The Seat Ateca was one of the best cars of its kind, and the recent revisions have kept it at the head of the class. Seat hasn’t rewritten the rulebook in updating the Ateca. High-tech driver aids and connected services don’t transform the everyday experience of driving the car. However, we’re pleased that Seat hasn’t gone too far in following the current trend for dashboard designs that are almost button-free.
It’s the way the Ateca drives that appeals most, and sees it included in our best tow car list. The ride is on the firm side, but the benefit is felt when towing and in solo driving. With a caravan in tow, the Ateca is stable, and without one it is sharp and engaging.
We’re pleased that Seat still offer diesel as well as petrol models that meet the tough RDE2 emissions standard. It’s a shame that the 190hp diesel is no longer available, but the 150hp is punchy enough to make a strong engine for towing duties. The slick-shifting gearbox combines well with the 2.0-litre, and needs less encouragement to grab a lower gear than most transmissions of this type.
If it’s so good, why doesn’t the Ateca earn five stars? Well, at around £35,000, some bigger, heavier and roomier 4x4s are within reach – if you can live with a slightly less generous specification. And while the cabin is spacious enough to make the Ateca a practical choice for a family of four, the sseats don’t offer the MPV-style flexibility of the Škoda Karoq’s. Overall, though, the Ateca makes a highly impressive tow car.
These days, mid-life facelifts tend to focus closely on infotainment, safety features and connected services rather than big changes to the way a car drives. And so it is with the updated Seat Ateca. Other than a few tweaks to help meet the RDE2 emissions standard, the oily bits of the Ateca remain largely unchanged. There’s still a choice of petrol and diesel models, and we’re pleased Seat hasn’t abandoned diesel power just yet.
Safety systems and driver aids have all been uprated, including Predictive Adapted Cruise Control, which uses GPS data as well as front-facing sensors, and can amend the car’s speed in response to a bend up ahead or a change in the speed limit.
What are we looking for?
We want to discover if the Ateca is still one of the best family SUVs, and whether it improves on the pre-facelift car.
The updated Ateca has kerbweights that range from 1400-1626kg, depending on the engine, gearbox, and whether the car sends power to two wheels or four.
We’ve been driving the 2.0 TDI 150PS 4Drive Xperience Lux DSG, which is top of the diesel range. The 4Drive part of the name means this Ateca has four-wheel drive, which not only improves traction, but also makes this model heavier than most versions of the Ateca.
A kerbweight of 1602kg gives an 85% figure of 1362kg. That means the Ateca makes a sensible match for a reasonably broad range of family caravans. The legal towing limit of 2100kg is higher than average fora car of this size and weight, although for the sake of stability we wouldn’t be tempted to tow that much.
With the ongoing shortage of caravan stock across the country, as well as the lockdown that was in force while we had the Seat on test, we matched the Ateca to our long-term Bailey Discovery D4-4, ballasted close to its 1206kg MTPLM.
Even with a hefty load inside it’s a lighter caravan than we would have chosen for the Ateca, but the Seat towed it very well.
The last time we pulled a caravan with a diesel Ateca we found the car moved around a little when overtaking high-sided vehicles. But we had no such trouble this time, although pulling a light caravan on a windless day might have given the Ateca a relatively easy ride.
The 150hp 2.0-litre is now the most powerful diesel engine (the most powerful petrol has 190hp). It’s torque rather than outright power that matters when towing, and with 251lb ft there’s plenty of pull, delivered from 1700rpm all the way to 2750rpm. That’s more than enough to cope with any sensibly matched tourer.
The Ateca quickly pulled the Bailey up to speed, helped by the responsive seven-speed DSG auto. We’ve found that some DSG autos are reluctant to change down unless the ‘box is in ‘sport’ rather than ‘drive’. There was no such trouble with the gearbox in the Ateca, which was rarely caught in the wrong gear. We didn’t feel the need to overrule the ‘box and take charge for ourselves, even on hilly roads.
A hill start on a 1-in-10 slope proved straightforward. The electronic parking brake held firm and released smoothly, and the Ateca pulled to the top of the slope with no sign of strain or wheel spin.
The Ateca is easy to manoeuvre, although the thick rear pillars restrict the driver’s view while reversing. This made us really appreciate the standard-fit rear-view camera, so it’s not as irritating as it might be.
The towbar folds out at the push of a button to one side of the boot. It needs to be pushed into place by hand or foot before it will lock in position. The electric socket is on the side of the bar.
We know that many caravanners prefer to have a spare wheel rather than a repair kit. Get-you-home gunk is standard, but a space-saver spare wheel is an affordable option at £120.
If you want a comfortable and relaxing family SUV, try the Škoda Karoq. If, however, you secretly regret selling your old hot hatch, the Seat Ateca is for you.
The ride is firm, especially on high-spec models such as this one, fitted with 19-inch allow wheels. But the Seat stays just the right side of harsh, and driven with spirit on a twisting road the Ateca’s control and poise are extremely impressive. It feels more like a sporty hatchback than a roly-poly SUV.
Different settings can be chosen via the Drive Profile system, controlled by a knob behind the gearlever. It doesn’t alter the suspension, but does change the steering weight, throttle response and gearbox.
The standard set-up works fine in most conditions, although ‘sport’ can be fun on an empty road. In four-wheel-drive Atecas such as this one, there are also specific modes for heading off-road or driving in snow.
At motorway speeds, the diesel engine makes little more than a gentle murmur in the background, although it can be a bit gruff under acceleration.
On coarse surfaces the big wheels and tyres do generate some road noise, but not enough to compromise the Ateca’s ability to despatch long journeys with ease.
On lengthy drives, another plus point is the Ateca’s excellent driving position. There’s enough adjustment for drivers of most shapes and sizes to get settled, and lumbar support is standard across the range.
There’s a 9.2-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system, and a configurable colour screen in place of conventional dials. We’d be just as happy with a regular speedo and rev counter, although being able to show a map straight in front of the driver is handy when using the sat nav. It’s pleasing that Seat still uses conventional rotary controls and buttons for the climate control system – so much easier than touch-sensitive pads.
Adults can travel comfortably in the back seats, and the panoramic sunroof (standard on this model) doesn’t eat into headroom too much. There are USB ports to keep devices to keep devices on charge and air vents to keep those in the back cool. The big transmission tunnel does, though, steal foot room if there are three rear-seat passengers.
The boot is a healthy size with a generous 485-litre capacity. However, unlike some rivals, the Ateca doesn’t have sliding rear seats to trade some legroom for more luggage space. You also have a conventional 60/40 split rear seat, rather than the three-way split of some competitors.
Levers on either side of the tailgate make folding the rear seats down quick and easy if you need maximum luggage space. This does, however, leave a step in the floor.
We’re testing the most expensive diesel model in the revised Ateca range, with a list price of £35,355. That compares with £34,675 for the top-spec Kia Sportage.
But while the Ateca is not cheap, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better-equipped family SUV. Xperience Lux spec gives 19-inch alloys, sports seats with leather upholstery, heated front seats, a 9.2-inch touch-screen, dual-zone climate control, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and a whole lot more. Safety features include autonomous emergency braking and seven airbags.
Running costs should prove reasonable for a four-wheel drive of this size. The Seat can achieve 44.1-47.1mpg on the combined cycle, according to the official figures.
We achieved 26.7mpg while towing – but our test car had covered only 600 miles, so it would be reasonable to expect the figure to improve after the engine had loosened up.
Seat supplies its cars with a three year/60,000-mile warranty. That’s pretty standard, although the likes of Hyundai (five years), Kia (seven years), and Toyota (five years) offer significantly longer cover.
|Engine Size||1968 cc|
|85% KW||1362 kg|
|Towball Limit||80 kg|
|Maximum Towing Limit||2100 kg|
|Torque||251 lb ft|
|Offical MPG||44.1-48.7 mpg|
|Towing MPG||26.7 mpg|