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In-depth reviews

SEAT Ateca review – Engines, drive & performance

It’s composed at speed and there’s plenty of performance from most of the engines in the SEAT Ateca range

Carbuyer Rating

4.3 out of 5

Owners Rating

3.9 out of 5

Read owner reviews
Engines, drive & performance Rating

4.5 out of 5

Gone are the days when driving an SUV meant slow acceleration and steering that required more blind faith than precision. The SEAT Ateca is up there with the best of its rivals, boasting light yet accurate steering that allows you to corner with confidence – it's far more fun than the Nissan Qashqai or Vauxhall Grandland.

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The suspension is a little on the firm side, but not so much that it’s uncomfortable unless you go for the optional 19-inch alloy wheels. While long-distance motorway drivers might prefer a little more give in the suspension, it does at least mean that the car can tackle corners in a composed manner, without the body lean that afflicted older SUVs.

You can change the character of the car using a switch on the centre console, which can alter the response from the accelerator pedal, the weight of the steering and the speed of the gearshifts, if you’ve chosen an automatic model. Unlike cars such as the Volkswagen Tiguan, there’s no adjustable suspension, even as an option.

Besides the Cupra Ateca (reviewed separately), the FR models are the sportiest in the range. FR and FR Sport versions come with a more aggressive bodykit and stiffer suspension, and have been lowered by 15mm. Ironically, the Ateca already handles very well thanks to inherent qualities like the stiffness of the car's body, so the tweaks made for the FR version don't really make a huge difference. If you really want a sporty Ateca, you'd be better off choosing the fast Cupra model because the FR isn't significantly better to drive than the cheaper SE Technology model. You’d buy the FR for its extra equipment and sportier looks, rather than for a vastly improved driving experience.

SEAT Ateca diesel engines

You can’t currently order a diesel Ateca new, but there are still plenty floating around on the used market. Two sizes were offered – 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre units – the 1.6 disappearing a few years back along with the most powerful of the larger engines, a 187bhp version available only with all-wheel drive and a DSG automatic gearbox. That left two versions of the 2.0-litre, one making 113bhp, and the other offering 148bhp. The 148bhp engine was the best all-rounder, with a six-speed manual gearbox and front-wheel drive as standard, but a DSG automatic and four-wheel drive were also available. It gets from 0-62mph in nine seconds, which is reasonably brisk for the class.

Petrol engines

The 1.5-litre TSI engine develops 148bhp, enabling a 0-62mph time of 9.0 seconds. It delivers its power in a nice, smooth way, pulling effortlessly away from a standstill and feeling reasonably punchy all the way to cruising speeds. It does lack the overtaking thrust that you got from the 2.0-litre diesel engines but overall it's our pick of the range.

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The cylinder deactivation technology that helps the Ateca 1.5-litre to post similar running costs to the 1.0-litre engine is barely perceptible; you never notice it even when half the engine is shut down and you’re only running on two cylinders. The system reacts very quickly and there’s no hesitation at all when you put your foot down. The final advantage of this engine is its low weight, which helps to make the front end of the car feel more nimble than the diesels around the corners.

The smallest 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine is both quiet and smooth and provides greater performance than its compact size would suggest. SEAT tells us it'll power the Ateca from 0-62mph in 11.3 seconds, which, although not earth-shattering, may well be plenty for the average around-town motorist.

Irrespective of what the stopwatch says, the old 187bhp 2.0-litre TSI petrol doesn't feel that much quicker than the 1.5-litre. It has a lower 0-62mph time of seven seconds, but this extra urge is disguised by the standard DSG automatic gearbox, which changes gears swiftly but rather saps excitement. When mated to the automatic gearbox, the front-wheel-drive 1.5-litre model seems to be prone to wheelspin in certain situations, such as pulling out onto a fast road.

We prefer the slick-shifting six-speed manual of the 1.5-litre and truly sporty drivers are advised to check out the Cupra Ateca.

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Andy is Carbuyer's managing editor, with more than a decade of experience helping consumers find their perfect car. He has an MA in automotive journalism and has tested hundreds of vehicles.

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