MOST buyers of the their first SUV climb out of a hatchback or an estate...usually in search of a bit more useable space.
While the majority will be deliriously happy with the dimensions and carrying capacity, quite a few may lament some of the driving qualities, such as athletic handling and nimbleness - values that are in short supply among high-riders.
There are, however, a few which haven't sacrificed the subtleties of composure and roadholding for practicality or utility. One of them is the recently refreshed SEAT Ateca, already a forerunner in the mid-size SUV bracket.
Built on the same platform as the VW Tiguan and Skoda Karoq, in typical SEAT style it has in-built driver appeal, ie the steering feels sharper, it corners with less body roll and being a bit smaller and lighter than its VW sister has a tad more punch.
The facelift, carried out late 2020, ties the styling in more closely with its big brother, the Tarraco, and gives it a reshaped grille and revised bumper and light cluster. Nothing too dramatic.
No shortage of engine choices, but here we drive the 1.5 TSI, a 148bhp, four-cylinder which is available with either standard six speed manual gearbox of, as reviewed, with seven speed dual clutch automatic.
First, the driving which is the aspect that makes the Ateca stand out. The ubiquitous 1.5litre petrol is an eager performer though not the smoothest unit in the world. A sub-nine second dash to 62mph puts it towards the head of the pack and with ample torque it's well match to the quick thinking auto transmission.
Highly responsive to throttle pressure, there's a tautness to the handling and composure which is absent in many rivals. It's happy to be hustled around bends with a quick turn-in and plenty of feel to the steering.
Although there's only nominal body roll, the suspension copes well with rutted surfaces thanks to decent vertical movement. Noise levels are reasonable at cruising but build up under hard acceleration.
Considering the relatively compact external dimensions, there's generous space within the cabin. Bags of head and legroom front and rear, and a boot that can absorb 510litres of cargo - better than the class average. Fold the rear seats down and this expands to 1,604litres. The luggage platform is set low, making loading easy.
But the manual rear tailgate has its handle set high enough to make many people stretch to reach it.
There's a minimalist quality to the fascia styling that verges on the plain. Nevertheless, equipment level for the Xperience version is pretty comprehensive and includes 8.25in touchscreen, sat nav, infotainment display, micro-suede upholstery, LED lights, heated screen and reversing camera.
Take it easy in the Ateca and you'll easily see 40-plus to gallon but allow yourself to be tempted by the willing, free-revving engine and consumption will sink to the low 30s.