18-inch wheels, rather than the optional 19-inchers, resulting in a relatively quiet ride. We’ve yet to try the bigger rims, but expect they may have an adverse effect on refinement.
SEAT has also given the FR adjustable drive modes, although adaptive dampers aren’t part of the package. In Sport mode, the Ateca benefits from weightier steering and a more responsive throttle, while cars fitted with the DSG auto get a revised shift pattern. The changes are slight, but Normal mode offers the best overall compromise.
Our car came with the tried-and-tested 148bhp 1.4 TSI, linked to SEAT’S excellent six-speed manual gearbox. The set-up is as quiet here as it is in any of the Volkswagen Group’s models, ticking along without so much as a murmur at idle. It’s not the most tuneful engine as you rev it out, but it packs plenty of punch – and despite its modest torque figure, it will breeze past slowermoving traffic on the motorway.
FR also adds special badging, a sporty bodykit and colour-coded trim in place of the normal car’s black wheelarches and scuff plates. There’s a gloss black grille, too, as well as aluminium roof rails, window frames and lower door trims. A set of chrome tailpipes completes the look. Standard equipment includes SEAT’S
“FR adds special badging, a sporty bodykit and colour-coded trim to the Ateca”
“The FR steers as sweetly as always, with very little body roll and plenty of grip”
full LED headlights, Alcantara seats and dual-zone climate control. The eight-inch Media System Plus touchscreen is also included, and gives owners access to Apple Carplay and Android Auto connectivity, as well as sat-nav and USB charging.
Quality is as solid as ever, but cabin changes are limited to an FR badge on the steering wheel and some multicolour ambient lighting on the doors. It’s not a striking design, but it’s functional and well laid-out, and everything is easy to use. Options like wireless phone charging, a top-down camera and handy self-park function continue to cement SEAT’S place among the tech leaders in this segment.
Those taken by the sportier styling and lowered suspension, though, will be pleased to hear the changes have no effect on fuel economy and emissions. That means the 1.4 ECOTSI FR will emit 123g/km of CO2 – and thanks to cylinder deactivation tech it claims 52.3mpg. The system functions seamlessly, too, with the only indication it’s working being a small illumination on the dashboard.
NEED TO KNOW New 187bhp 2.0-litre TSI unit makes its debut in the FR, and is available exclusively with four-wheel drive and a DSG box
EQUIPMENT All FR models come with an eight-inch touchscreen, sat-nav and Full Link connectivity. Elsewhere, you’ll find body-coloured trim, lowered suspension and chrome trinkets, FR badging and ambient interior lighting
PRACTICALITY Knee room in the back of the Ateca is on par with the Leon hatch, and head space is good. Big 510-litre boot trumps a Nissan Qashqai’s load bay and the rear seats split and fold 60:40 to make room for bigger items
HANDLING Lowered suspension and stiffer springs are part of the FR package, and while the ride is firmer than the standard car’s, the new settings don’t have much effect on the Ateca’s already entertaining handling