Seat Ateca review - Smart SUV on the crest of a wave

Recent years have seen Seat enjoy a spectacular growth spurt.

in 2018 the Spanish firm – part of the behemoth that is Volkswagen Group – was the fastest growing car brand in the UK and while other firms struggled in a difficult market, its sales were up 12 per cent.

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While once it was most famous for its Ibiza and Leon hatchbacks, its family of SUVs has been key to the brand’s recent ability to weather the storms besetting the industry.

While the Leon remains its biggest individual seller and the Ibiza supermini remains important, it’s the triumvirate of Arona, Ateca and Tarraco that are helping to propel Seat’s growth, with SUVs accounting for a third for all the brand’s sales in 2018.

The Ateca led the way as Seat’s first SUV taking the fight to the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and Kia Sportage.

Now a few years old, it’s still a sharply styled thing and overall a good-looking package but there’s more than a hint of familiarity about it. From the front, the angular headlights give it some individuality but from many angles you could just as easily be looking at a Skoda Karoq or VW Tiguan, with which it shares a platform.

The interior is a similar story. Remove the Seat badge and you could be in virtually any VW Group car from the last three years.

That isn’t such a bad thing, the group’s interiors continue to be some of the best in the business in terms of comfort, quality and layout, and the infotainment system remains one of the easiest and most intuitive, even if it isn’t the very latest model found in other models.

Seat Ateca FR Sport

  • Price: £30,780
  • Engine: 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, turbo, petrol
  • Power: 148bhp; Torque: 184lb/ft
  • Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
  • Top speed: 117mph
  • 0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
  • Economy: 38.7-40.4mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 160g/km

The Ateca’s interior also benefits from being quieter than several of its biggest rivals and offering more space for passengers and luggage.

As with design, the Ateca’s engine line-up is similar to its cousins, with the same mix of 1.0 and 1.5 petrols and 1.6 and 2.0 diesels.

Our test car came with the 148bhp 1.5 petrol matched to a slick seven-speed DSG. The engine lacks the low-down torque of the equivalent diesel but get past that and it’s an effective, smooth and quiet powerplant with enough vim to suit most needs.

Seat is positioned as the VW family’s sporty youthful arm, meaning its cars generally ride more firmly than competitors. In the Ateca that can translate to an occasionally jittery ride and it’s not as smooth as rivals such as the Qashqai and Kuga but overall it offers a decent balance.

When it was launched four years ago the Ateca was hailed as a serious contender for the title of the best in class. It was more refined, spacious, better looking and better to drive than its rivals. Since then the Qashqai and others have been updated but the Ateca still manages to hold its own thanks to that built-in blend of qualities.

It’s no wonder Seat is riding a wave.

This article first appeared on The Scotsman