Seat Ateca – long-term test

Seat Ateca long-term test - Foxall
Credit: Christopher Pledger

Seat’s all-new Ateca is very late to the SUV party. James Foxall finds out whether it can make an impact 

Our car: 2.0 TDI 4Drive Xcellence List price when new: £27,425 Price as tested: £29,155 Official fuel economy: 55.4mpg (EU Combined)

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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

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.

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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