THE surprising thing about SEAT's Ateca is that it took so long to arrive in the showroom.
VW Group counterparts Volkswagen, Audi and Skoda have all had vehicles in the compact SUV class for some years - cashing in on an area of the market that continues to see sustained growth.
The Spaniards eventually decided that it was time for them to claim a piece of the action though, and the Ateca hit UK roads last September.
It had an instant impact too, quickly garnering industry plaudits such as the Best Crossover title in the 2016 Auto Express New Car Awards and Best Small SUV in the What Car? Awards 2017.
And critical acclaim has been accompanied by commercial success, with 24,200 deliveries helping SEAT finish 2016 with increased sales for the fourth consecutive year and its best overall results since 2007.
The appeal is easy to understand as the Ateca shares much of its architecture with the parent company's impressive Tiguan - offering many of its relative's benefits but for several thousand pounds less.
The upright, elevated stance of the VW car is echoed but a little more flare has been injected by the Spanish designers, with the prominent crease lines, familiar trapezoidal grille and triangular light signatures all strongly referencing SEAT's hugely popular Leon hatchback.
Available in four trim levels and with an engine line-up ranging from a 1.0-litre petrol to 2.0-litre diesels there is no lack of choice either - although all wheel drive is only available with the 2.0-litre power pack.
The SE grade model I drove, powered by a 1.4-litre petrol engine, sits squarely in mid-range territory and is likely to prove very popular offering, as it does, plenty of advantages as a family motor.
The engine is turbocharged and kicks out 150ps, which will get the Ateca from 0-62mph in a sprightly 8.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 125mph - very respectable figures for an SUV.
And the lively performance is accompanied by a very enjoyable drive, with SEAT successfully transferring some of the keen handling and responsiveness of the Leon to this larger vehicle.
The Ateca feels genuinely agile, a rare commodity in its class, and offers some solid body control, allowing enthusiastic drivers to push on with confidence.
The pay-off for this stability is a slightly firmer ride than you get with some crossovers but it never strays onto the wrong side of comfortable - and with claimed average fuel economy of more than 53mpg running costs shouldn't put too much strain on the wallet.
Although not boasting all the bells and whistles of the Tiguan, the Ateca interior offers impressive space and practicality, and looks and feels robust enough to cope with day-to-day family life.
There's plenty of seat and steering wheel adjustment for the driver to get comfortable while head and legroom is good in the rear, where three adults should be relatively comfortable for short journeys.
The boot, at 510 litres, is large and practically shaped and, when extra space is needed, the 60/40 split rear seats can be folded flat simply by pulling a lever in the luggage area - freeing up a maximum load area of 1,604 litres.
Equipment levels are generous across the range with SE trim benefitting from 17-inch alloys, cruise and climate control, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with DAB radio and Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, four-mode drive profile, rear parking sensors and ambient interior lighting.