SEAT Ateca (16-) preview

  • Laden with tech
  • Wide range of engines
  • Spacious for luggage and limbs
  • Keen pricing expected

The new SEAT Ateca gives Volkswagen’s Spanish brand a credible rival in the busy mid-sized crossover sector. Named after a village in central Spain, this is yet another challenger to the successful Nissan Qashqai, Kia Sportage, Hyundai Tucson and their ilk.

Brits continue to lap up compact SUVs – the fastest growing corner of the UK car market in 2015 – and this model can’t come soon enough for SEAT, which hasn’t had a proper crossover before now. It’s being shown this spring and will reach showrooms in September 2016, just in time for the new 65-reg number plate.

How much will the new SEAT Ateca cost?

No official word yet. Prices will be announced at the Geneva motor show, and we hear that they’ll kick off from around £18-19,000. That puts it on a par with the best value in class (a Qashqai starts at £18,545). Stay tuned to Parkers for the SEAT’s full prices and specs in due course.

The company has built up a reputation for keen value and we expect all models to come with generous equipment. Depending on spec and options fitted, Atecas will come with eight-inch touchscreens, voice recognition, radar-controlled cruise control to keep a set distance from the car in front and electric tailgates operated by a simple “foot waggle” under the rear bumper – ideal if you’ve got your hands full of shopping bags or toddlers.

There are some clever lighting solutions in store, too. The LED headlamps are some 50 percent brighter than those in the Leon, according to SEAT, and we like the neat puddle lamps built into the door mirrors, bathing the ground in a welcoming glow and projecting Ateca branding on to the floor. A neat welcome as you approach the car at night.

Which engines can I choose?

This car is based on the same architecture, or oily bits, as a Leon or Golf hatchback. So you can expect many of the engines to be familiar from elsewhere in the Volkswagen group. Powerplants confirmed so far include:

  • 1.0 petrol, 113bhp
  • 1.4 petrol, 148bhp
  • 1.6 diesel, 113bhp
  • 2.0 diesel, 148bhp or 187bhp

The larger-capacity diesel can be specced with all-wheel drive, badged 4Drive by SEAT. It uses electronic sensors to detect wheel slip at the front axle and shuffle drive to the rear wheels, providing extra traction and security in slippery conditions. However, most Atecas will employ conventional front-wheel drive.

A twin-clutch automatic gearbox will be available on some engines, letting drivers flip up and down through the ratios manually – by tugging the gearstick back and forth, or pulling on paddle-shifts attached to the chunky steering wheel.

No full economy and emissions are available yet, but CO2 outputs will range from 112-141g/km. SEAT is promising a keen drive, but nobody has tested the crossover yet and we must reserve judgment.

Styling, space

This car is mechanically very close to the new Volkswagen Tiguan, and many of the features are shared with its VW brethren. But there’s a distinctively Spanish design vibe going on – and this sets the tempo for a new generation of SEAT crossovers; the brand is planning two further SUVs, with a smaller rival to the Nissan Juke first and a full-size, seven-seat 4x4 to follow.

Buyers lap these cars up for their improved practicality and raised seating, and the Ateca comes up trumps in both departments. The boot is bigger than the Qashqai’s, at 510 litres; mind you, if you’re one of the rare Brits expected to spec an all-wheel drive SEAT, that shrinks to 485 litres. And there’s a double-decker luggage compartment, with hidden cubbies below, plus a pair of levers to lower the rear seats without any pushing or shoving required.

What’s it like inside the SEAT Ateca?

This crossover feels large and genuinely family-focused inside. There’s plenty of space for four large adults and special mention must go to the rear seats – they’re echoingly spacious. Just watch out for the large, raised transmission tunnel, which will pinch space from a fifth passenger’s feet.

There is plenty of driver’s seat adjustment and it’s blissfully easy to see out of the Ateca. At 4,360mm long, this crossover is a little shorter than many rivals, making it easier to park and nip through gaps in traffic.

Connectivity impresses onboard; the familiar Volkswagen Group touchscreen technology is among the best in class – easy to operate, simple to sync with your smartphone and with a depth of gadgetry and cleverness which will make keeping the kids entertained a cinch. You can even charge suitably equipped mobiles wirelessly.

Oh, and we love the “heartbeat” starter button, which pulsates with a distinctly cardiovascular red glow when you first enter the cabin. Nabbed straight from Jaguar, but a welcome surprise-and-delight feature when you first climb onboard.

Verdict

We will be driving the SEAT Ateca, named after a village in central Spain, in June 2016 – so stay tuned for the full Parkers review this summer. We suspect we might have glowing remarks to be made in due course.