Road tests

New SEAT Ateca 2020 review

The SEAT Ateca SUV has been facelifted for 2020, but have the changes lifted it back to the top of the crossover class?

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

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Four years on, the SEAT Ateca still stands out as a capable all rounder in the compact SUV class. It’s comfortable, fun to drive and decently practical. And, with this latest raft of styling and technology updates, it remains an attractive option for family buyers. Perhaps the best news is that SEAT has lowered the base-price of its ever-popular SE Technology trim-level by £415 as part of the update.

Another newcomer in a busy 2020 for SEAT is this - the facelifted Ateca SUV. Upgraded technology and a new look comes on board for the popular crossover’s mid-life update, intended to bring the car’s design and specification into step with the newer and larger Tarraco, and the all-new Leon hatchback.

The Ateca is one of SEAT’s best- selling cars, with UK deliveries crossing the 40,000 threshold since it was launched on these shores back in 2016. But now there’s a wealth of newer competitors, and an all-new Nissan Qashqai is just around the corner. 

SEAT has focussed mainly on adding value to the Ateca, while retaining the things which made the pre-facelift SUV so likeable. So, it still looks sharp, its cabin remains as practical as before and it’s right up there with the best-handling cars in its class.

Now, every Ateca comes as standard with LED headlamps and LED fog lamps, while the firm’s ever-popular SE Technology model is upgraded with a wireless charging pad and the Volkswagen Group’s latest 9.2-inch infotainment system. What’s more, three of the Ateca’s seven trim-levels have dropped in price across the update, with the best-selling SE Technology variant shedding £415 off its basic price.

The price-drop is backed up by a sure-footed platform with plenty of grip. Yes, the Ateca’s ride is still a little firmer than some of its MQB-based siblings, but the chassis soaks up most imperfections without too much hassle. The steering isn’t overly assisted, either, and the pedals have a decent amount of weight behind them – which means it’s far more fun to drive than rivals such as the Kia Sportage and Nissan Qashqai.

The stiff damper setup can transmit a bit of harshness into the cabin over expansion joints and rumble strips, but they control the Ateca’s 1,400kg bulk well. The brakes are also surprisingly powerful for a family SUV which, when coupled with the tall-riding suspension, and you can hustle along a back-road with family hatchback rivalling confidence. 

We spent time with a turbocharged 1.5-litre four-cylinder model – and we think it’s the engine to go for. It balances performance and economy well, serving up an impressive 148bhp and 250Nm of torque, which is plenty enough to keep you entertained while you haul around your family.

The seven-speed automatic gearbox can be a little dim-witted, however – if you try and exploit a gap when pulling out of a junction or if you overtake a little too vigorously, the revs rise sharply as it struggles to figure out which gear to select.

For the most part, though, the unit seamlessly shuffles through the ratios, hunting for the most economical gear. The 1.5-litre lump also comes with a clever cylinder deactivation system, which can shut down two of the engine’s four cylinders for improved economy – and, when paired with the dual-clutch automatic gearbox SEAT says it will return up to 45.6mpg.

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Elsewhere the Ateca’s 113bhp 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo petrol option feels a little gutless after driving the 1.5-litre model. But if your purse-strings are particularly tight, its £23,670 starting price makes it look like an attractive purchase at some £2,000 less than the equivalent 1.5-litre in the same trim.

SEAT’s updates for the Ateca’s interior are fairly restrained, stretching to little more than some updated door panels, a new leather steering wheel and some fresh upholstery. There’s still scratchy plastics low down in the Ateca’s cabin – but, given it’ll mostly be used as a family bus, being a little cheap and hard-wearing is no bad thing.

The infotainment system is the biggest update inside – and it’s delightfully easy to use. It’s also slightly larger than the old Ateca’s system and the physical buttons have been replaced by haptic sensors, which makes for a much sleeker appearance. Our only major gripe is that the voice control system is still a little rudimentary. 

In all, then, if you’re looking for a family SUV that’s good to drive, practical and well priced, the Ateca could be all the car you’ll ever need. Either way, it’s certainly retained its spot as one of the leaders in the hyper competitive mid-size SUV class.

Model: SEAT Ateca Xperience 1.5 150PS DSG
Price:  £29,445
Engine:  1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo petrol
Power/Torque: 148bhp/250Nm
Transmission:  Seven-speed automatic, front-wheel-drive
0–62mph:  8.6 seconds
Top speed:  124mph
Economy/CO2:  41.5mpg/154g/km
On sale: Now

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