DESPITE surging sales and a well-deserved reputation for building sporty cars, SEAT has always struggled to add even a paper-thin profit to Volkswagen Group coffers.
They did finally manage to end 'in the black' last year and the tide may finally have turned for the Spanish brand with the addition of the Ateca - their first-ever foray into the ever-popular SUV market.
With VW, Audi and Skoda all having been major players in the off-road sector for years, it is difficult to understand why it has taken so long for SEAT to join the party.
Late or not, SEAT have one aim for the Ateca - to topple everything from its VW Tiguan sibling (with which it shares parts) to the market-dominating Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage.
SEAT designers were determined to make the Ateca (named after a village in Spain) unique - avoiding the bulky exterior of rivals and making it stand out in the busy marketplace. In the main they have succeeded.
A 600-mile round trip to the Highlands put the 2.0-litre 150bhp diesel 4Drive version to the test.
There is bags of power available with a zero to 62mph sprint time of nine seconds and a hefty 340lb/ft of torque.
Top speed is 122mph with a claimed average fuel econmomy of 55.4mpg. I didn't manage to match that but the Ateca did return just under 47mpg isn't too far off the mark.
A heftier 190bhp version is available but the smaller oil-burner is expected to be the best seller of the two off-roading versions.
The grunt of the 150bhp diesel is well mated to a six-speed manual gearbox, smoothly shuffling its way through the gears as it negotiated the twisty, enjoyable to drive, roads through Glencoe and further northwards.
The Ateca is based on the sdame platform as the sporty Leon hatchback and behind the wheel it feels more car-like than mud-plugger. The steering does feel a bit light but there was plenty of feedback.
The car has multiple driving modes to choose from with Sport and Eco settings altering throttle response and weighting. Sport mode doesn't stifle steering wheel entirely but it feels a bit numb around town and works better at higher speeds.
With no adaptive suspension, the ride is quite firm. It is not uncomfortable and does suit the sporty character of the car, helping to mitigate body roll when cornering at speed.
The seats offered plenty of support, the cabin is well insulated from road and wind noise and the rear pillars have large panes of glass for better visibility. However, it still feels like a rough and ready SUV with its high seating position.
Sitting alongside the Drive Profile, the 4Drive system adds Snow and Off Road modes. Unfortunately, we didn't manage to put it properly to the test (winter didn't arrive until a few days later) but the added traction could be felt even on the tarmac.
Like its VW Tiguan cousin, the Ateca mixes soft-touch with hard-wearing materials. VW cars are usually a little bit plusher than other Group models but both Tiguan and Ateca are almost identical in the quality stakes.
The flagship Xcellence trim on the test car makes it closer to its VW and Audi siblings with black leather upholstery, 18-inch alloy, LED Ateca puddle lights reversing camera, chrome roof rails, satnav with 3D display, DAB radio and steering wheel mounted gearshift paddles.
The Ateca has loads of rear passenger space with ample head and legroom, even for six-footers. The rear seats have a fold down armrest which reveals a ski-hatch.
The boot has a wide opening with up to 510 litres of storage with the rear seats up and a huge 1,604 litres with the seats folded.
Prices are competitive, starting at £17,990, over £4,500 cheaper than the entry-level Tiguan.
This particular car cost £27,425 plus £250 for a non-metallic paint job. Park Assist, an electric tailgate, top-view camera, up-rated audio system, space saver spare wheel and larger 19-inch alloys, pushed the final price to £30,030.