SEAT Ateca Xcellence

TDI 150 4Drive

SEAT Ateca, front
SEAT Ateca, front, action
SEAT Ateca, side, static
SEAT Ateca, rear
SEAT Ateca, boot
SEAT Ateca, cabin

MAYBE there's something to be said for not rushing to jump on a bandwagon.

SUVs have proved as popular as proverbial hot cakes. But one car maker, in particular, has been uncommonly slow in following the trend - SEAT.

Clearly it has been weighing the opposition carefully before taking the plunge with the mid-size Ateca. Because the new five-door SUV/crossover has all the credentials to challenge market leading Qashqai - including keen pricing - for honours in this surging sector.

Similar in design, engines and styling to its blood brother, the VW Tiguan, but cheaper with starting prices around £18,000, it has that same sturdiness coupled with bags of style and practicality.

Based on the same platform as the Leon, it offers a choice of two petrol and three diesel engines from the VW stable. I drove one of the most popular choices, the 148bhp turbo diesel 2.0-litre, which strikes a good balance between decent performance with strong towing ability and economy which won't make too much of a dent in the budget.

Cheaper versions are, understandably, a bit basic in terms of equipment but the Xcellence 4Drive model tested has it all, including 18-inch alloy wheels, full leather seating, LED headlights, reversing camera with touch screen and sat-nav.

The clean external appearance is mirrored within the cabin which is spacious, smart and airy. There's ample room for four or even five adults. Head and legroom is generous and the boot is bigger than average at 485litres.

Two wheel drive versions are even more spacious with 510 litres of cargo room. Rear seats split 60-40 and fold to expand the luggage carrying capacity.

The facia and dash are well laid out, but the materials used aren't quite up to VW Tiguan standards - some of the plastic is less friendly to the touch and a bit dull looking.

On the practical side, cup holders and oddment bins abound and the door pockets are usefully wide and deep to absorb family clutter.

Not so long ago, most SUVs had roly-poly handling and woolly steering. The latest breed, however, is much better and the Ateca's dynamic behaviour could put some conventional hatchbacks to shame. It corners almost flat and hugs the Tarmac, delivering both a comfortable ride for passengers and plenty of satisfaction to the driver.

The added weight a four wheel drive system adds a few tenths to the 62mph time. Nevertheless a nine second sprint is pretty respectable for a family mid-size SUV. Mid-range, high gear pick-up is impressive although the diesel unit gets a bit vocal when pressed.

My average was 47mpg, while the official combined figure is 55.4mpg. Emissions are well reined in at 129g/km.

A six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard but an automatic twin clutch system is available as an option. The manual box is light and slick with well judged ratios.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Ateca Xcellence TDI 150 4Drive

Price: £27,425

Mechanical:148bhp, 1,998cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving four-wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 122mph

0-62mph: 9.0 seconds

Combined MPG: 55.4

Insurance Group: 18

C02 emissions: 129g/km

Bik rating: 22%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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