Crossover of the Year 2016: SEAT Ateca

The SEAT Ateca is the 2016 Auto Express Crossover of the Year, with the Citroen C4 Cactus and Renault Kadjar commended

Crossovers are a big hit with new car buyers, and with a range of manufacturers battling it out for class honours, this is arguably one of the most fiercely fought New Car Awards categories. So that makes it even more impressive that SEAT has scooped victory first time out with its all-new Ateca.

Delve under the sharply styled skin, though, and it’s easy to see why it’s our number one. It shares much of its running gear with SEAT’s Leon hatch, which was our overall Car of the Year in 2013, but the extra ride height and larger dimensions mean it’s even more versatile.

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The Ateca delivers plenty of space inside, with a generous 485-litre boot that’s easy to access, while the back seat layout provides more than enough head and legroom for three adults. The rear seats fold to create a decent 1,604-litre load area, and dropping them is a simple task thanks to levers in the boot.

Up front, the dash is carried over from the Leon, so you get a clear layout, a neat design and great quality, while the top-spec Xcellence model has a raft of kit, including heated leather seats and sat-nav. There are also plenty of safety features, such as LED headlights, seven airbags and autonomous emergency braking.

SEAT Ateca - front

But where the Ateca really steals a march over its rivals is with the way it drives. It feels very much like a jacked-up Leon on the road, with only the raised driving position and extra body roll giving away that the car is a crossover. The suspension settings are well judged, and while the ride is on the firm side, it’s comfortable enough over rough surfaces, plusthe grippy chassis delivers sharp handling.

Go for the proven 148bhp 2.0 TDI diesel and you’ll be rewarded with punchy performance. Combine this with fuel economy that’s on par with underpowered rivals, plus competitive pricing across the board, and the Ateca is the crossover of the moment.

Our choice

SEAT Ateca 2.0 TDI Xcellence (£25,815)

All versions of the Ateca come with a decent level of standard equipment, but the attractively priced Xcellence flagship gets LED headlamps, sat-nav and a wireless smartphone charger. Under the bonnet, it’s hard to look past the superb 2.0-litre TDI engine, while most buyers will feel the two-wheel-drive model’s efficiency gains are worth the loss of winter traction.

Commended

Citroen C4 Cactus

Citroen C4 Cactus cornering

In the world of small crossovers, the C4 Cactus stands out, and not just because of its looks. This is a crossover that’s more hatchback than SUV, and its hatch-biased proportions mean it has plenty of space for a family of four, while the cabin design hides its budget roots well with lots of great design details.

Renault Kadjar

Renault Kadjar - front

Smart use of development funds has seen Renault take the Qashqai from Alliance partner Nissan and give it a new look, more space and a more modern interior design. In the process, it’s produced a real class contender. Combine these features with a range of efficient engines and keen prices, and the Kadjar is well worth considering.

Auto Express New Car Awards 2016 

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