Seat Ateca – long-term test

James Foxall
Seat Ateca long-term test - Foxall - Christopher Pledger

Seat’s all-new Ateca is very late to the SUV party. James Foxall finds out whether it can make an impact. And, after driving a 2.0-litre diesel version, he's now trying a 1.4 turbocharged petrol engine by way of comparison

Our car: 1.4 TSI Xcellence List price when new: £25,790 Price as tested: £27,510 Official fuel economy: 51.4mpg (EU Combined). The same information for the 'old' turbodiesel:  2.0 TDI 4Drive Xcellence/£27,425/£29,155/55.4mpg (EU Combined)

Read more long-term tests

December 12th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 40.4mpg

Without wishing to sound smug, I’m rather feeling it as one of the very few drivers to have winter tyres. Not for me the sliding around on a slippery surface as my tyres struggle for traction. The Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3s the Ateca is now fitted with provide extra reassurance in the cold, damp, slushy conditions.

How do they cope on snow? I’m afraid I can’t tell you because the snow hasn’t really settled where I am on the south coast… But they’re great in slush.

The Ateca doesn't look quite as good on 17-inch wheels, but that's a small price to pay for the extra grip afforded by winter tyres

As a result of various logistical peculiarities, I’ve had to have the tyres mounted on smaller diameter, 17-inch wheels. I don’t know of any car that looks better on smaller rims (unless you’re scaling down from 22-inchers) and the Ateca is the same.

But it doesn’t look awful. And I’d rather sacrifice looks for a car that will grip when all those around are spinning their wheels.

December 4th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 40.6mpg

Someone bought an old door from me recently. They transported it home on the roof of their car by roping it to a couple of bits of four by two that in turn were cabled-tied to the roof bars. Thankfully I didn’t have to be on the road at the same time as them. Not wishing to follow their example, I have acquired a set of official Seat accessory roof bars.

The official Seat accessory roof bars are a doddle to install

They form part of Seat’s £370 Adventure Pack and fitting them is unbelievably easy. They sit on rubber cushions so they don’t damage the bars on the car. There’s then a simple but sturdy clip that secures them.

They take seconds to fit. A locking cover goes over them to prevent anyone stealing them. The next thing to get is a roof box to mount on top, to increase the Ateca's already good load-lugging ability.

November 28th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 40.8mpg

Controlling a car’s functions with your voice is perfectly logical. The more time you have both hands on the wheel rather than fiddling with buttons and touchscreens, the better in my view. However, I’m struggling with this feature on the Ateca.

For a start there’s the curious and frequently chuckle-worthy pronunciation. Then there’s its worrying inability to find the correct address. As an example, I recently asked it to take me to Bad Bargain Lane. Its curious computer take on that was ‘Bad Bar-jain Lane’ and it seemed to think the number we were going to didn’t exist.

Voice control: makes sense, but it doesn't always work

There followed a bit of an argument (rowing with someone who doesn’t exist is never satisfactory) a gradual increase in frustration (mine) and the conclusion that it would have been quicker and far less hassle to activate the satnav and type the address into the touchscreen.

Voice control: brilliant idea, needs a bit of work.

November 21st, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 41.0mpg

Around half of drivers don’t know what winter tyres are, according to research by Continental. If you’re one of the millions, don’t worry, they’re not spiked or studded; they are tyres that are made from a softer rubber compound with a different tread pattern. This enables them to seek out grip in the colder conditions (below 7 degrees Celsius) that find normal ‘summer’ tyres wanting.

Winter (or, more correctly, cold weather) tyres have a softer compound and different tread pattern to make them more effective on ice and snow, as well as merely damp and cold roads

I’ve had winter tyres fitted to several cars in the past and I’m a big fan. As the weather forecasters are promising this is going to be a cold winter – they’re not wrong so far – and I’m off to the Alps to go skiing in December, I thought it would make sense to have winter tyres fitted to the Ateca.

The result is a brand-new set of Pirelli Winter Sottozero 3s. Although not a winter tyre test winner, the Pirelli appears to be a decent all-rounder. My initial impressions, which have been limited to cold and damp roads so far, appear encouraging. The proof the pudding, however, will be in the snow (fingers crossed!) of the Alps next month.

November 14th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 41.5mpg

The Ateca comes with a stop-start system that cuts the engine when you're stationary in traffic, an innovation I’m wholly in favour of. What I’m not so enamoured with is the zeal with which it carries out its task.

Imagine the scene: you’ve anticipated the lights are going to change so you’re slowing gently to a halt. As you roll up to the car in front, the engine cuts. All OK so far. What isn’t so helpful is that fractions of a second later, power to the steering dies, too.

Although I should have got used to this by now, having a leaden steering wheel in your grasp remains disconcerting. I realise this isn’t a Seat problem. It’ll be Bosch or whoever supplies the VW Group’s stop-start systems.

What they need to know is that killing power to the engine while the wheels are still rolling is fine. Just as long as the power steering pump is kept alive until the car is stationary.

November 7th, 2017

Fuel economy this week:41.3mpg

I’m starting to see a lot of Atecas around. With its blend of excellent value for money, fine handling and good looks, I can understand why.

I’ve spied plenty of white ones and a fair number of dark blue ones. But it’s taken a few months and a trip to the Yorkshire Dales to spot one in the same Samoa Orange as our model. Then, as with buses, I spotted another almost immediately.

Snap: the Ateca's distinctive Samoa Orange hue is slowly catching on

Seat has sold more than 8,500 Atecas since it went on sale in September 2016. And probably unsurprisingly, the Spanish maker claims its mid-size SUV is one of the reasons its UK sales are up by a fifth, year on year.

October 31st, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 41.5mpg

The thing about this Sceptred Isle is that it can be a pretty windy place. And with the freakish frequency of ‘named’ storms over the past couple of weeks, I’ve discovered that the Ateca doesn’t particularly like heavy winds.

The Ateca isn’t your usual tank-like SUV (even if technically that isn’t a tank, it's a Sherman-based Sexton self-propelled gun from the Second World War)

I put this down to a couple of factors. One thing the Ateca has on its side is that it’s quite light. In 1.4 TSI guise it weighs 1,359kg, which is 230kg less than the equivalent model with the 2.0 TDI engine. The other factor is that while it looks sleek and aerodynamic from the front, it’s quite difficult to have an SUV that doesn’t have a chunky profile.

Put those slab sides together with a lack of weight and you have a car that’s susceptible to being caught by gusts of wind on motorways. I wouldn’t call it a problem, but it’s worth being aware of.

October 24th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 41.8mpg

Windscreen wipers are something I thought I understood fairly well. And then along come automatic wipers. Our Ateca has these and 90 per cent of the time they work very well indeed. Simply leave the wipers switched to intermittent and they decide when they’re going to work. Their windscreen-mounted sensor also figures out how quickly they’re going to go depending on the prevailing conditions.

Do automatic wipers have a mind of their own?

However, very fine drizzle of the sort we’ve recently had confuses it. Instead of occasionally sweeping as the weather demands, the sensor seems to think we’re in a biblical downpour and the wipers go berserk.

I know this is very much a first-world problem. And it’s easy to be blasé and forget that, despite these niggles, it’s only a few years since such technology was only available on top-of-the-range executive cruisers.

October 16th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 42.1mpg

The Ateca is unashamedly family-focused. And it’s easy to see why: more of us have families in our lives than race tracks at our disposal. It’s baffling then that Seat should have installed a lap timer as part of the SUV’s on-board computer. But sure enough, along with the fuel consumption adviser, there’s a stopwatch.

Does a family car really need a lap-timer?

The VW Group has a weird habit of putting lap timers on its family cars. I get that it’s part of a group of features and it’s probably impossible to delete. But that doesn’t stop it feeling completely out of place.

That said, I did find a use for it the other day: timing the green light phase on some traffic lights. Nine seconds. No wonder there was a queue for the junction.

October 10th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 41.9mpg

Two lights that together must have cost all of fractions of a pound per car have proved one of the unexpected highlights of Ateca ownership for me. Mounted in the base of the door mirrors, the lights come on when you lock or unlock the car. But rather than just a boring beam, they also superimpose a silhouette of the car and the Ateca name on whatever surface they’re shining on.

The 'puddle lights' in the Ateca's door mirrors are a delightful touch

The practical application is that as ‘puddle lights’ they illuminate things you really don’t want to step in when you’re getting in and out of the car.

But there’s a consequence, intended or otherwise, of this nice little premium touch. They attract attention to the car. I’ve had various people comment on them as I’ve been getting in and out in car parks or when it’s dark.

And all the remarks have been favourable. Smart thinking on Seat’s behalf.

October 5th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 42.1mpg

Colour is a very subjective thing. An acquaintance of mine sarcastically praised me for my choice of anti-theft paint on the Ateca. But then he drives a silver car...

I love the Seat’s colour. It stands out without being garish; it makes the Ateca easy to find in busy car parks; and it doesn’t show the dirt.

Pure filth: the Ateca's Samoa Orange paintwork doesn't show the dirt. Much

The latter point was emphasised when I was talking to a different friend who asked me how I keep my car so clean. I looked at it up close and realised he was wrong: it’s actually filthy. Shamefully so in fact. But unlike white or black, Samoa Orange doesn’t show the dirt. And it makes the Ateca look much more eye-catching than the grey or blue Seat does it in.

I’m now off to find the bucket and sponge.

September 26th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 41.8mpg

It’s no secret that cars are getting bigger. By modern standards the Ateca isn’t a large car, but it’s still 4.3m long, 1.8m wide and 1.6m high. I know the latter dimension because I was faced with a car park in Brighton at the weekend that had a height limit of 1.85m. Knowing that I’m 1.85m tall and my head is higher than the Ateca’s roof line, I figured it would ft under the height restriction.

That said, the aerial at the back did give me a moment’s concern. But by then it was too late and I was committed.

The Ateca isn't a large car by modern standards, but it fills a Sixties-designed parking bay

All was well until I found a parking bay. Judging by the architecture, the car park was built in the 1960s when cars were a lot smaller. When I finally found a slot, the Ateca’s height wasn’t the problem; its width was.

I could squeeze the Ateca into the bay but Mrs F had to get out before I manoeuvred in. Although there was a Mini in the next-door bay, I could still only just squeeze out of the car.

Upon returning the following day I was rather relieved to find the bay next door empty.

September 19th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 43.8mpg

When a car’s cruising, it’s obvious the engine doesn’t need to pump out full power to maintain momentum. For this scenario, the boffins at VW have come up with the clever idea of shutting down two of the Ateca’s four cylinders. Not that you’d notice; the only evidence is a note that flashes up on the dashboard in front of the driver saying ‘2-cylinder mode’.

Impressive graphics, but what does an eco score of 93 actually mean?

As well as giving me a warm feeling about being all eco-friendly, it’s now become a bit of a game to see how long I can keep going in 2-cylinder mode by feathering the throttle as gently as possible.

It’s certainly a more compelling way to save the planet than following the unintelligible "eco trainer" graphic on the main screen. What that’s meant to mean is anybody’s guess. It doesn’t even say whether the ECO points average of 93 that I've achieved so far is any good or not.

September 11th, 2017

Fuel economy this week:39.9mpg

One of the things that upsets many drivers is the car makers’ keenness to do away with the spare wheel. I get it from the maker’s point of view: a full-sized car wheel weighs 10-15kg. And the more weight in a car, the less economical it will be.

However, I’m not yet ready to sacrifice a spare wheel for an emergency inflation kit, so I specified the optional £110 spacesaver spare wheel on our Ateca.

Bass instincts: if you specify a spacesaver spare wheel, the car's bass speaker sits in its centre

For Seat, that means more than simply bunging a wheel in the boot. As the Ateca was designed to be supplied with a light, compact inflation kit, the spare wheel well is occupied by the bass speaker for the sound system.

To circumvent this, Seat has come up with the rather ingenious solution of slotting said speaker into the centre of the spacesaver spare wheel. If you have to take the spare out, it’s the same as in any other car. The only additional thing you have to do is unplug the speaker, which takes about a second. The best solutions are always the simplest.

September 4th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 40.2mpg

I appreciate that with the extreme amount of equipment a modern car has, along with the vast array of options, writing a user manual must be one of the most under-appreciated jobs in the motor industry. However, not for the first time, I’ve found the Ateca’s coming up short.

Easy when you know how...

The first time was around disabling the interior sensor for the alarm. The second is to do with the folding door mirrors. The manual would lead you to believe it’s as simple as enabling the fold function via the main screen. Trouble is, that doesn’t work. What the manual omits to tell you is that you have to do that and keep the locking button on the fob pressed. Only then do the mirrors move in.

I found this vital piece of extra information on the readers’ letters pages in a monthly car mag. It transpires I’m not the only journalist who’s complained about the Ateca’s non-functioning folding mirrors.

August 30th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 40.1mpg

What better way to test how capacious a car boot is than by providing the transport for three festival-goers? I’ve rarely been as impressed with an SUV’s boot as I am with the Ateca’s. At 510 litres it has an extra 25 litres compared with the four-wheel drive version I had before. And it feels significantly bigger than the 380 litres you get in a Leon hatchback.

The Ateca's boot was more than a match for a trio of festival-goers

In reality that meant it swallowed three large rucksacks full of everything from sleeping bags to vodka plus a pair of pop-up tents and even a couple of folding chairs. It was also comfortable and capacious enough for our three music lovers to sleep all the way from the south coast to Reading and arrive rested and ready for the four days ahead.

Thankfully, the Ateca and I didn’t have to pick them up.

August 24th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 39.7mpg

I have a lower back that’s very sensitive to offset car seats. A couple of hours spent with my torso at a slightly different angle to my legs and the area around the back of my pelvis and hips tells me all about it.

seat ateca foxall

Judging by a lack of pain while putting in long shifts at the wheel of the Ateca on holiday, it’s not something to afflict this car.

The front seats don’t have an adjustable lumbar support and they only move up and down, without any ability to tilt. Nonetheless they’re comfortable and combine softness with support.

It means I can cover long distances in the Ateca without stepping out and walking as if I’ve just got off a horse ‑ always a bonus.

August 7th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 40.3mpg

It’s fascinating doing a direct comparison between versions of the same model with different engines. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the most pleasing surprises of this Ateca has been turbocharged 1.4 TSI petrol power. I thought I was going to miss the generous waves of the 2.0-litre diesel’s maximum 251lb ft torque. But the petrol’s 184lb ft starts earlier in the rev range – 1,500rpm compared to 1,750 for the diesel – and feels perfectly adequate.

(Figure obtained on an Alp, your mileage may vary)

What I really appreciate is how quiet the petrol is. At the motorway limit, the diesel always makes its presence felt by humming away. The petrol, however, is almost imperceptible. And the seven-speed DSG gearbox is a work of art. I was concerned that on a long drive to the French alps this summer, we were going to be spending as much time filling with expensive French petrol as on the road. But despite having a 50-litre fuel tank (the diesel’s is 55 litres), we achieved respectable economy and 500-plus miles per fill. Had we been able to maintain the eye-popping mpg figures that driving down mountains brought, the intervals between fuel station visits would have been even longer...

August 1st, 2017

Fuel economy this week:40.1mpg

Within a week of taking delivery of this latest, petrol-engined Ateca, we were off on the Foxall family holiday. It’s the sort of trip that’s guaranteed to show up any potential shortcomings in a car.

As with much of Ateca ownership, it didn’t reveal much to moan about. Switching the light beam for Continental driving was easy: the LED headlamps fall within European tolerances so you don’t have to do anything.

Turning off the alarm for the ferry crossing was a different matter. The Brittany Ferries staff are hot on this, telling every driver to deactivate their car alarm. Many cars have a button on the door pillar that turns off the tilt sensor. So does the Ateca, according to the user manual, although I couldn’t find it. Confusingly, the user manual also says that a double push on the key fob will deactivate the tilt sensor. I did this and nodded obligingly – and hopefully ‑ when the steward asked if I’d turned off my alarm off.

More reassuring was the Ateca’s ability at swallowing luggage. Without the optional raised floor, the boot appears cavernous, with more than enough space for three people’s luggage on top of the cases of wine we’d bought at a Chateau.

July 18th, 2017
Out goes the 2.0-litre turbodeiesel Ateca (right), to be replaced by a 1.4 petrol version resplendent in Samoa Orange

You might have noticed diesel’s vilification and waning popularity. And this is reflected in sales: the past few months have been down by around a fifth compared with last year. We’re following the trend and have exchanged our diesel Ateca 2.0-litre TDI for the 1.4 TSI petrol version.

With this model we were given the opportunity to create our own car. I knew I wanted the cheaper petrol engine coupled with the seven-speed DSG semi-automatic gearbox. So I decided to attempt to specify a car with the kit I wanted for the same money as the standard diesel model. That gave me £1,635 to play with reagrading the options.

Initially I toyed with having even more to spend by choosing the less costly mid-range SE spec model. But after a bit of playing with the Seat website’s car configuring tool I realised that it would be cheaper to go for the top-of-the-range Xcellence, which had all the kit I was after as standard.

How to spend the remaining £1,635 then? I chose Samoa Orange as my bodywork colour, which cost £650. Then the 18-inch Puigmal black alloy wheels added £960, while replacing the standard tyre inflation kit with a spacesaver spare wheel was £110. The result was £85 over budget - but that’s still £1,605 cheaper than the TDI I tested previously.

Equipment this car doesn’t have compared with the TDI is the powered tailgate with the ‘virtual pedal’ (you wave your foot under the bumper to open it). I deemed both superfluous and I think I was right. It’s not four-wheel drive either as 4Drive isn’t available with this engine. As I wasn’t aware of the TDI’s 4x4 ever swinging into action and I don’t do any towing or venturing off-road, again, I’m not fussed.

But the switch to the petrol engine is the decision I’m most pleased with. The moment I fired up the silky smooth 1.4-litre I knew that if I was going to buy an Ateca, I would go for the petrol engine every time. It’s fair to say I’m really looking forward to the coming months.

July 11th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 46.8mpg

My time with this Ateca is at an end so it’s time to do some totting up. In the four months I’ve had it, I’ve covered 6,444 miles. According to our fuel check rather than the car’s computer, it has averaged 46.8mpg. That’s a 16 per cent shortfall compared with the 55.4mpg official EU Combined economy figure, which doesn’t seem so bad.

I’ve enjoyed the Ateca’s comfortable and versatile cabin, the torque and economy of the 2.0-litre turbodiesel and the car’s various convenience features, particularly the mobile phone charging plate.

Like the rest of the car, the Ateca's load bay is highly practical

Included on that list should be the keyless entry and the ‘virtual pedal’, which enables you to open the boot by waving your foot beneath the rear bumper. Both these features were great – when they worked. Both seemed a little temperamental.

That, however, is a mere blip. As a car to live with, the Ateca has been brilliant. It’s had everything covered from good looks to practicality. In many ways, it could be described as the perfect crossover: it handles like a hatchback yet has the raised ‘command’ driving position of an SUV.

It will be interesting to see what something the same but a little bit different is like.

July 4th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 47.4mpg

For diesel car drivers, filling up with AdBlue is fast becoming a regular part of motoring. To grossly oversimply, this colourless, odourless liquid is part of Selective Catalytic Reduction. This system works by combining AdBlue which is urea (essentially wee) and water with the exhaust gases. The resulting chemical reaction significantly reduces the harmful nitrogen oxides the car pumps out.

Topping up the AdBlue is simplicity itself

The car warns you when the AdBlue is running low and it’s then a quick trip to a fuel station or motor retailer to buy a bottle. A five-litre bottle costs £12 and that’ll do you for 2,000-3,000 miles according to the Ateca’s trip computer.

Filling it couldn’t be easier. There’s a blue filler cap next to the regular diesel one. You attach the spout to the bottle, push on a simple breather spout that’s supplied and the AdBlue simply glugs into the tank. Job done.

June 27th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 47.7mpg

One of the features the Ateca boasts is the 4Drive four-wheel drive system. This offers the fuel economy benefits of a front-wheel-drive for everyday motoring. But if you select ‘Off-road’ or ‘Snow’ in the Seat Driver Profile menu, power can be sent to the rear wheels if continued forward motion calls for it.

seat ateca long-term

The set-up uses the same Haldex clutch arrangement that Volkswagen employs in its 4Motion cars. It’s a seamless operation, but requires a slippery surface where the front wheels are struggling for grip in order for power to be directed rearwards.

I must confess to having used it precisely zero times. But, if I was towing regularly, I can see how this would be an attractive feature to tick on the options list.

June 20th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 47.9mpg

Part of the skill of the VW Group is its ability to save costs by producing multiple cars using the same mechanical base. Two such models are the Seat Ateca and VW Tiguan. Badge aside, one of the ways VW differentiates itself from its Spanish subsidiary is in a greater level of equipment. Hence, in like-for-like models the Tiguan is more highly specified.

The Ateca with its Volkswagen equivalent, the Tiguan

The Tiguan equivalent to our Ateca Xcellence 4Drive is the SE Navigation 4Motion. However, while the Ateca costs £27,425, the Tiguan is £30,470. I had the opportunity to compare them side by side at the local hand car wash the other day. Both are handsome cars.

But I think, of the two, the design of the Seat’s front end is the more distinctive.

June 12th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 47.8mpg

The official combined economy figure for the Ateca in our 2.0 TDI 4Drive specification with the six-speed manual gearbox is 55.4mpg. Obviously, I haven’t got anywhere near that. However, I am getting closer. I zeroed the trip computer when I took delivery of the car a few months ago and the average mpg settled in the mid-40s fairly quickly. Over time, that has gradually improved and as I’m very nearly hitting 48mpg I can at least say I’m in the late 40s now.

We're putting the improved fuel economy down to the car running-in, but still wish there were more gears for motorway cruising Credit: Christopher Pledger 

What do I put this down to? I think part of it is the 2.0-litre TDI loosening up. But I think mainly it’s getting used to the gearing. The ratios feel pretty short. I barely use fourth, as it’s happy to go straight from third to fifth. And the on-screen gear shift indicator urges you into sixth very quickly, to the point where at the national limit you wish there was room in the gearbox for a seventh speed. Even so, I’m not complaining. Where mpg goes, it’s the more the merrier.

June 5th, 2017

Fuel economy this week:47.1mpg

One of the features I really like about the Ateca – actually make that Seats in general – are the LED Daytime Running Lights, otherwise abbreviated to DRLs.

These take the shape of a distinctive ring around the headlights. Not only do they give Seat a unique visual identity, they also seamlessly transform into turn signals.

We have no idea how they work, but the daytime running lights cum indicators on the Seat are very cool indeed

How does this work? Do the DRL LEDs extinguish and the indicators come on? Or do the existing LEDs simply turn orange and start flashing? Who knows?

What I do know is that when I see similar signals on other cars, or catch the Ateca’s indicators reflected on a vehicle in front or in a shop window, I think they’re very cool indeed.

May 30th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 46.8mpg

With cars getting bigger and parking spaces staying the same size, some form of parking aid is becoming ever more useful. As well as an audible warning (beeps), the Ateca in the Xcellence trim level of 'our' cars has a rear-view camera. Obviously being able to see what’s going on behind while reversing is handy. But the really clever part is the bird’s eye view that appears on the screen to the left.

Seat Ateca long-term

This uses the camera lenses in the base of the door mirrors. Throw in some clever programming and it appears there’s a drone with a camera hovering above the Ateca. If, like me you aim to park in the middle of bays, rather than over to one side or at an angle like some people seem to favour, this is your friend. It enables you to see exactly where the car sits in the parking bay without opening your door. Magic!

May 23rd, 2017

Fuel economy this week:45.9mpg

The car makers appear to have decided that electronic parking brakes are the way to go. I don’t have a problem with this. What I used to have a problem with was the implementation  - some of these parking brakes were applied by pushing down, others by pulling up.

Since you apply a traditional lever handbrake by pulling it upwards, it always felt counter-intuitive to apply the parking brake with a downward motion.

Fortunately for our driver, the Seat's electronic parking brake is intuitive to use

Thankfully for me, Seat has chosen to do things the ‘right’ way with the Ateca’s parking brake. Like a conventional handbrake, you pull up to apply it.

It also features a hill-hold function for effortless getaways on slopes. Unlike some other cars, this is only automatic once it’s been enabled by pushing a button behind the parking brake. For that I thank Seat.

There are few more satisfying things at the wheel than the perfect hill start and the Ateca still lets me practice that.

May 16th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 46.2mpg

As with many cars, the Ateca is fitted with Front Assist and City Emergency Braking. This springs into action and slams on the brakes if it thinks you’re going to have a crash. It’s clever enough to recognise pedestrians and cyclists and it’ll work at higher speeds, too. However, I am finding it to be quite a nervous passenger.

On a couple of our more frequent routes you drive alongside a stone wall which then follows the curve in the road. There’s no need to brake for either corner, assuming you’re obeying the 30mph speed limit. The Ateca appears to think otherwise. In fact, the first time the loud beeper sounded, followed by the red icon on the dashboard, it scared the living daylights out of me.

On one of these bends, it doesn’t automatically apply the brakes. On the other it does, obviously fearing an imminent impact.

It’s reassuring that the system works. However, I’m not sure following drivers are as impressed. I guess that’s the problem of hybrid technology. On a self-driving car, it would be linked to the steering and know that I’m negotiating the corner and therefore unlikely to crash.

As it is, it just presumes I’m a dumb human heading straight to the scene of the accident.

May 9th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 45.2mpg

The fuel level gauge only turns red once you're low, but at least there are visual and audible alerts that the fuel level is getting low

The fuel gauge is something that has barely changed over the decades that I’ve been a driver. There’s a portion that’s red and when the needle goes into it, you know it’s time to think about filling up. The Ateca’s gauge bucks that age-old trend. There is no permanent red zone. You have white LEDs that go out as the car drinks fuel.

The last white LED is a clue that the tank is approaching empty. When the car judges that it has 50 miles of range left in it, the white LED turns red, you get a warning on the dash telling you of the range, and the navigation offers to direct you to the nearest filling station.

It’s all very slick and logical. But as my brain has been trained to tell me only to worry about the fuel level when it gets to red, I tend to ignore that last white light. And that means when I get the ping to say I’ve only 50 miles rof fuel remaining, it can be a bit of a shock.

Seems to me like a classic case of fixing something that wasn’t broken.

May 2nd, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 45.2mpg

seat ateca long-term - touchscreen display

All might appear normal in the above picture. Except that to the rest of the UK, the time is really 8.46. The Ateca’s clock is supposedly controlled by GPS. When this didn’t change at the end of March I changed the time manually to reflect British Summer Time. The next time I started the car, we were back on GMT. So I changed it again and the same thing happened. Except it doesn’t always happen. Sometimes, when I turn the car on, we’re on BST as we should be.

I know that in theory what I’ve described above is impossible. If we’re in BST and the car has a GPS signal it should stay on BST. However, as with the keyless access, the Ateca seems to decide on its own accord what it does and doesn’t do. Generally, it behaves itself, but occasionally it displays a rebellious streak.

April 25th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 44.9mpg

It’s easy to think of the Ateca as a jacked-up Leon. And it does feel similar to the hatchback from the driver’s seat, which is no bad thing. But one area where the Seats differ significantly is boot capacity. With rear chair backs in place, the Leon boasts 380 litres – exactly the same as a VW Golf. The Ateca’s load area meanwhile is 28 per cent bigger, at 485 litres.

Seat Ateca LT boot

And that’s because the model we’re running is the four-wheel drive 4Drive model. On two-wheel drive models the Ateca’s boot is a third (34 per cent) bigger than the Leon’s. When I had a Golf, I always felt the boot was the perfect size for three people, a real squeeze for four. The Ateca’s is pretty much perfect for four people’s bags.

April 18th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 45.3mpg

I love the convenience of so-called keyless cars. As I established early in my relationship with the Ateca, although it appears to have a physical key, it is in fact keyless. That means you can walk up to it, touch an indent on the door handle and - as long as you have the key in your pocket - the car unlocks.

Just touch the door for keyless entry. Well, unless your hands are cold...

That’s the theory. In practice, how well it works seems to depend on how warm your hands are. Touch the appropriate point on the door handle with a cold thumb and you remain locked out. If your hands are toasty warm it unlocks instantly.

Knowing that, I always have one hand in my pocket on the key fob. This slightly defeats the purpose but does mean if keyless doesn’t work, at least I don’t look like an opportunist car thief.

April 11th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 45.6mpg

My name is James and I’m the bloke who uses the Windows Phone. Actually, I have nothing to be ashamed of. I love my Windows Phone. But aside from the seamless way it integrates with my PC, I sometimes feel like a rather second-class citizen, particularly when it comes to apps ‑ or rather the lack of them.

The Ateca has a wireless charging plate ahead of the gearlever. It's a relief to be rid of cables coiled around the interior

One thing my Windows Phone does do is charge wirelessly. And that means I can use the charging plate in the Ateca. It’s thoughtfully placed ahead of the gear lever and below the ventilation controls. All you do is drop your phone on to it and it charges.

A message telling you to remember your phone even flashes up on the screen when you turn off the ignition. It is now the latest piece of technology I can no longer live without.

April 4th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 44.8mpg

If only everything in life was as reliable as a VW Group boot closing button...

The Ateca is equipped with something called the Virtual Pedal. The theory is simple and clever: if your hands are full, you wave your leg under the rear bumper and, providing you have the key about your person, the electric tailgate automatically unlocks and opens.

In practice, it’s a little less straightforward. It does work ‑ but apparently only when it feels like it. Sometimes, I stick my leg out, the indicators wink and the boot opens almost immediately, making me look a bit of a flash Harry, at least in my little world.

However, more frequently, I’m left standing precariously on one leg, waving the other leg around like someone from the Ministry of Silly Walks while the boot stays resolutely shut.

Thankfully the conventional handle and button on the tailgate trigger electric opening and closing more reliably.

March 28th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 45.2mpg

We all know that the ‘official’ fuel economy figures are farcical. So it’s hardly a surprise that our Seat Ateca is struggling to match its claimed 55.4mpg EU Combined figure. However, it is quoted as returning 60.1mpg on the extra urban cycle and, on a recent 50-mile round trip, I managed to get very close to this.

The 2.0-litre diesel managed almost 60mpg on a sedate journey

I hadn’t set out to break any records, economy or otherwise, but the country road I took to an A-road was all downhill. Then when I joined that single carriageway road I found myself behind a truck doing between 40 and 50mph. And that’s when I thought I’d try to get the economy up.

It’s not hard with the Ateca. The 150PS (148bhp) engine has 251lb ft of torque between 1,750 and 3,000rpm so is relatively flexible. The result is much of my journey was spent in either fifth or sixth gear, depending on what the gearshift indicator and/or instinct told me.

Will I be doing my economy run again? Unlikely. But 58.9mpg is pretty impressive.

March 22nd, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 44.6mpg

One of the first things to impress me about the Ateca has been its handling. Seat set out to create an SUV that feels sporty on the road and it has succeeded. In fact, when you’re at the wheel of the Ateca, you might just as well be in a Leon family hatchback.

No surprises there, because the two use very similar underpinnings. What is surprising is that despite a much taller stance than the hatchback ‑ 1,625mm high compared with 1,459mm – there’s none of the body roll that taller vehicles can frequently suffer from.

The Ateca feels assured when driving for fun, on loose trails as well as Tarmac

The result is that the Ateca feels remarkably assured when you drive it enthusiastically. You can tackle fast, open bends such as motorway slip roads as you would in a hatchback. The downside is a ride that can feel fairly unforgiving over the pockmarked surfaces that pass for roads in the UK. And unlike with the closely related Volkswagen Tiguan, you can’t tick an option to have adaptive damping.

But it’s not uncomfortably firm and it’s a trade-off I’m happy to make for such reassuring handling.

March 16th, 2017

Fuel economy this week: 44.9mpg

My first encounter with the Ateca was actually rather confusing. You see its key is a conventional one, the blade pinging out from the fob flick-knife style as with so many other cars.

So far so familiar. I climbed into the driver’s seat and went to insert the key. Except there was nowhere to put it. Instead, on the centre console a start-stop button was winking at me with a red glow. When I pressed it, the 2.0-litre TDI engine burst into life. No need for a key there, then.

Why is there a key when this Ateca appears not to need one?

The doors have no keyholes so there’s clearly no need for the key there either. Which begs the question: why does it need a key? After a hunt around the cabin, the only keyhole I can find is the one that disables and enables the passenger airbag.

Presumably Seat hasn’t adopted the keyless fob with the blade a separate part secreted in it because the Ateca is a family car. But even so, deactivating and activating the passenger airbag is hardly a regular occurrence for the vast majority of drivers.

March 10th, 2017

The successor to a VW Passat Alltrack is Seat’s first attempt at an SUV. However, it’s already won awards and has undoubtedly been given a bit of a leg-up by employing the same oily bits as the Volkswagen Golf and Tiguan.

Our version is the 2.0-litre TDI with 150PS (148bhp), a 4Drive four-wheel drive system and a six-speed manual gearbox. With a 0-62mph time of 9sec and claimed economy of 55.4mpg it promises a sensible combination between performance and efficiency.

Its top-of-the-range Xcellence trim means it sits on 18-inch Performance alloy wheels, has satellite navigation and features the Keyless Enter and Go system. In addition, it has the Convenience and Winter Packs as standard, which provides little luxuries such as rain-sensing windscreen wipers, adjustable ambient interior lighting and heated front seats.

Our model also features the £1,210 Xcellence Pack. This includes the top-view camera, which uses lenses in the door mirrors, windscreen and at the rear to beam a bird’s eye image of the car to the central screen. And there’s an electric tailgate with the strangely named Virtual Pedal. This pack includes the wireless charging point for a mobile phone plus the connectivity hub.

We'll also see how the Ateca copes with off-road forays as well as day-to-day duties Credit: Christopher Pledger

With its non-metallic Passion Red paintwork (£250), plus a boot divider net (£155) and double floor (£115), that puts the total price at £29,155. This is a way off the Ateca’s base price of £17,990 but you do get a very well-equipped car. More importantly, you get a model that’s cheaper than the like-for-like Tiguan.

First impressions are very positive. I like the way you sit in it rather than on it: high sides make the driving position feel sporty and low. And although it gives away 40bhp compared with its predecessor the Passat, it doesn’t feel that much slower.

Its handling is also remarkably reassured, although the trade-off is a rather firm ride. Am I going to learn to live with that, or will it prove a pain in the backside? That’s what this test is all about.

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