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SEAT Ateca engines, drive and performance

2016 onwards (change model)
Performance rating: 4.5 out of 54.5

Written by Luke Wilkinson Published: 18 March 2022 Updated: 1 June 2022

  • Equal spread of petrol and diesel engines
  • Sharp handling for an SUV
  • Cheapest engine slightly breathless

Petrol engines

The entry-point to the Ateca range is a 110hp three-cylinder petrol engine. It’s reasonably nippy around town, although it starts to run out of steam once you’re on a faster road – especially if you’re carrying passengers and luggage. 

What’s more, it doesn’t promise significantly cheaper running costs than the next size up, despite the fact that it has a smaller displacement and one fewer cylinder. That’s because it needs to work a lot harder to haul the Ateca’s weight.

So, if you want a petrol engine, we’d say your best bet is the 1.5-litre four-cylinder. It has enough poke to make the SUV feel sprightly – and you’ve got a lot more in reserve on the motorway, which means it’s easier to overtake. However, it still returns impressive economy figures thanks to its cylinder deactivation technology.

SEAT Ateca petrol engine
SEAT Ateca petrol engine

Both the 1.0-litre and 1.5-litre petrol engines come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox, although the latter can be optioned with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox. The manual is light and slick to use, thanks to the stubby gear stick – but we think the auto suits the Ateca’s nature better.

The flagship petrol engine is a 190hp 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit, which is exclusively available with four-wheel drive and a DSG gearbox. It’s the punchiest option in the range, but it never feels as fast as its performance figures suggest, it’s coarse at high revs. If you want an even faster model, you’ll need to head straight for the 300hp Cupra Ateca.

Diesel engines

The Ateca’s diesel range is pleasingly simple. There’s just one 2.0-litre four-cylinder unit, which is offered in a choice of two power outputs. The cheaper version is the company car driver’s choice, offering 115hp (which is enough for the motorway) and low running costs.

The more powerful 150hp version makes up the majority of private sales. It offers better mid-range performance and with fuel economy that’s on a par with the less powerful unit. Plus, this is the engine to go for if you want an automatic gearbox or all-wheel drive.

We’ve tested the TDI 150 4Drive automatic and found it to be quite sluggish. In normal driving, the automatic gearbox changes up too soon and the engine seems unwilling to rev, feeling as though it takes a lot of work to get the Ateca up to speed.

SEAT Ateca DSG automatic gearbox 2021

The additional power is there, but it’ll take more encouragement from the driver’s right foot than some may expect. At least the automatic gearbox changes gear smoothly and the brake pedal is reassuringly responsive.

Switch the drive mode dial into Sport and this seems to wake up the engine and gearbox, letting the engine rev higher to 2,300rpm before shifting up, while changing down sooner as you slow for corners. This isn’t the best way to maximise fuel economy, but could prove less frustrating in everyday driving.

What’s it like to drive?

  • Handles well for a big car
  • Firm suspension, but still comfortable
  • Adaptive suspension available as an option

The SEAT Ateca is built on the same mechanical platform as the previous Leon hatchback, which means it shares a lot of its handling characteristics. This is only a good thing, though, as the old Leon was one of the better-handling family hatchbacks on the market.

The suspension is firmer than most rivals and this means the body doesn’t roll around as much in corners like other SUVs. Thankfully, it’s not to the detriment of ride comfort, thanks to the squishy seats and long suspension travel.

The steering is quite light, but it reacts quickly to small movements, which makes easy work of manoeuvres around town. It also helps to make the Ateca feel agile through the corners if you fancy a more spirited drive on your way home from the school run. It handles country roads with a surprising deftness, offering plenty of grip.

SEAT Ateca rear driving
SEAT Ateca rear driving

Adaptive suspension was added as an option when the Ateca was facelifted in 2020, allowing the driver to alter the stiffness of the damping. The system doesn’t significantly improve the car’s handling, but it does have an effect on comfort, with the softer setting offering a much more supple ride. 

The fancy suspension is coupled with a series of drive modes, which allow you to tailor the throttle response, steering weight and gear shift patterns (on automatic cars). Dubbed the SEAT Drive Profile, it offers a choice of four driving modes – Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual, which allows you to tailor the settings to your own preference.


The SEAT Ateca wasn’t really designed for green laning. You can’t alter the ride height and there’s no additional underbody protection, which will put you at a significant disadvantage if you try to drive it over anything more challenging than a muddy field.

Instead, the four-wheel drive system is tailored towards offering the most amount of grip possible on the road – especially on poor surfaces such as gravel tracks or snow. Four-wheel drive models get additional Offroad and Snow driving modes for the job, as well as hill descent control to help get down steep slopes safely.