With 113bhp, the entry-level 1.0 turbocharged petrol is fine if you spend most of your time in and around town, but we'd advise choosing a more muscular engine if you plan on doing regular motorway work or lugging around heavy loads.
The 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol is our favourite, because while it won't match the fuel economy of the diesels, it's still respectably efficient. With solid mid-range shove and a willingness to rev, it’s also surprisingly nippy when you want it to be.
The 113bhp 1.6 TDI diesel is worth a look if you're a company car driver or do above-average mileage; it's no ball of fire but pulls suitably strongly from low revs. Meanwhile, the 148bhp 2.0-litre diesel is available exclusively with four-wheel drive, so we'd only recommend it if you really need the extra traction; it’s more expensive and you pay a fuel economy and CO2 emissions penalty for the all-weather ability. That said, it's much punchier than the cheaper 1.6 diesel at all revs, with acceleration more on a par with the 1.4-litre petrol.
Want even more power? The 187bhp 2.0-litre diesel is the fastest-accelerating engine in the Ateca range, but it's very expensive. There's also a 187bhp 2.0-litre turbo petrol but, given how punchy the 1.4 is, we really wouldn't bother.
Family SUVs have a tough brief; despite their raised stance, they're expected to corner without leaning too much while still offering decent ride comfort. Fortunately, the Ateca strikes a reasonable balance.
True, it's firmer than some rivals, including the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Karoq, so it can feel a bit fidgety over smaller undulations. However, because the body stays well controlled over larger disturbances, such as sleeping policemen, the Ateca doesn’t continue to bounce and jostle you about once the bump has been and gone. The only time you feel a thud is over sharp-edged ridges and potholes.
As is often the case, you’ll find that smaller-wheeled models ride better than those fitted with large wheels, so try to avoid the optional 19in alloys. And it's worth noting that the petrol models are generally more forgiving than the diesels.
The Ateca is one of the best-handling family SUVs on the market. Let’s not get carried away, though; tall SUVs never handle as well as a well-set-up hatchback. So it’s no Ford Focus, but the Ateca does prove surprisingly good fun to drive down your favourite stretch of road. It’s certainly well ahead of direct rivals such as the Qashqai and even the closely related Karoq.
The suspension is firm enough to ensure you don’t get too much body lean when cornering, helping to make the Ateca feel agile. Meanwhile, the steering is precise and offers decent feedback, making it easy to place the nose of the car where you want it.
There’s plenty of grip, too, and four-wheel-drive models are even more fun because you can subtly feel power being sent to the rear wheels. Put simply, if you like driving and need a family SUV, the Ateca should be at the top of your list. The direct rival that comes closest is the nifty-handling Toyota C-HR.
The Ateca impresses once again with how quiet it is. The petrol engines are hushed, even more so than in the Karoq, particularly the 1.4 EcoTSI. The 1.0 TSI needs working a little harder but never becomes uncouth when you do.
The diesels are less impressive. The 2.0-litre unit sounds a bit gruff at tickover and gets boomy above 3000rpm. There’s enough poke that you’re unlikely to venture that high up the rev range too often, though, and you feel less vibration though the controls than in an equivalent Qashqai or Kia Sportage.
As for the 1.6-litre diesel, it's actually boomier when you rev it hard, although not unacceptably so by class standards. And any noise fades mostly away at a steady motorway cruise.
Whichever engine you choose, road and wind noise are well contained, despite the Ateca’s upright stance, and the clutch and gearshift have smooth and precise actions.
In addition to being great to drive, the Ateca is at the top of its class for driver comfort. There are a wide range of adjustments to both the steering wheel and seat, plus most models receive adjustable lumbar support as standard. The pedals, seat and steering wheel are nicely aligned, helping to keep you relaxed on lengthy trips.
In keeping with the sporty image, the seats in all models have more side support than those in many competitors. This means you don’t find yourself hanging onto the steering wheel to avoid sliding around through bends. And, with the exception of the S trim, you get an armrest between the front seats that makes for comfy cruising.
Thanks to its high-set driver's seat, the Ateca gives you a great view down the road. And its windscreen pillars aren’t too thick, so pulling out of junctions isn’t merely an act of faith.
But while over-the-shoulder visibility is better than some rivals, those kicked-up rear windows do block some of your view out of the back; the Skoda Karoq’s larger rear-quarter windows make it better in this respect.
Fortunately, SE models and above come with rear sensors to help with parking. There’s also the option of a reversing camera or even a bird’s-eye-view camera, which makes it easy to see how close you are to obstacles. You can have a self-parking system, too.
Full LED headlights are standard on SE Technology trim and up. These are much better than the halogen units you get on the cheaper trims.
Entry-level S models receive a 5.0in monochrome touchscreen system with an FM radio, USB port, SD card and Bluetooth connectivity. We’d advise going for SE trim at least, though – that's the entry point for a full-colour 8.0in touchscreen that's miles better.
SE trim adds voice control and four extra speakers (to make eight in total), but you still don't get sat-nav or a DAB radio. Both of these are bundled together as a reasonably priced option or come as standard on the business-focused SE Technology, sporty FR and top-of-the-range Xcellence trims.
We'd prefer a separate rotary dial controller along the lines of BMW’s iDrive than a touchscreen, because the former is easier to use while you're driving. However, as touchscreens go, the Ateca's 8.0in version is easy to get to grips with, thanks to its logical menus and reasonably snappy response times. It's just a pity that the definition of the display isn't nearly as good as it is in some of Seat's cheaper models, including the Arona, or in the Ateca’s sibling, the Karoq. It’s a far better system than you get in a Nissan Qashqai, though.
It is worth remembering that SE trim and above receive Seat’s Full Link system, complete with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring. Assuming you have a compatible smartphone, you can control some of its features via the car's touchscreen. Meanwhile, wireless phone-charging and a more powerful sound system are optional on most trims.
The interior of the Ateca is a match for those of many similarly priced rivals, such as the Qashqai and Kia Sportage. Sure, there are some scratchy plastics on lower surfaces – as there are on any SUVs at this price point – but there’s plenty of soft-touch plastics on the dashboard and door tops, while higher-spec models get attractive piano-black finishes to replace less upmarket matte grey areas. That said, the Karoq, despite being broadly the same and even cheaper, actually feels marginally plusher overall.
Most of the buttons and switches are borrowed from other Volkswagen Group products and have an air of integrity to them. Audi is the only exception to this group-sharing policy; the Q2 uses bespoke switches that feel even better to press.
It’s unlikely that anyone will get into the Ateca and find there isn't enough room in the front. It’s possible to slide the seat back a good amount to accommodate long legs, while those long in the body will find the seat drops low enough to give plenty of head room. As for width, you certainly won’t be clashing elbows with your passenger.
As you’d expect from such a tall car, the door openings are big and you can easily slide onto the front seats. Storage is good; both front doors get large door pockets and there’s additional storage under the front armrest, where fitted. There’s also a handy cubby under the heater controls, which, on certain models, you can pay extra to add a wireless phone-charging dock within.
The Ateca’s rear doors are a good size and open wide enough to make access easy. There’s plenty of leg room once you’re inside – even tall adults won’t find their knees pressed up against the front seatbacks.
There’s no shortage of head room, either; the roof is higher than a Nissan Qashqai’s so head space is roughly on a par with the Volkswagen Tiguan. Even though there’s a high central floor tunnel for the middle passenger to straddle, the Ateca is better at squeezing three in the back than many rivals, including the Qashqai and Toyota C-HR.
All models get pockets in the rear doors, although S versions do without a rear armrest that comes with two cupholders.
The Ateca may be based on the Tiguan, but it doesn't have that car’s clever sliding and reclining rear seats – a feature that's also standard in the Kia Sportage and some versions of the Skoda Karoq. In fact, the Karoq's VarioFlex rear seats can even be removed completely to create a van-like load bay.
You also have to make do with 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks in the Ateca instead of the more flexible arrangement of 40/20/40 that some rivals offer.
SE models and above have handy release levers just inside the tailgate opening that make it easy to drop the rear seats. As for the front seats, you have to upgrade to SE trim or above to get height adjustment for the front passenger seat.
This is another area where the Ateca pips the Qashqai and Sportage – although not by much. The boot is a nice, square shape with a wide aperture for loading broad items. The Karoq's is slightly bigger, mind.
A height-adjustable boot floor is a fairly cheap option and, when set to its highest position, there’s virtually no load lip at the entrance and no big step in the floor of the extended load bay when the rear seats are folded. The rear seats lie at a slight angle when folded, but it’s not acute enough to be a nuisance when you’re loading longer items inside.
If you’re considering a four-wheel-drive model, it’s worth remembering that boot space is reduced by about 5%.
You could argue that a Ssangyong Korando or an MG GS offers similar space for less money, but the Ateca is a much, much better car than either of those. Besides, it’s a comparative bargain next to the BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan, and it competes favourably against the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage. Like-for-like models of the Skoda Karoq are a bit cheaper, though.
If you’re looking at leasing or buying on PCP finance, the Ateca is a bit more expensive than the rival Karoq, but not unbearably so. The Ateca should hold more of its value after three years than most of its rivals, too, and is one of the cheapest cars in the class to service and insure.
No Ateca dips below the magic 100g/km CO2 emissions mark; the lowest you can get is 118g/km with the 1.6 TDI. It’s worth bearing in mind that the quicker, smoother 1.4 EcoTSI 150 petrol offers cheaper company car tax than the 1.6 TDI, although it won’t match the diesel's average fuel economy.
Use our True MPG calculator and see what your car really does to the gallon
Even entry-level S models get 16in alloy wheels, air conditioning and a multi-function steering wheel. We’d advise spending a little extra to upgrade to at least SE trim, though. This adds 17in wheels, cruise control, rear parking sensors, an 8.0in colour touchscreen, climate control and a rear armrest. SE Technology makes even more sense, adding LED headlights and sat-nav to all the stuff you get with regular SE trim.
However, we reckon FR trim makes the most sense of all, coming with 18in alloy wheels, a gloss-black grille, twin exhausts, body-coloured wheel arch surrounds and sports seats. You also get LED headlights and a rear-view camera. The more desirable styling means FR models should hold onto their value better than lesser versions.
Range-topping Xcellence trim gains heated seats, keyless entry and a wireless phone charger, but it's very pricey. We’d stick to one of the cheaper trims.
There are plenty of tempting options. We’d definitely add a height-adjustable boot floor and, if you're going for SE trim, sat-nav. A pack that brings the convenience of keyless entry and go, along with a powered tailgate and wireless phone-charging, is worth considering, but avoid going crazy with items such as the panoramic roof, which limits head room, and 19in alloys that spoil the ride.
Read more on how best to spec an Ateca, including which options we recommend and which to avoid.
The Ateca didn't fare particularly well in our latest reliability survey. Granted, the sample size wasn't massive, but owners reported a relatively high number of faults. The Tiguan was found to be considerably more dependable, although the Qashqai suffered even more glitches than the Ateca.
Seat as a whole finished ahead of VW but behind Kia and Skoda.
A three-year warranty, limited to 60,000 miles, comes as standard with every Seat. That’s typical of most car makers but not as good as Hyundai’s five years' cover or Kia’s seven-year one.
The Ateca received five stars (out of five) for safety from Euro NCAP, scoring 93% for adult protection, 84% for child protection and 71% for pedestrian protection. That means the Ateca matches the Karoq for adult safety, beats it for child protection and is slightly behind for pedestrian safety.
All Atecas come with twin front airbags, plus side, curtain and even driver’s knee airbags. You also get a tyre pressure monitoring system and Isofix child seat fixings on the outer rear seats. An alarm, engine immobiliser and remote locking all come as standard.
Crucially, all models get a front collision warning including automatic emergency city braking with pedestrian detection. That’s more than you get in all but the range-topping Sportage.
You can add blindspot monitoring, lane assist and rear cross-traffic alert – a system that warns you if you’re about to reverse out of your drive into the path of another car – but these are part of pricey option packs.
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