FIRST DRIVE We try the sporti­est Ateca avail­able, un­til the Cupra ar­rives

Auto Express - - Contents - Richard In­gram Richard_in­gram@den­ @rsp_in­gram

Hottest ver­sion of SUV yet, plus Leon Cupra R driven in UK

SEAT now of­fers its Ateca SUV with a choice of six en­gines, two gear­boxes and ei­ther front or four-wheel drive. On top of that there are five trim lev­els and count­less equip­ment pack­ages, and if that’s not enough, a 296bhp Cupra ver­sion is on the way, too.

Those won­der­ing what a fully-laden, top-of-the-range SEAT SUV would look like need wonder no more – be­cause the car you see here is ex­actly that. Fit­ted with the most pow­er­ful 2.0 TSI petrol en­gine, a DSG gear­box and all­wheel drive, it comes packed with loads of clever kit and con­ve­nient fea­tures.

The flag­ship mo­tor is avail­able ei­ther in Xcel­lence or FR trims. The lat­ter was added to the Ateca range last sum­mer, and en­dows the SUV with a sportier stance, stiffer sus­pen­sion and a lower ride height, as well as body-coloured cladding and 18-inch al­loys. At £30,090 it’s ac­tu­ally £330 (or a cou­ple of quid per month) less than the Xcel­lence, but still has LED lights and an eight-inch screen.

But un­til the Cupra ar­rives later this year, this 187bhp car is the clos­est we’ll get to a hot Span­ish SUV. Does it bode well for the firm’s first stand­alone sport model, or is SEAT bet­ter off stick­ing to its bread and but­ter?

Well, while it won’t set your trousers on fire, the 2.0 TSI of­fers an ad­e­quate turn of pace – sprint­ing from 0-62mph in a re­spectable 7.9 sec­onds. But like many of the VW Group’s more ex­pen­sive mod­els, the DSG holds it back, mak­ing it feel slower than the fig­ures sug­gest.

In fact, the 148bhp 1.4 TSI man­ual we tried pre­vi­ously (Is­sue 1,490) felt just as quick de­spite its power deficit and price ad­van­tage. That car does 0-62mph in a still-sprightly 8.5 sec­onds, while its man­ual box made it more pre­dictable – es­pe­cially around town.

Pleas­ingly, how­ever, both are good to drive, with pre­cise steer­ing, very lit­tle body roll and de­cent re­fine­ment. The ride is a lit­tle firm, es­pe­cially com­pared with ri­vals like the Peu­geot 3008 GT Line, but it’s far from un­com­fort­able. If you like your cross­over to han­dle like a coupé, the grippy 4Drive SEAT is a top pick.

On the mo­tor­way, the 2.0 TSI set­tles into a hushed cruise with no no­tice­able en­gine noise. There’s lots of ad­just­ment in the sup­port­ive seats, while vis­i­bil­ity is good, too. Of course, the roomy cabin is un­changed, with enough space for four adults to sit com­fort­ably.

The big­gest is­sue for many po­ten­tial buy­ers will be how much this pow­er­ful petrol model costs to run. Thanks to its high out­put, stan­dard-fit four-wheeldrive sys­tem and au­to­matic box, the 2.0-litre TSI claims only 40.4mpg. In our time with the car we man­aged just 32mpg – en­sur­ing reg­u­lar fill-ups and hefty fuel bills. Rel­a­tively high emis­sions make it a pricier com­pany car than the less com­pro­mised £25,290 1.4 TSI FR, too.

Ateca is re­fined at cruis­ing speeds, and per­forms rea­son­ably, although the DSG auto blunts its pace

FR trim brings black Al­can­tara sports seats and stiff­ened, low­ered sus­pen­sion

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