Seat Ateca

Ateca picks up Seat’s sporty DNA pro­duc­ing a SUV that is fun to drive, says Damien O’car­roll.

New Zealand Company Vehicle - - CONTENTS -

As Skoda goes from strength to strength with some truly ex­cel­lent mod­els be­ing re­leased, it was re­ally only a mat­ter of time be­fore we saw VW’S Span­ish brand Seat here in New Zea­land. But where ex­actly would it fit? The com­mon pre­con­cep­tion about Seat was that it was a bud­get brand that sat be­low Skoda in the VW Group peck­ing or­der, but that was sim­ply based on his­toric brushes with the Span­ish brand as it popped qui­etly in one out of the lo­cal mar­ket. As it turns out, Seat is es­sen­tially the sporty al­ter­na­tive to Skoda’s value-for­money luxury ap­proach. This meant that pric­ing would be broadly on-par with Skoda of­fer­ings, but with a sportier bent com­pared to Skoda’s com­fort­able con­ser­vatism. This means we get things like the fan­tas­tic Leon Cupra, with its VW Golf R en­gine but a re­mark­ably cheap price tag, and now, the small Ateca SUV which fore­shad­ows the Yeti-re­plac­ing Skoda Karoq. par­tic­u­lar ex­am­ple you see here is the AWD FR model that brings added sporti­ness and a high level of stan­dard equip­ment. Style and Xcel­lence mod­els are also avail­able. The Ateca is a hand­some smaller SUV that doesn’t of­fend and feels no need to be edgy and weird for no good rea­son, al­though while con­ser­va­tive, it still man­ages to be quite dis­tinc­tive. On the in­side you get a fan­tas­ti­cally high qual­ity in­te­rior that is beau­ti­fully made and well laid out, with bril­liantly com­fort­able and sup­port­ive seats (that also look great!). So a typ­i­cally VW Group in­te­rior then. In fact, if you have ever sat in a VW, or par­tic­u­larly a Skoda, it will all feel rather fa­mil­iar. Per­haps a lit­tle too fa­mil­iar, but the qual­ity is cer­tainly there. Un­der the bon­net the Ateca FR packs a 2.0-litre en­gine 140kw/400nm four- cylin­der petrol turbo en­gine that is bril­liantly pow­er­ful and lively. It boasts loads of punch in the mid range and en­dows the FR with some­thing all too rare in the cur­rent SUV dom­i­nated mar­ket – driv­ing fun. The FR is a blast to throw around out on the open road, with a beau­ti­fully nim­ble and re­spon­sive chas­sis, al­lied to sharp and equally re­spon­sive steer­ing. Min­i­mal body roll and a won­der­fully con­trolled and com­pli­ant ride round out the pack­age nicely, while the seven-speed DSG trans­mis­sion is as slick and fast as ever. How­ever, it is the DSG that also brings some small an­noy­ances into the deal, with all the tra­di­tional foibles re­gard­ing low speed manuev­er­ing, back­ing up hills and that hes­i­ta­tion off the line. Small SUVS are gen­er­ally very much a case of style over ac­tual Suv-style abil­ity. Sure, they gen­er­ally of­fer marginally more room over their equiv­a­lent car sib­lings, but you pretty much buy one for style rea­sons. That means that, also gen­er­ally, dy­nam­ics are of a lesser con­cern. So it is some­thing of a pleas­ant sur­prise to the keener driver that the new­est generation of small SUVS are ac­tu­ally star­ing to of­fer some­thing in that direc­tion, and the Ateca is a very good ex­am­ple of that. Okay, so it still doesn’t quite match the dy­namic abil­i­ties of a hatch like the Leon or VW Golf, for ex­am­ple, but it has closed that gap to a sig­nif­i­cant de­gree. Fun to drive, hand­some and re­mark­ably well equipped, the Seat Ateca is pos­si­bly the best com­pro­mise be­tween need­ing the prac­ti­cal­ity of a small SUV and ac­tu­ally en­joy­ing driv­ing.

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