Parkers overall rating: 4 out of 5 4.0
  • Simple choice of engines
  • Equal spread of petrol and diesel
  • Good performance across the range

What engines are on offer?

There’s a choice of five familiar VW Group engines in the Ateca, including the punchy yet frugal 1.5-litre ‘cylinder-on-demand’ petrol and the 2.0-litre diesel in two different tunes.

A six-speed manual comes as standard on entry-level engines, with a seven-speed DSG automatic gearbox available on more powerful units. All-wheel drive is also limited to the most powerful versions with the automatic gearbox.

The manual is light and slick to use, helped by the small stubby gearlever. It feels slightly odd at first, as you'd normally associate this with sportier cars, rather than an SUV, but you get used to it quickly. Both transmissions perform well although we think the auto suits the Ateca’s nature better.

Petrol engines

Engine Power and torque
0-62mph time
Top speed
1.0-litre TSI 110hp, 200Nm 11.4secs 112mph
1.5-litre TSI Evo 150hp, 250Nm 8.5secs 124mph
2.0-litre TSI auto 4Drive 190hp, 320Nm 7.0secs 133mph

View full specs

Kicking things off is a three-cylinder, 1.0-litre TSI petrol engine. It doesn’t promise significantly cheaper running costs than the next size up – the 1.5-litre – despite being smaller with one fewer cylinder and that's because it needs working harder to haul the Ateca's weight.

We’ve driven the 1.5-litre Evo TSI in a number of VW Group cars and it impresses, especially in the Ateca. When you’re cruising or coasting it can shut down two of its four cylinders to help improve economy and as such is almost as green as the entry-level unit.

Plus, it feels much more sprightly in everyday driving. It’s especially noticeable when you’re on the motorway, for instance.

At the top of the range is a 190hp 2.0-litre TSI, available exclusively with all-wheel drive and a DSG gearbox. It’s easily the punchiest petrol engine in the line-up, however, it never feels as quick as its performance figures suggest.  It's fairly coarse at high revs, too, and doesn't have the silky smoothness you might expect from a 2.0-litre petrol engine.

If you want an even faster Ateca, you'll want to head straight for the Cupra Ateca, boasting 300hp. 

Diesel engines

Engine Power and torque 0-62mph time Top speed
2.0-litre TDI 115 116hp, 300Nm 10.9secs 115mph
2.0-litre TDI 150 auto 150hp, 360Nm 9.0secs 126mph

View full specs

Diesels are popular in family SUVs, and as such the Ateca is offered with a 2.0-litre diesel in two power outputs. The lower-powered, entry-level version is the company car driver’s choice, with 115hp and low claimed running costs. This replaces the old 1.6-litre and offers more torque, reducing the 0-62mph time.

The more powerful 150hp version makes up the majority of private sales, with better mid-range performance tempered with fuel economy on a par with the less powerful unit. Plus, this is the one 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.

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.

The two-wheel drive version could fare better, as the closely-related VW T-Roc TDI 150 we tested - with the same engine and only the front wheels being driven - was far more eager across the rev range.

Handling

  • Handles well for a big car
  • Firmer 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 and shares a lot of its handling characteristics, which is only a good thing, as that Leon was one of the better-handling family hatchbacks on sale.

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 squashy seats and long suspension travel.

Grip is good, and the steering, although quite light, reacts quickly to small movements making easy work of manoeuvres in town. It also helps the Ateca to feel agile in a series of corners if you do find yourself wanting to be a bit more enthusiastic on your way home from doing the school run. Take it down a winding country road and the Ateca copes well, without feeling particularly flustered.

Higher-spec cars get the SEAT Drive Profile, which allows the driver to tailor the steering, throttle response and gearshifts (in automatic cars) with Normal, Sport, Eco and Individual driving modes.

Adaptive suspension was made available later on when the Ateca was facelifted in 2020, and is fitted as part of the optional Dynamic Chassis Control package. This allows you to soften or firm up the suspension, along with the other parameters mentioned above within the Drive Modes. This doesn't significantly improve the Ateca's handling, but has more of an effect with its additional Comfort mode to provide a more supple ride.

Off roading

The SEAT Ateca isn't going to be used with serious off-roading in mind. The ride height remains the same on all models and there’s no additional underbody protection, but you do get additional Offroad and Snow driving modes on all-wheel drive models, as well as a hill descent control system to help get down steep slopes safely.