David Motton
Tow Car Editor

See other tow car reviews written by David Motton

We tested the range-topping Ateca diesel at the Tow Car Awards in 2017, and were impressed by its performance. Now it's the turn of a petrol model.

Overview

It wasn't only performance that we were impressed with; the diesel model also demonstrated excellent stability. But, with so many buyers switching from diesel, we have to zoom in on petrol; here, the 2.0 TSI 190PS 4Drive FR DSG.

Take a look at the spec and the petrol engine gives little away to its counterpart, with strong power and torque. But does the Ateca deliver on the road? And is there a penalty for choosing petrol?

Towing

For a four-wheel drive SUV, the Ateca is relatively light, with a kerb weight of 1541kg. That gives an 85% match figure of 1310kg, well within the 1900kg legal towing limit.

We matched the Seat to a Swift Fairway Platinum with a MiRO of 1340kg. It was soon clear the Ateca's engine has plenty of punch. The Seat easily pulled the Swift up to speed, helped by the DSG auto. The gearbox changed gear promptly and smoothly in 'Drive', so there was no need to switch to 'Sport' mode for downshifts.

The engine's maximum pulling power is a diesel-like 236lb ft, delivered all the way from 1450-4200rpm, so you don't need to rev hard, as you do with some petrols.

All that muscle makes starting on a hill simple. The electronic parking brake held car and caravan still on a 1-in-10 gradient and released smoothly. The Ateca pulled away briskly, with no sign of strain.

On country roads, firm suspension gives a sense of tight control, keeping the van on a short leash. Head to the motorway and the Ateca continues to impress.

It easily holds speed on motorway inclines, and tracks straight and true. Only when being overtaken by high-sided vehicles did we feel some side-to-side movement. Any corrections need to be made with care because the steering is very responsive - it's easy to apply more lock than is needed. But this is something you quickly become used to.

Arrive at the campsite and the Ateca is straightforward to manoeuvre. The thick rear pillars slightly hamper your over-shoulder visibility, but the auto gearbox creeps smoothly at low speeds. Parking sensors are standard, but a rear-view camera is only fitted to the more expensive Xcellence and Xcellence Lux models.

The towball and electrics were easy to access, and are priced at £690.

Everyday driving

The Ateca is more fun to drive than most of its rivals. Sharp, well-weighted steering means it feels alert on B-roads, turning into corners eagerly. The Seat is unfazed by mid-corner bumps and grips the road securely.

The punchy engine adds to the fun. Lively acceleration makes for confident overtaking, but the engine and gearbox are just as happy to dawdle, and the car is easy to drive smoothly.

One thing that's not so smooth is the ride. It's on the sporty side of firm. That's fine on back roads, but some drivers will find it too stiff. We think it's a fair compromise for good handling and stable towing.

Space

The Ateca makes a practical family SUV. Up front, the driver and front-seat passenger have plenty of room. We found the driving position comfortable on long journeys, and there's enough adjustment for short and tall drivers to settle in.

There are soft-touch plastics on the top of the dashboard, and although the lower surfaces on the dash and doors don't feel as plush, the Ateca is solidly screwed together.

The back seats are roomy enough for adults, as long as the driver and front seat passenger are not too tall. The cabin is wide enough for three, but the transmission tunnel can get in the way of your feet.

However, it's good to see air vents between the front seats, and USB ports.

Some rivals have seats that slide and can be reclined. The Ateca has a conventional 60/40 split seat-back - not an issue, but worth keeping in mind.

It's also worth noting that 4x4s like our test car have less luggage space than two-wheel-drive models (485 litres rather than 510 litres). Levers either side of the tailgate fold the back seats, leaving a sloped floor.

Running costs

The Ateca is competitively priced, costing £31,355 before haggling. But according to What Car?, discounts close to £3000 are there for the taking.

That makes the Ateca very good value, especially when you consider the standard kit on the FR. An eight-inch touchscreen sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, dual-zone climate control and DAB radio are included.

Fuel bills should be fair for a petrol tow car - we saw 24.1mpg while towing the Swift. After three years and 36,000 miles, What Car? values the Ateca at 49% of its original price.

Technical specs

Engine size1984 cc
Kerbweight1541 kg
85% KW1310 kg
Towball limit80 kg
Maximum towing limit1900 kg
Power187.0 bhp
Torque236.0 lb ft
Official MPG32.5 mpg
Towing MPG24.1 mpg
CO2156 g/km

Verdict

Punchy performance and stable towing make the Ateca a fine choice of tow car.

Conclusion

Pros

  • Good at hill starts while towing
  • Straightforward to manoeuvre
  • Sharp steering
  • Good value

Cons

  • Thick rear pillars hamper over-shoulder visibility
  • Firm ride