SEAT Ateca 1.4 Eco

TSI Xcellence

SEAT Ateca, front action
SEAT Ateca, front static
SEAT Ateca, rear action
SEAT Ateca, rear static
SEAT Ateca, dashboard
SEAT Ateca, interior
SEAT Ateca, interior rear
SEAT Ateca, boot
SEAT Ateca, upright

EVERY so often it pays to set aside our preconceptions and have a bit of a re-think.

Whether we are talking politics, religion or far more mundane matters, standing back and taking a second look is no bad thing.

The subject I'm putting under scrutiny is car engine size.

You'd imagine a five door family-sized SUV with aerodynamics just slightly better than a house-brick would need a reasonably large engine to deliver decent performance.

At least 2.0-litre, you might think.

But SEAT's award winning Ateca which will polish the 60mph dash in under nine seconds is endowed with a miniscule 1.4-litre petrol four-cylinder.

And despite the comparative lack of cubic capacity it has a broad spread of torque and punches out a distinctly healthy 148bhp.

What's more it revs smoothly and freely in a way that no diesel can, yet turns in some pretty frugal economy figures. And believe it or not, there's a smaller still engine available with a capacity of 1.0-litre, but performance is noticeable more leisurely.

The Ateca, which is a sister car to the VW Tiguan sharing most of its parts and design, has quickly established itself as a leader in the compact SUV sector for its value and all-round ability.

Until now most drivers who opted for either a faux four-wheel-drive (4WD) or a genuine all-paw version were fully aware of the compromise they were making in return for extra space, fashion and more possibly better poor weather grip. They knew they were sacrificing deftness of handling and blunting the performance.

But the rather stiffly sprung Ateca put paid to the stereotypes and proved it was possible to have your cake and eat it. The Audi Q3 platform on which it is built endows the five-seater with athleticism and a fluidity that is almost a match for a decent hot hatch, the steering has genuine feedback and the turbocharged 1.4-litre thrives on a heavy right foot.

Although the 2.0 diesel Ateca is available with four wheel drive, the lower powered front drive models are more popular.

It might not be as cheap to fuel as a 1.6-litre diesel, but most owners will easily squeeze around 40 miles out of a gallon of unleaded.

A six-speed manual gearbox comes as standard and is a better choice than the DSG automatic when mated to the 1.4-litre unit. The change is crisp and light.

Within the Ateca's elegant lines there's plenty of useful living space - the boot holds 510 litres of luggage which is more than many competitors and the cabin, though rather bland in style, is well finished and appears durable. Door pockets are wide enough and there are plenty of storage places.

The topline Xcellence version is well equipped and comes with leather trim, chrome roof rails, LED headlights and sat-nav with 3D map display. Larger 18-inch alloy wheels deliver a firm but comfortable ride - no need to pay extra for 19-inch ones, which are unlikely to enhance comfort.

FAST FACTS

SEAT Ateca 1.4 Eco TSI Xcellence

Price: £24,600

Mechanical: 148bhp, 1.4-litre, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 125mph

0-62mph: 8.5 seconds

Combined MPG: 52.3

Insurance Group: 14

C02 emissions: 123g/km

Bik rating: 23%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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