SEAT launches its first SUV – and hopes to differentiate it with ‘light-footed, precise handling’

SEAT is poised to enter an all-new market segment as it unveils the new Ateca – the brand’s first SUV model.

The affordable-yet-sporty arm of the Volkswagen Group has rarely ventured outside of the smaller segments it specialises in, but the success of SUVs in the wider market means it’s a segment the Spanish firm can no longer ignore.

At the same time, SEAT hopes to introduce some of its own qualities to the segment, including a distinctive design, a dynamic drive, and practicality.

Dr. Matthias Rabe, SEAT’s VP of research and development, says the Ateca will be ‘incredibly fun to drive… with light-footed, precise handling.’ We won’t know if that’s the case until we get our hands on the car, but with similarities to the Leon – a car we rate highly in Cupra form – it’s not beyond possibility.

Several of the car’s details are cribbed from the Leon and other recent SEATs, but the overall proportions and detailing are very much SUV in feel. Where the Leon’s sharp character lines cut through the bodywork at different angles, the Ateca features a prominent, level shoulder line that carries on around the tailgate.

There’s a large, high-mounted grille featuring a distinct pattern, flanked by a pair of full-LED headlights and – in another move inspired my some recent SUVs – unlocking the car at night projects an LED puddle light onto the ground, displaying the car’s name.

Typical SEAT drivers will be unused to the raised driving position but should appreciate the view out over the Ateca’s prominent bonnet. Familiar SEAT cues once again abound – the dashboard architecture is virtually identical to that of the Leon, and SEAT has implemented a raised centre console for a sportier feel befitting of its image.

Engine choices are currently limited to a selection of 1.0 and 1.4 TSI petrols, and 1.6 and 2.0 TDI diesels. We’re yet to learn the new car’s weight – which will dictate just how sluggardly the smaller units are – but at its most potent the 1.4 TSI develops 148bhp, while the 2.0 TDI will be available in 148bhp and 187bhp forms.

If not quite offering Cupra pace, the units should at least enable the Ateca to scud along at a reasonable lick, with respectable economy figures. At this stage, SEAT quotes overall figures of 56.5-65.7mpg for the diesels and 45.6-53.3mpg for the petrol units. Front and all-wheel drive transmissions will be available.

No modern SUV would be complete without a vast range of comfort and safety technologies, and the Ateca is no different. In addition to the driving characteristic personalisation of the SEAT Drive Profile modes, the Ateca also offers the semi-autonomous Traffic Jam Assist and Emergency Assist, as well as auto-braking and parking camera features.

Inside, connectivity goodies include SEAT’s Media System plus (with an eight-inch screen), wireless smartphone charging, and SEAT Full Link, which offers both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone users. Versions with all-wheel drive have marginally less boot space than their front-drive equivalents: 485 litres, versus 510 litres.

Read more at: evo.co.uk

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