Seat’s speedy SUV 4×4 takes Salisbury Plain in its stride

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The Seat Ateca is a seriously fast 4x4


IT will outpace a Mark II Jag, still seen as the epitome of the British sports saloon, yet runs on diesel fuel, offers proper family space, and even offers four-wheel drive.

Yet an important part of the test for the Seat Ateca Xcellence 2.0 TDI 4Drive was the speed of response when we rang the AA’s dedicated Seat breakdown service. It was only a puncture and while changing tyres has never been an issue in the past, these days creaking knees and stiff finger joints make it a more onerous task.

Fortunately, Seat had seen fit to invest £105 on equipping the test car with a spacesaver spare instead of inflicting one of those dreadful pump and gunge kits on it. It meant the AA man could have us back on the road in just 15 minutes from arrival to departure.

It took him almost 90 minutes to get to us, hardly his fault. Because it was a newly-launched press car, the AA insisted on sending a Seat-trained technician rather than a mere man with a wheelbrace so our rescuer had a journey of more than 50 miles to tackle through some of the south’s busiest commuter traffic on the first day back after half term.

Thankfully, it’s not often we have to call on breakdown services for test cars although we once got stuck in a remote spot on the Scottish west coast after lunching the transmission oil cooler on a Range Rover by dropping the vehicle into a ditch that was cunningly disguised as a grass verge. The next morning saw a 9am call to Land Rover assistance and just two hours later a guy was at the holiday cottage gate with a hire car on a transporter to replace the dead Rangie.

The magazine editor we were working for loved the piece – a Range Rover test that continued via a Ford Mondeo and ended with a Land Rover Discovery.

However, back to Seat’s 4×4 rather than Land Rover’s. The Ateca has been a long time coming and will soon be joined by Skoda’s Kodiaq. A feature of both is the squared wheel arch styling that also appears on the Volkswagen Tiguan, which has been around for years. That’s why it’s surprising Seat and Skoda have taken so long to join the market.

However, much as has happened with MPVs, the SUV is the new must-have, in a variety of sizes, for many makers. Quite often, the last thing they actually have is a 4×4 set-up but it’s here on the Ateca if you want it – and it works!

We took the car to Salisbury Plain to use hard-surfaced tracks often beneath an inch or two of mud. It coped well in these conditions, never hinting at a loss of grip despite its road-biased tyres. It bodes well for lifestyle buyers who want to be sure they can get out of muddy campsites or showgrounds.

The test car was equipped with Seat’s seven-speed DSG automated manual gearbox but despite this struggled to achieve 40mpg, a disappointing result. Of course, having virtually 190bhp to play with and that Jag-slaying performance may just have had something to do with it!

Inside the Seat Ateca

Where this car will show a tougher performance than other SUVs is in its towing ability. It will pull a braked trailer weighing 2.1 tonnes, much better than other models in the range but the downside is a loss of 25 litres of boot space to accommodate the rear transmission.

Traditionalists will also love the interior. The fascia plastics look a little downmarket but the design is great. The touchscreen doesn’t dominate and is augmented by switches that are a tad small.

Ride comfort may be an issue; it tends to be firm and 18 inch wheels with 50 profile tyres accentuate this. The seats are firm, but not unpleasantly so, while the tall body does not ruin the handling.

It may have been a long time in gestation but the Ateca should help the Spanish arm of VW towards a more certain future than it looked in the recent past.

Maurice and Annette Hardy

Car: SEAT Ateca XCELLENCE 2.0 TDI 4Drive 190 PS 7-speed DSG-auto

Does it fit your ego…

0-62mph: 7.5 secs

Top speed: 132mph

Bhp: 189 @ 3500-4000rpm

Torque: 295lb ft @ 1750-3250 rpm

…and your wallet…

Price: £29,990

Combined: 53.3mpg

CO2 emissions: 135g/km

Best bits: puts the Spaniards in the SUV front seat.

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